Research has shown that the more a CEO engages with customers the more loyal customers become. Another result is that customers are more apt to talk positively about your brand to others which translates into more business for you.
Let’s not forget these benefits as well:
You get to understand what is on your buyer’s mind and what is happening in their world. This helps Sales sell more strategically.
The information you gather from conversations provides Marketing and Sales with intel on buyer and market segments that you can’t find in reports or CRM systems. What better resource for info than right from those living in that world!
Your personas and ICP becomes a heck of a lot easier to develop and keep current.
In this blog, we'll focus in on existing customer E2E program approaches.
I’ve run Executive-to-Executive programs and found that the human connection can go a long way when done with good intentions, consistency, and a non-sales mindset. E2E is about resonating deeply with similar peers to build trust so that they can talk to you about their business aspirations, challenges, and opportunities – both from a business perspective as well as their career.
Doing so means tossing aside your itch to “sell” and instead focus on being authentic, caring about them and their business so you can be a sounding board in support of their success beyond just the sales transactions. It’s about co-creating value together, not pushing your value unto them.
Developing such a relationship takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight or even in a month. It takes months to cultivate that level of trust so that they permit you to participate in their world.
Just because you sold them stuff doesn’t make what you have to say valuable.
Another valuable purpose of an E2E program is to get higher up the decision chain. When you do, you get an aerial view of your customer's entire business, not just one facet of it. Typically, Sales have a fractional view of the inner workings of their customers’ business. However, their contacts don’t always see them as peers thus they aren’t willing to go deep into topics that aren’t associated with a singular transaction.
When you pair executives that have mirroring roles, a deep connection begins to sprout because you are pairing individuals that walk in similar shoes on similar paths. You get them, they get you. That is what builds familiarity. And that familiarly can be started before having even one conversation with them when properly executing an E2E program.
How do you get started?
First, you need to define your purpose. What are you trying to accomplish? Gain new logos? Land and expand within existing accounts? Enter a new market?
From there, here are some things you should be thinking about. There are more moving parts than this; however, this should get you on your way. If you’d like to dive into the E2E blueprint detail, reach out to me.
What executive in your org will be the right fit? I like to first identify the CEO if possible. However, I know how incredibly busy CEOs are. Vet this idea with them first before confirming their involvement. If they are game, find out how many contacts they can realistically reach out to per a cadence-based program that is mostly non-automated. Note, even though you may set it up in a cadence-based structure, be flexible because there will be moments where your CEO (or any executive) needs to shift gears due to more pressing priorities.
Once you identified the executive, communicate the program to others in the org that you’ll need support and input from like Sales, Customer Service, Leadership, etc.
What are the criteria you will use to know who is on your contact list? The list needs to be defined and communicated to Sales and others so that you can create a strategic list. I’d recommend you find some commonalities among your targets. Perhaps you focus on similar titles/personas or those in the same vertical. The reason for doing so is that your ability to align the right type of insight and information to build trust as a knowledgeable and relatable resource will be easier (and faster) when you can do so around a common interest, situation, or firmographics.
Create a template that outlines the criteria you chose and ask Sales (and perhaps others) to fill it out with the contacts they feel would be good candidates for the program. Remember, you’re trying to build relationships with those you don’t have strong relationships with yet—and those higher up the decision chain.
Build a cadenced plan and schedule to outline what channels you’ll be using to reach out to the executives, how often, what may require budget spend and if so, how much, who is doing what, etc. Marketing should own the creation and management of the plan, along with tracking results per a set of metrics.
An Executive-to-Executive Program is not a sales activity.
Rather, it is in support of Sales. It’s a strategic add to an account planning program. Plus, it helps you create a better customer experience, making your customer (or prospect) feel special and important.
A handful of bonus tips:
Start with your current customers. You can point to examples of how you know their business due to the work (or product) you provided. You’ll be able to strengthen the value within the account.
Define your first blush at E2E as an experiment so you can establish your process, get a better idea of what resonates to the contacts, and how the participation by the executive(s) is going. Executive input is key to the program’s long-term viability.
Have a writer assigned to the program. Don’t shift in and out different writers. Staying with the same one will ensure a consistent tone and style. They will also become very versed in how the executive thinks and their communication style. If you have an executive who prefers to write their content, great. Be their editor, helping them shape it for the recipient in an authentic and meaningful way.
Stay close to your executive throughout the build and execution of the program to get feedback and ensure if they need support, they get it.
An E2E is a strategic addition to your ABM program.
Remember, it’s not only the image of the company that you’re dealing with but also the executive’s as well.
Finally, do your homework. Learn from others that came before you. Recommended book, “Executive Engagement Strategies”, by Bev Burgess. She shares best practices along with a wide array of helpful tips, tools, and experiences.
If you’re interested in building an Executive-to-Executive Program that not only creates deeper, more meaningful connections but also significantly increases long-term account value, let's talk.