There is increasing interest in equipping sales people to reach and interact with the senior level customer. The impetus? The idea that these top decision-making individuals may be less encumbered by those nasty things called budgets and far more interested in the value that a supplier is trying to communicate.

Much of what is actually taught in selling to the top focuses solely on cognitive arguments (grow revenue, minimize risk, reduce costs, etc.).  It takes the entire value proposition and distills it into a collection of numbers that get right to the point and won’t take up too much of that individual’s valuable time.

Yet if “just the facts, please” is really what the senior level wants, why are they not buying your solution, even when the data proves it will have a measurable effect?

It’s not that saving them 10% isn’t enough and 11% is… it’s that treating executive buying decisions as purely a cognitive exercise – as if the person is a number eating robot – is a mistake.

While it’s true that most at the senior level navigate busy schedules, this ‘get in, share the data and get out’ approach fails to recognize that both parties care about far more than the numbers alone.

We know that humans, at our core, are “emotional beings who think; not thinking beings who feel.” In other words, our emotions are our primary driver.

The truth is that the executive buyer is just as emotional as the rest of us. They too, are guided by their emotions and not only the bottom line. Noticeable evidence of this lies in the behavior of headline-making CEOs — some known for public outbursts and rash decisions and others for groundbreaking shifts in business practice.  

Even those decisions that, on the outside, appear to be purely cognitive, often conceal an underlying emotional need —and it’s emotions that tell us what, out of all the data points, to pay attention to.

So we must remember that these senior buyers are not just automatons devoid of feelings. Storytelling and appealing to emotions will play a large role in selling to the executive level and once they climb to a certain level they don’t lose their heartstrings, they just need them plucked in a different way. The content that this emotional appeal addresses needs to be more strategic and less tactical, and it still needs to get to the point.

To do this, we need to focus on the bigger picture, which means relying on those same elements that traditionally make for great stories — the overall arc (having a point), setting the scene (identifying a need within the context of their business), offering compelling narrative (not just how great your product is, but what value it provides for them in a big-picture sort of way) and, making every word count (yes, you still need to keep it relatively short and sweet!)