C-suite refers to a corporation’s most influential senior executives; the ones all salespeople dream of meeting, impressing, and conducting business with. Theirs is a high stakes game and they expect to see results from those who play it.
We all know how difficult it is to meet C-suites in a traditional environment – we can perhaps gain access to them if and only if we get past the gatekeeper – the mailroom person or executive assistant – who often acts as a shield. This is possible with a well-crafted, eye-catching, personalized mailer, a referral from an internal source, or recommendations from other high-level executives.
But with the advent of social networking; is there an easier way to leverage social media to reach the C–suite executive?
A few years ago, it was possible that not every C-suite executive was online; they had no real reason to be. But social networking is all about connecting with the masses and communicating with your customers. It’s about speaking the language of the common people, and in this day and age, that translates as social media. There is no way an executive is going to ignore his current or potential client base. Let’s look at some recent figures for facebook and twitter as posted on Digital Buzz – facebook has over 500 million users (1 in every 13th person on the planet) and a 50% daily user rate, with 51% brand followers stating they will purchase the brand they follow. Twitter has 106 million users, with 27% logging on every day, and 67% brand followers claiming they will purchase that particular brand.
With such impressive statistics, it’s easy to believe that everyone in a corporation, from sales and marketing reps, to C-suite executives will be tracking, monitoring, and yes, even participating in social networking sites. In fact in a social media survey conducted by Forrester in 2010, they found that a greater percentage of respondents than expected were in the C-suite category, leading to the conclusion that it is possible to reach them via social media.
Being part of social media is unavoidable and the topic is touched on by mashable fans, executives Guy Kawasaki (Alltop), Doug Ulman (Livestrong), John Battelle (Battelle Media), Steve Rubel (Edelman), and Tim Bray (Google), who dole out advice for their colleagues as to how best to tackle social media.
Tips they recommend include the following:
- Go where the people are, such as on sites like twitter and facebook, in order to stay on top of new trends and get a feel for the current market climate.
- Invest in people, by building a stable relationship, where people seek you out when they want to interact with your brand.
- Be known as a guru in your field, by offering advice, answering questions, and staying one step ahead of your competitors.
- Make it personal so that everyone on your list can relate to who you are, and consequently, in some part, to what you do.
- Be consistent in your efforts and know that everyone on your team can leverage social media to some extent, to forge a stronger and lasting brand image.
In fact to quote Edelman Digital’s SVP, Director of Insights, Steve Rubel “When it comes to social media, it’s simple math. Executives understand that their time/financial investments need to go where people are spending time, and that’s social media.”
However while your C-suite executive may browse twitter and facebook, the most likely way to reach him online is via LinkedIn. While you may not be able to engage with him directly here, you can reach out to him using the same traditional methods direct marketers use; connect with his gatekeepers and colleagues, namely those who influence him – perhaps the vice president of sales and marketing, or the vice president of communications. They will also be media savvy and more likely to maintain a consistent presence on the website, and given the nature of their job, they may even have more insight into what the sales person requires than the C-suite executive.
If you want to learn more about selling to the C-suite executive, a book I would highly recommend reading is Selling to the C-Suite: What Every Executives Wants You to Know About Selling to the Top, by Nicholas Read and Dr. Stephen Bistritz.