Lisa’s session will cover one of the biggest struggles that key account teams and new opportunity teams struggle with, executive engagement. Lisa’s book elucidates 16 key ‘Plays’ to exponentially grow revenues and drive leadership success. Her play around executive engagement is one of the most popular. Crucially, the book is meant as a playbook for sales leaders, as opposed to being a sales playbook. So it shows how to organize the sales leadership teams to win big deals using the 4 pillars of Leadership, Methodology, Execution and Culture.
One thing I want to point out before I give the introduction is that a lot of the discussions we have had seem to be focused on the early part of sales. However, this session will be very different because it is for the later part, specifically focusing on enterprise-level selling rather than small business sales.
Now, let me introduce Lisa. It’s not easy to do justice to her accomplishments. Lisa is the author of two award-winning books: “The TOP Seller Advantage: Powerful Strategies to Build Long-Term Executive Relationships” and “The TOP Sales Leader Playbook: How to Win 5X Deals Repeatedly”.show more
Lisa Magnuson is an award-winning sales manager and led the charge as a Sales VP for several sales organizations across a variety of geographies, including executive positions with Fortune 50 companies across a broad spectrum of industries including technology, software, security, healthcare, medical device, insurance, and manufacturing. As a founder of TopLine Sales, Lisa has worked with senior sales leaders and their teams to achieve phenomenal results, especially in the area of big account wins. Lisa also founded and facilitated the Sales Executive Mastermind Group for Sales VPs in the Pacific Northwest.
I want to emphasize that our session today is based on her book, “Top Sales Leader Playbook: How to Win 5X Deals Repeatedly.” Additionally, I want to highlight that Lisa is a highly regarded teacher in the LinkedIn Academy. If you are a member of LinkedIn and have access to their content, I highly recommend checking out her courses. They offer the best value for your time.
With that, I warmly welcome Lisa to our session.
Thank you, thank you. I’m so happy to be here, and I’ve truly appreciated our relationship over the years.
We’re going to dive in with the short time that we have, and as you mentioned, my LinkedIn Learning courses, I just want to share them as a resource. I have three courses on LinkedIn Learning, and one of them focuses on Engaging Executives, which happens to be my most popular course. That’s going to be our focus today.
So, let’s talk about my book for a moment and one of the plays in the book, which is about “Win” themes. Then, we’ll dive into the power of “Win” themes, what executives care about the most, and how to quickly develop and deploy them. Finally, we’ll wrap up. It’s going to be a rapid-fire session.
When we’re discussing big deals, the kind that are messy and complex, I refer to them as 5X wins, meaning they’re worth about five times your average deal size. To succeed in these deals, you have to approach things differently, and one crucial aspect is engaging your executive sponsor.
I’ve been focusing on 5X deals with my clients for many years, and it’s rare to find a scenario where a sponsor who endorses the project and your company isn’t needed. However, the challenge lies in accessing and maintaining the attention of a senior leader or executive sponsor, whether it’s a big prospect or one of your key accounts.
Accessing an executive is difficult, but keeping the door open is even harder. That’s why I wrote my sales leader playbook. It provides a system that outlines the steps to winning 5X deals repeatedly. This playbook is designed for sales leaders, managers, and sales VPs, helping them establish a system that generates the activities necessary for consistent success in these deals.
Among the 16 plays in my playbook, one of the most popular ones is engaging executives, and that’s the one we’re going to dive into today. We face a significant challenge as these executives are busy and influential individuals, not easy to reach. So, what can we do to increase our chances of not only having a positive conversation when we access them but also keeping the door open?
The key solution lies in Win themes. Win themes are the top priorities of your decision-maker or senior executives, going beyond their needs or other factors that salespeople typically focus on. These themes address their top-level priorities, explain why those priorities are important, and highlight how you can impact them. It’s the intersection of their priorities and your strengths, which I refer to as win themes. These win themes contribute to winning conversations with executives or senior-level decision-makers, leading them to keep the door open for further discussions. When you have that kind of access, that’s when you win repeatedly, not just once.
In this micro session, I’ll provide a bit more detail on how win themes work. Essentially, you need to learn about those priorities. You can gather hints and clues through research, such as conducting an executive dossier, but it’s crucial to have the conversation as well. So, yes, do your research and gather what you believe those priorities are. It’s also helpful to talk to the people who work closely with the executive. That’s an excellent starting point. But ultimately, in that conversation, you’ll want to validate those priorities. Don’t just assume you know what they are. Validate those priorities and why they’re important. And only after you’ve done that, can you apply your strengths.
So, when you’re in that discussion, you have to quickly translate their executives’ priorities into strengths that you have. It could be your products and services, but it could also include resources in your company, programs in your company, anything that can impact those priorities. And then it’s really helpful if you offer some evidence. Evidence could be examples, case studies, stories, anything that kind of brings it all together and makes that conversation memorable.
So basically, when you’re engaging with senior-level decision-makers, executives, you want to improve that access and you want to keep that door open. And the best way to get receptivity is through alignment and impact, and by doing that through win themes, you will differentiate yourself. Differentiate your company. In some cases, you can block your competitors and also you can unlock resources that maybe weren’t available before. Because all of a sudden that executive or senior-level decision-maker is very interested in you and your company and how you can impact their top-level priorities. And if more resources need to be allocated for that, they will allocate those resources. So, pretty darn powerful.
And when it comes to this particular area of winning big complex 5X deals, we want to ring the bell because those deals take a long time to identify, develop, and close. And we know that a lot of those along that timeframe that we do have to access those decision-makers and senior-level executives. And by the way, sometimes it’s the leader that has to do that, the sales leader. Even in organizations that have senior salespeople, they might not quite have the skill set and the executive presence. So many times, it’s the leader that has to initiate those conversations and then bring the senior salespeople along. But when that happens, you get to ring the bell. And my book is all about ringing that bell repeatedly because there’s nothing better in sales than big deals and an engine that drives those big deals over time.
Alright, that was the super short version of win themes. So I can take some questions.
While I’m waiting for some questions to be served up, one of the questions that comes up frequently is how are priorities different than needs? And when you think about what a customer needs, their pain points, what they’re trying to accomplish, those are really important. Those are at the foundation, and as salespeople, you’re not going to get a big deal unless you are dealing with those pain points and those needs. But executives and senior-level decision-makers think about things that are a level above, and that’s what I call priorities.
Before we bring in some questions, I have a question for you. I hear a lot that when you have this mindset, committees, and senior executives are involved. I mean, if the CFO is involved or the CIO is involved, their objectives could be significantly different from the end user of that product, right? Which means you need to understand, as a salesperson, what are the outcome requirements for the CEO or the CFO or whichever other senior executive you’re talking to vis-a-vis the product that you’re selling, and your end user may be a few tiers down the line. How do you align these when you’re trying to do a big deal like the ones you’re talking about?
Yeah, that’s a great question, and it’s a question that salespeople really struggle with. If they can’t make that pivot from talking about needs and their products and services and how they can meet those needs or meet that criteria, if they can’t pivot to a higher-level conversation around priorities, then even if they get access to a senior-level executive or decision-maker, the door won’t be open. That is not what those people want to talk about. They want to go a level up and talk about priorities. They’re looking at taking their company to the next level. Their priorities might have to do with growth, employee retention, or market share. Those are examples of priorities. Downstream, they connect to those needs. But you have to keep that conversation at a higher level. And not just understanding what those priorities are, but connecting the strengths that your company has. They can help them with their priorities, and those strengths may not be your products and services. Maybe you have executives that have experience that you could connect them to in your company. Maybe you have programs for senior executives where they can network and idea share. There are all kinds of ways that companies can impact an executive’s priorities. The other thing that I was going to point out is win themes are based on one senior executive’s priorities at a time. Because if you’re talking to the CTO versus the CFO versus the CIO, they all have different priorities, and so it’s one executive at a time.
Yeah, and yeah. So basically, you need to do the… I mean, I use the word very loosely that you need to discover the priorities of these executives separately, not in a group discussion, so to say, right? And once you’ve found that, you have to go back to your own drawing board and ensure that the proposal that you’re sending out actually covers all the bases.
Yes. And in most cases, you’re not going to be sharing your proposal with an executive sponsor. If it’s a decision-maker, then yes, you want to be having the proposal discussion because remember we are talking about complex deals. This isn’t your normal sales process. You know, this is a complex sales process, maybe lots of people on your company side, lots of people on the prospect or key account side, and it plays out over months or, in some cases, even years. But so there are lots of conversations that are occurring, and if a sales leader knows that this is the best way to engage those executives, then they can help their senior salespeople gather that evidence along the way as they’re having those conversations. So when you get to that C-Suite executive, you know what you’re gonna be talking about, and it’s gonna be a conversation that’s meaningful. And one of your big objectives is to leave that door open.
Absolutely, absolutely. One more question, I think it’s there.
So how distinct is a sales leader’s objective from that of other members of the team? So let’s assume the sales leader is a sales VP and maybe that sales VP is managing senior salespeople, or maybe they’re managing a manager who manages the salespeople. So their objective is different because what they want to do is create an engine or a system that drives the identification, the development, and the closure of big deals, 5X deals as I call them, repeatedly, not just one. Most companies kind of have one. It’s their banner account. But we want to be able to have a system in place that drives those deals repeatedly, and then sometimes the sales leader actually has to come into the deal many times, almost maybe all the time to help because I think even a senior salesperson isn’t always going to get a meeting with a senior executive. They need the gravitas of a sales VP to help them get that done. They may even need the CEO of the company, their company, to get that done, or another senior leader in their company to get it done. So yes, their roles, there’s overlap, but they’re very distinct.
One last one, Lisa.
Is there another question that you’re going to show? Let’s see.
Yeah, it’s there on the screen. Can you see that?
Yes, how to bring in the C-level insights to the salespersons to enable them to better engage with the senior executive?
That’s a great question.
There is so much pre-call prep work that goes into calling on an executive, and it absolutely, you know, I’m a big fan of creating an executive dossier. If you’re going to want to call on an executive and have that door left open, an executive dossier would include all the things that you believe that executive cares about. At the company level, at their people level, maybe those specific projects, and all of those are clues as to what their top priorities are. And there’s information that you can access. We all know those public places that you can go to access information. But the very best way to fill out that dossier is to talk to people within the executive’s organization. Also, the very best way to access an executive is through somebody in their organization. So maybe it’s your main contact, and maybe you set that expectation early with that person that you want to engage with that senior executive and can they help you to do that. But they also can give you an inkling of those priorities. So lots of prep. Those are big, important calls, and you want to carefully, carefully craft that discussion flow.
That’s wonderful, Lisa. This was a great session. I hope we didn’t rush you through it, but yeah, this was great. I think even the discussion post-presentation was great. We have some great questions and great answers there. Thank you very much. I really appreciate your taking the time, and I hope to see you again when we do the next one.
Yes, absolutely. Thank you. And thank you for everything you’ve done for this event. What a wonderful opportunity for your listeners.
Thank you, Lisa. We’ll be right back with Tom Williams talking about buyer-centric selling. Be with us. We’ll be back right soon.
Lisa is the author of two award-winning books— “The TOP Seller Advantage: Powerful Strategies to Build Long-Term Executive Relationships” and “The TOP Sales Leader Playbook: How to Win 5X Deals Repeatedly”. Lisa Magnuson is an award-winning sales manager and led the charge as a Sales VP for several sales organizations across a variety of geographies, including executive positions with Fortune 50 companies across a broad spectrum of industries including technology, software, security, healthcare, medical device, insurance and manufacturing. As a founder of TopLIne Sales Lisa has worked with senior sales leaders and their teams to achieve phenomenal results, especially in the area of big account wins. Lisa also founded and facilitated the Sales Executive Mastermind Group for Sales VPs in the Pacific Northwest.