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For B2B marketers targeting C-level execs, it's all about them

By Robert Murray

How do B2B marketers get noticed by the C-suite, whether internal to the organization or not, as being relevant and trusted enough to get (and keep) a seat at the table? The answer is much simpler and less frustrating than you think or have been led to believe.

First of all, senior leaders, executives, decision makers and corner-office types with the panoramic view are just human beings. Classic example: I have been a C-Suite executive with a Fortune 100 organization with the full package—a car and driver and access to the company jet. Yet, when I got home in the evening, I still had to do soccer drop-off, change dirty diapers and take the garbage out. Despite our title or the position of power we yield, we’re all regular people checking tasks off of our daily lists.

As human beings, it’s important to recognize that the people you are attempting to gain as an audience care about one thing, ‘What’s in it for them?’ I’m sorry to say this, but they don’t care what you have to offer. They don’t care about your features.  They care simply about how you can solve a pain they have? That’s it, that’s all, and really, it’s that simple.

Below are a few ways that B2B marketers can pave a path to the C-suite and become a more integral part of their organization:

> Be authentic Be yourself. Act like you have the right to be there. If you get starstruck, you’re toast. You won’t be taken seriously. As a B2B Marketer, you have to believe that you have real value to offer—value that is unique from other marketers.

> Getting into the C-suite Reaching C-level executives is easier than you think. I always start with a compelling thought that I present to their executive assistants. I reach out to an administrative person and simply ask, “Can you give me some advice on how I can get 30 minutes with ‘Mr. or Ms. X’ to ask him or her some questions?” I have discovered that most executive assistants will help me get some time with their boss if I ask them sincerely for their advice on how to do it. However, if you can’t articulate how your product and/or service is going to move their business ahead, you will not get the time.

> Prepare, prepare, prepare Do your homework. Find out everything you can from others about what is going on in the business. Know what the company’s stock price is, how it is trending and why it is trending. Know who its major customers are. Be better informed than anyone else, then, use this information to your advantage by formulating your questions vs. trying to prove how smart you really are.

> Don’t go in with both guns blazing My first meeting with my target is always just myself and, maybe, a black notebook. Remember that most senior executives have real or job-induced ADHD (Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder) and their eyes will most certainly glaze over in 30 seconds if they realize you are there to sell something. Don’t sell. Instead, let them buy.

> Executives like the sound of their own voice Executives like the sound of their own voice, so be sure to listen. How do you get them to talk? Simple. In many ways, they are far easier to have rich conversations than any other person on the organizational chart. They make decisions lightening fast when they see a clear path to getting a pain they have solved. Use questions that focus the conversation on them and their business. For example, I often have one-hour meetings with CEOs where I talk for about three minutes of our meeting and they talk for the remainder of it. Usually, by the end of the meeting they will even close the deal by asking me how they can do business with me? 

After the first meeting and they realize that you are relevant to them, you will get more time and the much-needed attention to what you are pitching. They most often will even sponsor you in to other decision makers or pave the way with introductions.

Robert Murray, author of “It’s Already Inside: Nurturing your innate leadership for business and life success,” is a former Chief Customer Operations Officer at Vodafone. He can be reached at bob@robert-murray.com.