How to Develop and Sustain Relationships with Top Executives

You’re going to learn a host of proven strategies for developing and sustaining relationships with top executives.

I’m also really excited to share with you the release of my popular eLearning program, Building Your Clients for Life, to individual users. There’s more information on it at the end of this article.

The Importance of Knowing C-Suite Executives

Even if C-suite executives don’t directly buy your products and services, it’s essential to know them. Why? C-suite executives and other top leaders can:
  • Create a budget where there was none
  • See the value in a larger, high-impact proposal
  • Make decisions about strategy and policy
  • Unblock a sale that is stuck, and approve large contracts
  • Give you invaluable introductions to other important decision makers
Building relationships with senior executives, however, is hard. These individuals are besieged daily by people who want to sell them something, influence them, or obtain a favor.

Change Your Mindset

The first step in this journey is to elevate your thinking and develop a strategic or “advisor” mindset. You have to take an enterprise-wide view of your client’s issues. You need to approach your client as a deep generalist who has a core specialty but also business acumen.

Here are some specific suggestions:

  • Put your solutions in the context of the big, evergreen issues that are always important to leaders. These include business strategy, talent acquisition and development, creating new business models to deal with disruptive technologies, revenue and profit growth, innovation, culture, cost control, and risk management. Any insights that address these challenges will usually engage their interest.
  • Talk about positive return on investment and how your solution has helped other clients with the same challenge. Don’t go deep into the detailed methodologies you will employ.
  • Highlight the broad-based impact your approach will have on their organization. Telling a top executive who commands a $50 million budget that you can save them $75,000 isn’t exactly going to grab their attention. One C-suite executive recently told me, “To get on my calendar and engage me, you need to be talking about something that will affect large numbers of our employees.”
  • Focus your publishing and speaking on topics that will draw the interest of the senior executives you want to connect with. For your clients, what are the most common challenges they face at an enterprise or strategic level? Can you develop a point of view about one or two of them?

Gain Access

There are three interrelated avenues to gaining access to the C-suite: recognition, relationships, and ideas. Recognition in your field is critical because senior executives are able to pick and choose who they work with. They prize individuals who are recommended to them by other trusted friends and colleagues, and/or who have significant credentials and third-party endorsements. Trusted relationships are a second important route to connecting with top executives. Access over the long term can be driven by “following the person, not the position.” In other words, follow smart, ambitious people throughout their careers and maintain relationships with them, and eventually some of them will end up in the C-suite. Ideas are your third ticket to accessing the C-suite. Top executives are always open to new ideas for improving their business. However, you have to show how an idea or solution you have relates specifically to one of their challenges. How compelling are your recognition, relationships, and ideas? How can you strengthen them to give you greater access to the C-suite? Just released: my Building Your Clients for Life digital learning program. I’m finally releasing my acclaimed eLearning program, Building Your Clients for Life, to individual users. Until now, only my major corporate clients, which include many top professional service firms and financial institutions, had access to this program. They have found it so useful they’ve put thousands of their professionals through it. To inaugurate the launch, for a short period I’m giving my subscribers like you a very special discount—1/3 off the normal price of the course. Just use the discount code subscriber when you check out, instead of the code mentioned on the site. Related: 9 Ways to Dramatically Differentiate Yourself from the Competition