Winning at the Executive Level


Winning at the Executive Level

By Linda Richardson

What causes one salesperson to hear, “We’re ready to move ahead,” but another, “We feel your competitor is a better fit”?  Bad news often leaves salespeople scratching their heads wondering why they lost.  They believed their solution fully aligned to their prospect’s business needs — at least as far as they understood them.

Deals are lost for many reasons — value, quality, price, politics, relationship …  It’s bad enough to lose any deal, but to lose a deal you thought was yours is especially hard. 

More and more, we are seeing deals being lost today because the salesperson missed the strategic and economic issues that were key to the client.  Decisions that were once made at the divisional level frequently are bumped up to the C-Suite.  Therefore, for any major decision, it is essential to dig into the decision process and gain access to the senior (economic) decision maker.  Lacking that, you risk missing the issues that are critical to developing a winning solution and also the chance to connect with the person in power.

Of course, getting to seniors is easier said than done, but if you have something of value to bring, you can gain access.  Usually, your contact is the opportunity sponsor responsible to vet competitors, brief competitors on needs, select finalists, and arrange final presentations.  He or she often doesn’t know or have the focus on strategic issues or economic impact that are truly driving the initiative.

While your contact is a very important resource for information and access, you need to get to the senior decision maker to understand the strategic vision and metrics, especially when your competitors have met with the senior.  Without it, losing shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Gain Access to Executive Sponsor

  • Build the relationship with your contact to turn him or her into your coach who will support you in gaining access to help you win.  Show you add value beyond the product solution by sharing research, insights, experience, success stories, and your team’s expertise …  Make your contact look good.


  • As you thank the Executive for the meeting, give credit/show appreciation to your contact for providing you with information on the initiative and helping you prepare for the meeting. 
  • Provide a two-minute description of your role and organization’s expertise (depending on your need to credentialize).


  • Share relevant insight/experience you prepared in advance to demonstrate your industry and business knowledge, and check for relevance to the client.


  • Leverage the insight/client response to position strategic business need questions:  Ask about the senior’s objectives, desired outcome, what things have to be in place to achieve the outcome, current strengths, areas for change, metrics, emerging needs of their customers, and issues around implementation or reinforcement.  Interject insights throughout, but keep the focus on questioning.     


  • Take a few minutes to give a high-level view of your idea/approach and check for feedback. 
  • Establish next step — keep the executive in the loop and identify others with whom to meet.


  • Send thank-you e-mails.
  • Enter data in your CRM.
  • Use your notes to customize your proposal to address strategic and economic objectives.


Cyber Best Practice

To increase your win ratio, get to the economic decision maker.

To download a pdf version of this cyber tip, please click here