Selling to C-Suite Executives, What to Ask and What NOT to Ask!

I recently presented a sales training webinar entitled Engaging the C-Suite Executive, which generated a ton of interest.

One of my sales coaching clients, Homero Herrera, President of Latin American Cargo recently began cultivating a new prospect. Homero reached out to me:

I get the feeling my prospect is interested, but we haven’t made any progress to date. He has been receptive throughout all our communications. Finally we have scheduled a telephone appointment for tomorrow afternoon. How would you approach this conversation? Any questions that come to mind?”

In these situations, your first impulse might be to ask, “How can I help you?” or “What can my company do for you?” But that isn’t always the best place to start, because the prospect often doesn’t know! You’ll come across like an uncertain customer wandering into a store, with a supercilious clerk coming up to you with a haughty “How can I help you?” If you ask a sophisticated C-level executive this question, you risk shutting down the conversation altogether; the C-level executive will show you the exit or quickly dismiss you over the phone.

I suggested to Homero that his best approach would be to focus on the needs of the prospective C-Suite executive — not his own. Begin by asking probing questions, like the ones listed below, that identify potential concerns and problems.

  • Bring me up to speed on what’s been going on since our last conversation. What’s been going well? Not so well? Can you give me an example?
  • Tell me about your level of satisfaction with your current situation. What concerns do you have if things remain the same?
  • What are your goals over the next 6-12 months? What specifically will you have to do to accomplish them?

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Paul Cherry

For over two decades, sales expert and author PAUL CHERRY has helped B2B sales professionals close more deals in all major industries. As a recognized thought leader in customer engagement strategies, Paul Cherry has been featured in more than 250 publications, including Investor’s Business Daily, Selling Power, Inc., Sales & Marketing Management, The Kiplinger Letter, and Salesforce.

Performance Based Results

Paul Cherry is the president of Performance Based Results. PBR delivers intense, customized sales team training programs and sales management coaching to companies throughout North America. Paul has worked with more than 1,200 organizations, including 175 of the Fortune 500, plus more than a thousand entrepreneurial, small to mid-sized, cutting-edge businesses looking to dominate their niche markets. Clients typically get 7 times their return-on-investment (ROI) or better.

Questions That Sell

Paul Cherry’s top-rated bestseller, Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants (AMACOM) has been listed on BookAuthority’s “100 Best Sales Books of All Time” and has been published in four languages. He is also the author of Questions That Get Results (Wiley) and The Ultimate Sales Pro (HarperCollins Leadership).