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selling to executives

Selling To Executives: What Works For B2B Consultants (& What Doesn’t)

By Michael Zipursky
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Are you a B2B consultant who is selling to executives?

You’ve probably discovered that most marketing and sales advice doesn’t help you.

That’s because most marketing and sales advice you read is aimed toward businesses selling to consumers.

But, as a consultant, your business depends on your ability to sell to executives, not consumers.

And selling to executives is an entirely different game.

Unlike B2C businesses…

  • You’re selling your expertise, not an off-the-shelf product.
  • You’re selling expensive, custom, high-touch consulting services.
  • What you’re selling requires far more trust — and executives want to see a return on their investment.

If you’re targeting executives with custom consulting services, you’ll need a custom marketing and sales approach.

By the end of this article, you’ll learn what doesn’t work for selling to executives — and most importantly, what DOES work: including specific strategies you can use today to get in front of your ideal senior-level and executive clients.

Let’s dive in…

What DOESN’T Work When Selling To Executives

We’ll start by discussing what DOESN’T work when selling to executives.

Executives fit a different profile than consumers. They have different needs, wants, and challenges.

  • They run businesses and organizations;
  • They are focused on return on investment;
  • They are much, much more difficult to reach;
  • They need to know you, like you, trust you — and a need for your services must arise — before they are willing to invest in working you.

To that end, mass marketing, automation, and fancy funnels WON’T work when selling to executives.

With mass marketing strategies, you’re blasting out a templated email looking to capture a certain rate of response.

For example, you might send a templated email to 1000 potential customers.

You’re expecting a 1-2% response rate. That’s typical with these types of email blasts.

Using this strategy to message CEOs is not going to work.

Again, executives must know you, like you, and trust you before they’re willing to do business with you.

A mass email might get them to know you — but it doesn’t build the relationship or the trust required to hire you for consulting services.

Mass emails might work if you’re a fitness instructor who’s selling a $99 course on losing weight.

But if you’re targeting executives with custom consulting services, you’ll need a custom marketing and sales approach.

So, be wary of “shiny objects” that help you “scale up your marketing efforts.”

These won’t work for consultants who work with executives.

That being said, DO pay attention to certain tools that allow you to personalize your message.

For example, tools like Loom allow you to quickly record and send a video message.

Tools that help you personalize your marketing and sales WILL help you reach executives.

Keep that in mind.

Next, I’ll talk about the bigger picture: a strategy that works for selling to executives.

What DOES Work When Selling To Executives

So, what does work for selling to executives?

Think value over volume.

Here’s the key principle: each executive you reach out to should feel like: “Wow, this person is speaking directly to me and my needs.”

Let’s work through how you’ll achieve that.

1. Get clear on your ideal client

You can’t create a personalized message until you understand your ideal client.

In our Clarity Coaching Program, we teach a lesson on “Ideal Client Clarity” — helping you get clear on who your ideal client is so you can market and sell to them more effectively.

You’ll want to know basic details, like:

  • INDUSTRY. What industry is your ideal client in?
  • SIZE. How much revenue does your ideal client’s company make? Approximately how many employees work at their company?
  • LOCATION. Where is your ideal client located in the world?
  • SENIORITY. What level of seniority does your ideal client have?
  • JOB TITLE. What is your ideal client’s job title?

You’ll also want to know the qualitative factors, like:

  • The PROBLEMS they are facing in their business
  • The RESULTS that they want to see by solving these problems

The more clear and specific you get on these details, the easier it will be for you to create a list of ideal clients and reach out to them.

Mass marketing emails target vast groups of people.

But your emails will target a hyper-focused niche — your ideal client.

2. Craft a magnetic message

Once you’ve gotten clear on your ideal clients, you’ll write messaging that attracts them.

What gets the attention of executives?

Experts who can solve their problems and get their results.

So, your messaging will be built around that.

Each executive you reach out to should feel like: “Wow, this person is speaking directly to me and my needs.”

Inside of our programs, we teach “Magnetic Messaging:” the consultant’s version of the value proposition:

I help [WHO] to [solve WHAT problem] so they can [see WHAT results]. My [WHY choose me]…

Let’s break each part of the formula down.

  • WHO: Who you serve.
  • WHAT (Problem): The problem you solve for them.
  • WHAT (Result): The result you create for them.
  • WHY: Why they should choose you.

This formula is so effective because it covers everything executives want to know before they are willing to engage with you.

When you begin reaching out to them, and they see your magnetic message, they’ll be more receptive to you.

A clear, specific magnetic message opens the door for conversations.

3. Direct outreach

Now that you’ve created your magnetic message, it’s time to start reaching out to executives.

Your goal with your outreach isn’t to make an immediate sale. Sales come later.

Your primary goal is to simply get a response.

We also teach consultants in our program the “Marketing Engine” — a proven system for messaging executives to get a response.

Here’s an example of a direct outreach message that works:

Subject: New Stats for ABC Inc

Hi X, congratulations on the launch of your new XYZ product. A big focus for many of the CEOs I work with is xxx. I’ve pulled together the latest data on xxx and thought you’d find it of interest as well.

You can see the data and how it can help organizations like yours attract outside investment: LINK

Be interested to know what you think about the data?


Notice what makes this message different from a mass-marketed email.

You’re sharing relevant information with the buyer that you know they’ll find interesting.

It says nothing about your services or your business. Instead, it’s about providing them with genuine value.

Again, your goal is to get a response. Once they respond to you, you can start having a conversation with them.

4. Thought-leadership content

Want to make your direct outreach messaging even more effective?

Write and share thought-leadership content.

Thought-leadership content demonstrates your knowledge and expertise — and it helps your ideal clients understand and solve their problems.

It’s the most powerful way for consultants to demonstrate their authority.

It also helps you “sell without selling,” because it demonstrates you can provide value without directly speaking with your prospect.

For example, the “data” outreach message I shared with you in the last step can be turned into thought-leadership content.

Sharing data is a fantastic way to create content and position yourself as an expert.

The data can come from your own surveys and conversations.

But it can also come from research and looking at other studies that already exist — and then simply adding your perspective and opinions to those studies.

A powerful approach is to pull in data from different places, draw new conclusions or shine a spotlight on something that your dream client likely was unaware of, but would appreciate knowing.

Take the problems that your clients are having. Create content that adds your perspective on those problems and how you solve them. Share that with your ideal clients when you message them. Ask them what they think.

All of this will help you achieve the final step in selling to executives — getting them on a call for a meaningful conversation.

5. Meaningful conversations

The goal of the past 4 steps is to get your ideal client on a call with you.

This is where you can learn more about them, their business, their problems, their goals, and whether you’re able to help.

What most consultants get wrong about these conversations is that they merely “pitch” their services.

But the way we teach it is different. The “pitching” comes at the very end.

The first 80% of the conversation should be about your client.

You’ll ask them questions like…

  • “What is your number one priority for this business unit during this fiscal year?”
  • “Many companies in this market are currently facing the issue of PROBLEM, are you also finding that a challenge, or is there a bigger more pressing issue on your mind?”
  • “What is the value of this to you (your company)?”
  • “If you don’t fix it, how long can you manage and stay with things as they are?”

See more in our article, Client Consultation: Best Questions to Ask Consulting Clients (Updated Playbook) for more meaningful questions to ask executives.

Only once you clearly understand what your client needs and wants — and you’re confident your expertise can help them get their desired results — should you make them an offer.

Selling to executives is an exercise in listening to what they want, re-articulating what they want back to them, and then simply offering that to them.

If you can do that, you’ll create endless consulting opportunities.

Selling To Executives Case Study

Howard Bryant is a retail & operations consultant who helps retailers in South East Asia increase sales and reduce costs.

consultant selling to executives case study

Before working with us, he struggled to reach executives.

In particular, he lacked a clear framework and strategy for handling conversations with buyers: pitching them his services and closing the deal.

We helped Howard…

  1. Get clear on the executives that he served (CEOs, CFOs, COOs at local and multinational retailers)
  2. Create a magnetic message (“I help local and multinational retailers in South East Asia to increase sales and reduce costs across all categories by providing astute retail strategy advice, consultation, training, and coaching.”)
  3. Reach out directly to his ideal clients to start conversations with personalized messaging
  4. Create thought-leadership that shared his expertise and provided value specifically to his ideal clients
  5. Win projects by having meaningful conversations with his clients: understanding their problems, their desired results, and how his services will bridge that gap

As a result, Bryant won a major contract with his dream client: a large corporation in South East Asia.

Now, Howard is confident when selling to executives; who are now his primary client base.

Want to Win More Consulting Clients?

Selling to executives doesn’t have to be difficult.

It just requires a more refined strategy.

Forget about fancy funnels and shiny new tools.

As long as you focus on…

  1. Being specific about the executive you’re selling to
  2. Creating messaging that speaks to them (the problems they want to be solved and the results that they want)
  3. Systematic outreach to a list of your ideal executive clients
  4. Publishing content that demonstrates your expertise and provides value
  5. Having meaningful conversations about their wants, needs, and challenges

…you’ll have no problem selling your consulting services to executives.

If you want our help mastering the art of selling to executives so you can build a more predictable, profitable, and strategic consulting business, our Clarity Coaching Program is for you.

We’ll work hands-on with you to develop a strategic plan and then dive deep and work through your ideal client clarity, strategic messaging, fees, pricing, business model optimization, and help you to set up your marketing engine and lead generation system to consistently attract ideal clients.

Schedule a FREE growth session today to apply for our limited capacity Clarity Coaching Program by clicking here.

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