The secret to building relationships with the C-suite is to become more than just another vendor. You need become a trusted external advisor. And it is one of those business development strategies that takes time and dedication to implement.
The power of the C-suite
Senior executives have the power to say “Yes” and sign contracts. However, they do so much more than make purchase decisions.
Senior executives can implement real change, provide insights into company thinking, and get sticky situations unstuck. Remember, it is always easier to start at the top than the bottom.
Preparing to meet the senior executive
You must move beyond the title of the executive and find out about the real person behind it. What are their ambitions? What keeps them up at night?
A well-run company is always aware of its challenges, limitations, and upcoming goals. You must know the same information, in intimate detail.
You must become someone of interest by building your own portfolio of knowledge. Cultivate interests outside of work and develop a breadth of knowledge in topics surrounding the executive’s industry, company, and personal interests.
Executives are busy people with limited time. They want to know that their time is going to be well spent. You should start with the people you know in the company and ask to meet people above them. Build relationships at each level, moving ever higher.
Extend your networking to people outside the company that know the senior executive (former executives, board members, trusted clients, etc.). Getting a warm referral from outside could open the door.
How do you move into the position of a trusted external advisor?
Your meeting with the senior executive is going to be short. So you must make a big impact, and show you are more than a vendor.
Don’t come in with a subordinate’s mindset. Address the executive as a peer instead. Always be objective and truthful in your dealings, even if you know it is in opposition to the executive’s current view. Bring outside perspective to the discussion. This will help build the elusive trust that senior executives crave but rarely get.
If you are looking to build long-term relationships with important clients, becoming a trusted external advisor is one of the best business development strategies you can implement.
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