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Winning the C-Suite

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In B2B relationships like providing marketing services, your primary contact is not your only concern. You can have a primary contact who is enthusiastic about your services and the possibilities of content marketing – the whole ball of wax – but if they cannot win the support of upper management, the deal will fall through.

Winning the divided attention of the C-Suite is no easy task. Upper managers have many visitors touting many pet projects to sort through. The key is to help your contact win support by standing out from the noise. Here are four ways to do it.

1)     Form a Team. The more people and departments you have invested in content marketing services, the harder it will be for the C-Suite to ignore. In addition, when you can show benefits over a wide spectrum of the organization, your client contact is more likely to win favor and approval.

The key in building any team is to make sure you incorporate all the key players. You can’t count on your contact to know who all that is. Ask questions, such as, “Where will the budget come from” and “Who else is involved in sales and marketing” to help you drill down and discover what departments should be involved. There’s nothing worse than being close to closing a deal, only to have it sabotaged by someone who felt slighted by being left out.

Forming a client-side team to pitch your proposal can be the difference between winning a major account and wasting a lot of time and energy. Make sure the major players are represented, and then move the presentation up the ladder.

2)     Show Them The Money. There are two types of companies – those focused on sales revenue, and those focused on cost. Either way, you want your client-side team to have a great presentation that shows clear financial benefit to the upper managers. If this is a cost-focused client, show the amount of cost saved in customer service calls, free word-of-mouth marketing, and the elimination of silo-based marketing. In a revenue-focused business, talk about the new customers gained, customer retention, and the way that great content can go viral and spread your name abroad for no additional cost. Either way – show them the money.

3)     Keep It Super Simple. Most folks in upper management don’t have the time or understanding to dig through hundreds of figures and calculations. Be sure that the client-side presentation has easy-to-understand charts and graphs showing clear benefits. You’ll want to have the figures handy in case you have a detail-oriented executive, but in general it pays to keep it simple and understandable.

Another part of keeping it simple is making the project easy to say yes to. Remind your contacts in sales and marketing that this is another one of their customers. They can be assumptive, friendly, and listen carefully to all concerns. This will help them close the deal in the boardroom as much as it does in the street.

4)     Test Pilot the Program. One way to make it very easy for the CEO or CIO to say yes to a content marketing program is to test-pilot the program in a small way – perhaps one small project, or a program that only affects one location or division. When you talk on a smaller scale, the decision makers will feel less stress about making a decision. In addition, if the project were to fail, the executive will have less fallout to deal with from the media and other outside sources.

You want to be sure to put the CEO or CIO in a win-win situation, regardless of the outcome of the project. You know it’s going to succeed, but they don’t. Make the cost of failure very small, and you’re well on your way to getting a yes. Once you have a proven track record with the smaller steps, the larger steps will be much easier to sell.

Selling in a B2B environment is a deeply complex process. It isn’t quick, and it isn’t about getting just one person in the client company on board. However, if you build a team, show the money, keep it simple, and offer a test pilot, you’ll be well on your way to winning the client’s long-term business.

What are some things you’ve had to overcome in winning clients business? How does your company sell to the C-Suite? Share in the comments! 

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