Congratulations! You got the big boss to attend your call. Now let’s make sure you’ve got enough executive presence to impress them.
Senior executives by definition have less time and patience than any other decision-maker. No big surprise. But you might be surprised to learn they probably also have less knowledge than anyone else on your call. They’ll also have different expectations. Here are some tips for making sure you’re ready to make your shortlist in just one call and understand how to show executive presence.
- Demonstrate organization ASAP. Create and send an agenda, be sure the invite and link/location are clear and sent well ahead of time, and start the call with background and introductions.
- Background is critical. Even if you’ve been talking with this company for months and this is call #5, you should assume the executive knows exactly none of this history. Help them orient themselves quickly to this meeting by briefly explaining:
- Who you are
- What industry/space you play in
- What challenges you’re helping them solve
- Where you are in the sales process
- The goal of this call
- Make everything SWIIFT℠. (If you’re new to Factor 8, that stands for “So What’s In It For Them”). That means that even if your goal of the call is to get a commitment, you must communicate it in SWIIFT℠ language, like helping them decide to go/no go with the project or if you are a viable solution to their needs (see, it’s about THEIR needs, not your sale).
Let’s pause here for an example. Let’s say you’ve been evaluating training vendors to help scale your sales operation. Your VP of Sales boss has joined the call. The vendor (me at Factor 8) says:
Welcome, everyone! Great to meet you, Mr. Big Boss. Let me start with a quick background. My name is Lauren Bailey, the founder of Factor 8, a rep and manager training provider in the virtual sales space. ABC company is evaluating us to help you with your rapid-scale goal – specifically more onboarding and upskilling for your SDRs, AEs, and managers. This is our third meeting with your team, and today our goal is to answer all of your questions about how it might look should we work together – so you and the team can decide if we move forward. Does that work?
Obviously, you’ll use your own words here, but I do encourage you to plan this out (to be clear, I rewrote this three times!). Script, bullets, whatever works for you, but it’s critical to start clearly and strongly. OK, back to the list.
- Let them start. Most execs get a quick read and will instantly have questions to accompany their impressions. As a rule after a strong intro, I ask what they want to accomplish and if they have any initial questions. Then I arrange my meeting to hit their needs in priority order. Try it, I bet 9 out of 10 times they’re sitting on something they want, and until it comes off their chest they’re only half-listening to you.
BONUS: every other vendor launches into their regular dog and pony show. Letting them talk first and systematically hitting all of their requests instantly differentiates you (and clues you into so much!)
- Start with the big picture. Executives bounce from meeting to meeting with a huge range of subjects and almost NEVER have the time to pre-read the agenda, email, website, or proposal. So assume nothing! Tell them the category, the goal, or the situation before filling in the details. If you start with the features, the end result, or the specifics they’ll just stop listening and assume YOU are the disorganized one.
Truth: Even my husband has learned to communicate with me this way. It sounds like, “Honey? Got a sec? OK, it’s about our kids’ lunches…”
This is especially important because we work together too, so our “meetings” together could range from commission structures to date nights. 😀
- Brevity ALWAYS wins. Go and edit your questions AND your stock answers to cut your words by half. Give a short and decisive answer and then ask if they want an example or more detail.
- Defer to them. I don’t mean you should ignore everyone else on the call. In fact, do all you can to make them look very good in front of the boss. But if 2 people ask a question at once, the executive always wins. Check in with them individually to see if they like your direction, agree with the summary you just gave, or have anything to add, etc. They’ve earned their position and although they may not demand special treatment, they’ve probably gotten used to receiving a little.
- Project confidence. Even if your answer is, “I don’t know,” say it with a strong tone and volume, promise to get back with them, and then move on. Sit up straight, frame your chest and shoulders in your video shot (if using), and don’t get over-excited. Hemming and hawing, telling long stories, BS-ing, and going in circles with lots of extra words will guarantee you lose.
All of these tips combined will help you project yourself as an equal because executives make fast assumptions about your company and your solution based on how you present yourself in the meeting. It’s OK if you’re 22 and new, just as long as you come off as organized and confident.
The best thing you can do now is to go back and listen to or watch several recent meetings with this checklist. Give yourself an executive presence score out of 10 and take a few actions on what you could level up.
Now knock ‘em dead!