Upreaching to your C-suite decision makers

By Rod Griffith
December 10, 2021

Upreaching to your C-suite decision makers
The effort to gain traction at elevated organizational levels within customers—and reach higher-level prospects than have been traditional in the past—is what we call upreach. Many B2B marketers feel the pressure to reach higher into their target customer base to gain the mindshare of corporate executives and senior decision makers. That growing pressure to gain visibility and establish tighter relationships with the C-suite is the result of some important shifts in market conditions.

More teams involved in IT purchase decisions

Business decision makers continue to strengthen their role in final decisions when it comes to IT purchases. A recent Spiceworks study found that business decision makers (versus IT decision makers) see themselves as the sole influencer or final approver for more than two-thirds of the purchase decisions they’re involved in.

Technology personnel find themselves sharing the decision process with a growing number of non-technical team members. A 2016 survey by IDG of IT decision makers showed that, on average, IT decision makers collaborated with 5.8 different functions/titles within their organization―with an average of 15.5 people in those roles.

Increased vendor/supplier consolidation

Many companies actively look to reduce the number of suppliers and vendors, preferring fewer, more tightly held suppliers. According to The Hackett Group, companies are viewing supplier consolidation as a major opportunity to reduce costs―not only by reducing purchase prices but also by increasing purchasing process efficiency, since fewer suppliers means fewer transactions and reduced cost of managing suppliers.

Difficulty differentiating from competitors 

Technology products and solutions are becoming more challenging to differentiate. Advances in technology innovations are more complex and less obvious, requiring more time and attention to get customers to truly understand. 

Competitors no longer regularly leapfrog one another with significant technology advances that provide obvious superiority. Companies must seek other opportunities for competitive advantage. One key opportunity is to establish stronger, tighter relationships with the true executive decision makers.

Because of these key purchase decision paradigms, maintaining a competitive edge requires establishing and incubating strategic, trusted relationships with C-level and other executives in key decision-making roles. 

The executive filter: Why upreaching is difficult

Upreaching to executives isn’t easy. They have very little time. 

In fact, a Google study showed that executives spend less than 2% of their weekly schedule in discussion with vendors—and this includes their already established vendors. So, you’re likely competing with a long list of vendors, all trying to gain a small slice of the executive’s available attention. 

When executives engage a new potential vendor, they will use a filtering process to ensure they’re not wasting their time. C-suite and executive decision makers will typically use this filtering process to determine whether to give you attention and focus.

 
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Time

Is this worth my time and attention?

Executives don’t have time to waste, so they want to quickly decide if engaging with you is worth their time. Get to your point quickly to help them understand your value and justify giving you their attention.

Relevance

Can you help me accelerate progress toward a critical goal or overcome a critical challenge?

Address the issues and challenges that keep executives awake at night. While these issues can, of course, vary widely, those that are top of mind tend to fall into two categories: 

  • Business performance
  • Business risk/threat

Outcome

What specific critical desired outcome can you help me achieve?

Most executives focus on achieving specific business outcomes, so your communications need to show a clear path to those outcomes. But decision makers are also attracted to vendors who can help them at a personal and professional level. 

Can you help them: 

  • Boost their reputation? 
  • Gain that next promotion? 
  • Be seen as a true thought leader? 

Don’t ignore the personal value that your products offer. They are often overlooked in messaging strategies and content and yet can help provide a competitive edge.

Credibility

Is your value proposition credible?

Your value proposition and related claims will gain traction with executives if they are clearly valid and credible. Good sources of validation can come from: 

  • The input of trusted colleagues or advisors
  • Recommendations from peers (within the company or industry)
  • Known, reputable industry sources, such as analysts

It’s important to note that the executive may not be aware of employing such a filter. It’s not always a conscious process, but simply what they do to focus their attention on things that matter. 

Understanding this filtering process is an important part of building impactful marketing initiatives designed to successfully upreach within your target accounts. By recognizing this filtering process, you can better adapt to it and improve your ability to gain the attention of C-suite executives.