Does Content Marketing Sway The C-Level Buyer?
Going back to the very beginning of this adventure, I launched a diatribe about Selling To The C – in that case, I was the C – the CMO. The advice was pretty simple – don’t waste my time, be of value & contextualize your offering into my world. Basic stuff. Fast forward a few years, and the advice is still the same, but I want to expand on a few simple concepts about selling to a top-level officer in almost any company. Inbound marketing, with it’s lead magnets, white papers, content drips, personalized content delivered through sales enablement tools, and on and on and on has changed how many sales professionals think. They begin to perceive of themselves as an information curator, and when they hit upon that magic combination of content, a contract and pen will magically appear in the prospect’s hand, and a deal is closed.
The C-Level Officer Doesn’t Buy That Way, Sparky. Let Me Give You A C-Level Look At How Buying Decisions Are Made
The C-Level Officer Buys Fixes: In my experience, the C-Level buys fixes. They have identified something that is broken. It doesn’t matter the functional area, the C-Level makes buying decisions to reduce friction or create opportunity. Unless your lead magnet whitepaper can magically diagnose my problem and contextualize your solution, it isn’t going to get you across the finish line.
The C-Level Officer Buys For The Company & Team, Not For Themselves: Once your sales target is no longer a startup, typically the C-Level buyer is a manager, not an executor. As a sales professional, feature-selling (such as “Our widget is 32% brighter than your existing widget!”) should be replaced with solution selling (such as “As we’ve talked about, your team is afraid of the dark and less productive because they have bad dreams. Because of our brighter widget, they can see in the dark better, have fewer bad dreams and are more productive!”).
The C-Level Officer Makes Decisions Based On What The Team Needs: Think about this for a minute – your buyer (the C-Level Officer) – probably doesn’t use your solution themselves. They want to buy the result set of your product. Their primary job is to insure that their team has the tools and resources they need to accomplish the company or division mission. They buy to satisfy their team. They buy to give their team the right tools. They care less about functionality, and more about value and progress towards goals. Typically, the C-Level officer is there to find a way to make a deal with you if you have sold their team on why your solution is best.
Top Down Selling Only Works If There Is Bottom Up Buy-In: The C-Level buyer wants to get the right tools for the team. It is their job to empower their team to perform the task in the best way possible. They don’t want to force a solution down their team’s gullet, they want their team to be excited and energized by the benefits and opportunities presented by your solution. The discerning C-Level buyer can’t be sold top down without the sales professional doing an awesome job of getting the team (the key influencers in the sale) cheering for the solution. Your deal closes when top-down selling meets bottom-up enthusiasm.
Use Inbound & Content Selling Techniques To Create Bottom Up Excitement
Since the C-Level buyer is (or should be) making a buying decision to empower their team or company, they need to solicit input from the constituency that they are serving, e.g., their team. The C-Level buyer has hundreds of decisions to make in a day or month, consequently, they can’t be making decisions based on granular-level information. The best executives synthesize information and make decisions on how it fits into their strategic vision. Their team executes the tactics to drive the vision. So, you need to sell that way!
Drive feature selling and operational level content to the team and end-user. Drive solution selling to the C-Level buyer. Insure that your selling content makes sense to your audience and is driving them towards a decision (C-Level) or a recommendation (team level). The days of the rainmaker on the golf course who convinces C-Level to buy over a scotch on the 19th hole is gone. The skilled sales professional takes a whole view of the buying process – from top and bottom – and drives two different sales processes to meet at the close.
Content selling dies at the C-Level. Inbound selling dies at the C-Level. It doesn’t matter if your are selling enterprise level services, or a $17/mo SaaS product, the team level makes the recommendation and the C-Level buyer acts on it.
Don’t chase the C-Level buyer with information. They aren’t likely to be the hands-on expert that can be swayed by awesome operational content. And given the number of decisions that they need to make on a daily or monthly level across dozen of different tactical areas, they, likely will not have the bandwidth to engage in granular level information.
Segment your sales attack to give your decision-makers and your influencers what they need to create a positive feedback loop – that’s how you close a sales today.