How to Build Relationships at the C-Level: Listen, Research, and Make it Personal


Over the last 15 years in IT sales, I have gained a great deal of experience, including profit and loss (P&L) responsibility for a business unit, global acquisition and integration, and starting and developing a channel organization. As a result, I have been fortunate enough to build some very strong C-level relationships along the way.

Many times, relating to C-level folks and business owners means relating to their personal goals and objectives. By understanding some key fundamentals about C-level execs, I have cultivated lasting relationships that follow me regardless of who I work for and no matter if it is a vendor, distributor or business partner.

My unique experience has enabled me growth and development throughout my career and has given me many opportunities to understand the essential elements to building strong C-level relationships.

Meetings are an opportunity to listen to and learn about the customer, their company goals and personal focus. Meetings should not be about you talking about your product or company.

Because the focus of the meeting is the customer and their goals, do not run into the conference room with your Prezi or Power Point presentation at the ready. If you want more than 10 minutes in the first meeting, and you want to garner a second, third or fourth meeting, the focus should always be on the customer – not your excitement for the pitch.

The more you listen and get in line with your prospect’s goals, the more your chances of attaining another meeting. A successful meeting means the prospect spoke more than 90 percent of the time. A meeting in which you listen more than you talk provides all of the information you’ll need to begin building a lasting relationship.

Remember: The higher up the corporate ladder you go, the more personal the issues; so you should uncover their personal objectives.

Conduct research in order to ask focused questions that will encourage prospects to talk about themselves, as well as their business issues, challenges and goals. Most like to talk about what they want for their business. If you can relate and speak about how to help them achieve their personal business agenda, you will find a special place in their professional heart of hearts.

Most importantly, understand the different aspects of their business and align your questions to demonstrate understanding. Focused questions that demonstrate understanding can have great impact.

Even though research is paramount, it’s okay to say, “I am not sure,” or “I don’t know,” as long as you are willing to go find the answer. You get more respect with this answer. Prospects don’t expect you to have all of the answers, but will be reassured that you have the resources and know-how to get the answers when necessary.

It’s business and nothing personal…except sometimes it is
ALWAYS REMEMBER: The most successful executive relationships are built on a personal foundation. Companies, products and solutions are rarely discussed.

The best leaders understand their job is to surround themselves with talented people who can help them accomplish their goals. Your goal is to get to know who your C-level customer relies on for success and align your efforts accordingly.

If you walk away from a meeting thinking to yourself “Wow, I didn’t get much time to talk,” the meeting was a SUCCESS!!

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unnamed (3)Dayna has been working in channels for the past 12 years in regional and national roles. Comstor is her first direct experience in a distribution role.


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