” A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”
Last week I was on business trip. It was my first time in that new Middle Eastern country. It was also the first time someone that senior of our organization was visiting this frontier market. The mission was clear – grow the market as much and as soon as possible. The challenge was to identify key senior people who would help me drive change and grow our franchise with minimal effort. In other words I had to advocate change to C level people from an unknown culture and use their network to make an impact.
I started preparing two weeks before the trip. First stage was to identify the CEOs who have the biggest impact on the financial system. In my opinion these were the people on the top of the local stock exchange, the central bank as well as the association of banks. Second on the list was the oldest bank in the Arab world, as by itself it was bigger than the whole banking system and central bank together. I gathered sufficient intelligence to determine what are the biggest challenges for the businesses these executives lead. Next step was to come up with solutions to the headaches they would recognize as well as strategise how to make them realize the ones they were not aware off. Beside, I had to turn these challenges to revenue opportunities, and make sure that my team will be able to timely execute on the commitments I made. Two weeks passed quickly, my meetings were scheduled and I arrived in the new country. I made sure, I arrived to each and every single C level meeting a little in advance with a little gift. Meetings went as planned – and met the C level people I had planned. The results were as expected – the exchange CEO warmly welcomed the idea to run jointly a modular training all the IR and CFOs of listed companies would attend. This allowed us demonstrate our product to a significant part of our target community. We were given the opportunity to teach them about best class practices they could start applying to their businesses using our proprietary tools. The results of my meetings with the central bank deputy governor were similar. I proposed him to organise jointly a round table discussion around the problematics of building a repo market, knowing that the IMF had recommended to the country to do so. He gladly agreed to request all the C level bankers to attend.
Half, or even more than half of selling in C suite level is about intelligence gathering, preparation and knowing the right challenges your product can help solving. There is also significant importance on planning everything and executing in the best possible way minute by minute. Asking the right questions, helping C level executives come to the conclusion you want them to come is key driver for action. Finally, remember that people at executive level are really busy. This is the reason why it is important to remind them what they have committed on doing.