Selling to the C-Suite

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 0 comments

How to Obtain the Opportunity to Deliver a Sales Presentation

At m62, we believe that effective communication in a sales pitch is key to success. A presentation can make the difference between winning or losing a million dollar contract, and each sales presentation is an opportunity.

How do you secure these kinds of meetings in the first place? It is not always easy. It can be difficult to know who to approach and when, and what is the best way to form a relationship.

There are many different pieces of advice to be found on selling to top level executives, but how many of these are truly effective? The following are a few examples:

  • “Never doubt that senior executives are involved in the initiation and approval of a sale.”
  • “Spread like a virus so that all the powerful people, directly or indirectly, know you and you know their thinking and motivations.”
  • “Speak their language.”
  • “Show each executive that you know what he/she values.”
  • “Network your way through the doors to the low level and then to the C-level offices.”
  • “Use your Golden Network to promote your capabilities and introduce you.”

These tips may have been given by experienced salesmen, but how can you be sure they work every time?

Selling to the C-Suite by Dr. Steve Bistritz and Nicholas A. C. Read contains tips and advice given not by salespeople, but by the executives themselves.

Selling to the C-Suite – Book Summary


Every salesperson wants to gain access to senior client executives – the C-Level decision makers responsible for approving top-dollar deals.  Selling to the C-Suite reveals how to achieve those career-making sales in the words of CEOs themselves.

The authors couldn’t find any books written on this topic that held anything more than personal anecdotes of what the writers of those books did in their glory days as a salesperson.  So they commissioned research of their own, and joined other projects where executive buying habits were the focus of study. Their efforts were joined by Hewlett Packard in North America, the Hewlett Packard Business School in Beijing China, Target Marketing Systems, the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina, and the Center for Business & Industrial Marketing at Georgia State University. After ten years of asking CXO-level executives about their relationships with professional salespeople, this book now reveals what C-Suite leaders in 500 diverse companies and government bodies said in response to those interviews and surveys.

One of the most surprising things learnt was that leaders at the highest corporate levels don’t always avoid sales pitches; in fact, they welcome them – provided the salesperson approaches them the right way and then delivers high quality presentations that specifically address their key business issues.  Executives are looking for presentations that are meaningful and offer provocative insights and solutions that even their own employees couldn’t develop.  Inside this book, these CEOs reveal which sales techniques they react best to, as well as those that you should avoid.

In addition, one of the key concepts discussed in the book is the identification of the relevant executive for the sales opportunity.  The relevant client executive is defined as the executive who stands to gain the most or lose the most as a result of the application or project associated with the sales opportunity.  The need to align with the relevant executive is another of the key concepts disclosed.

Selling to the C-Suite provides tips on how to:

  • Gain access to senior-level client executives
  • Establish trust and credibility, so that you get return access
  • Leverage relationships with senior-level client executives
  • Create and communicate value at the executive level

It also reveals at which points executives enter the buying process and explains the role they play at crucial steps in that process.

The book is focused on answering the following questions:

  • When and why do executives get involved in the decision process for major purchases?
  • How do salespeople gain access to senior executives?
  • How can salespeople establish credibility with executives?
  • How can salespeople create value at the executive level?
  • Is executive buying behavior consistent across cultures?

“It’s our observation that most traditional wisdom about selling to executives is actually at odds with what executives themselves tell us works,” write Read and Bistritz.  Using field-tested techniques, Selling to the C-Suite advises salespeople where to start to get ahead of the competition when it comes to making high end sales.

Combining extensive research with years of street-level experience, Read and Bistritz have approached this challenge from a different angle.

About the Authors


Dr. Steve Bistritz has more than 40 years of high-tech sales, sales management and training management experience. He is a published author and lecturer in the field of sales, sales management and selling to executives. Steve holds a doctorate in human resource development from Vanderbilt University, which he received in 1995, and is currently president of his own sales training and consulting firm, based in Atlanta. Visit his website at

Nicholas A.C. Read is president of SalesLabs, which helps companies drive predictable and repeatable revenue growth through the application of improved process, measurement, and skills. In 2005, he was awarded Winner of the Best Sales Trainer category in the International Business Awards, an annual awards show that has been dubbed “the business world’s own Oscars” by the New York Post. He splits his time between North America, Asia, and Europe.

And of course, once you have managed to obtain this opportunity, it is important not to waste it. Make sure that your presentation is the best it could possibly be. Why not submit some slides for our designers, or view a demonstration.

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