Cracking the C-Suite in 2010

Why the relevant executive is a salesperson's Holy Grail

Identifying the relevant executive for each sales opportunity is initially the best use of your time in your next sales campaign. In my book, Selling to the C-Suite, we define the relevant executive as the executive who stands to gain the most or lose the most as a result of the application or project associated with your sales opportunity.

Why is it so critical to identify the relevant executive? Because that executive exerts her informal influence to either make or usurp the buying decision that was made as a result of the formal decision-making process. Salespeople are usually very tuned to the formal decision-making process - it's the one that is described in the RFP or articulated by those who participate in the formal decision-making process. But in nearly every sales opportunity there is an informal decision-making process in play and salespeople eventually learn that the informal process always trumps the formal process.

Therefore, if you can identify and align with the relevant executive for the sales opportunity, and spend some one-on-one time with that executive, you will significantly reduce the time you spend trying to close the deal. And guess what? If you are not aligned with the relevant executive for the sales opportunity, your competitors probably are; and if that's the case the odds of winning the sale are slim.

Identifying the relevant executive for a sales opportunity may not be an easy task. It takes time, resources, and a lot of energy; however, when you are able to identify that executive, your rewards can be great!

To identify the relevant executive you should constantly be aware of what's happening in the client organization. Watch how major buying decisions are made, who wins when reorganizations take place, and which executives receive the special assignments that are meaningful and significant. In addition, look for who's connected to whom within the client organization. Take notice of which executives are tapped to lead the new projects of importance. Discuss these events with your supporters or mentors in the client organization, and then triangulate your information to develop your conclusions.

By using this approach to identify and align with the relevant executive for a sales opportunity, you will increase your odds of winning key deals.

Who has tried this approach and what results have you seen?

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About the Author: Steve Bistritz, Ph.D., coauthored the book Selling to the C-Suite (McGraw-Hill). He is president and founder of sales training and consulting firm SellXL. Contact him at See his video on this topic at