Selling to the C Suite
by Nicholas A. C. Read and Stephen J. Bistritz

ISBN: 978-0-07-162891-4, Publisher: McGraw Hill
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

There is a weight of evidence that salespeople are advised to sell "to the top" or to reach the highest possible level in a target organisation so as to have the greatest possible chance of closing the sale or making the sale bigger than it would otherwise have been. It has led many salespeople to dash foolishly into arenas that they are improperly prepared for and cannot survive in.

This book caveats that advice with a sound warning about selling at the appropriate level. It explains when not to go higher than the current level at which a sale is being handled. I wish half the salespeople I have seen in boardrooms had read the book and stayed out of harm's way!

More important, the book sets out clear strategies for presenting well at senior levels. Although the book is written from the point of view of selling at senior executive levels much of this advice is relevant for people wishing to sell at board level.

Starting with a succinct précis of recent changes to commercial negotiations, including disintermediation and the rise of internet-based fulfilment systems, the book moves smartly to set out when senior executives are likely to become involved in a sales process, how to understand their needs and how to work the political environment to gain an audience at the required level. Ideas are illustrated with experience from salespeople who have been trained in the authors' proprietary sales methodology and, better still, with thoughtful and thought-provoking insights from the executives who are the targets of those salespeople.

The final three chapters draw extensively upon the experiences and desires of senior executives. They are gold dust! Establishing credibility through asking perceptive questions, creating value by bringing external perspectives and expertise, and cultivating loyalty by demonstrating and communicating the value created are all things that salespeople aspire to do, but without the understanding of what is going on in the target's world they are close to impossible to achieve. This book draws out the views of senior executives and establishes common themes that will make the tasks that much easier (but never easy).

The appendices add value and allow the reader to apply the material without undue effort. There is also a comprehensive index and a very eclectic but well chosen list of recommended further reading.

This book provides some valuable concepts that would enhance the effectiveness of board-level consultants, legal advisors, auditors, accountants and (with a little translation of the material) senior executives presenting to their own company's boards. It is also well written, soundly research based, and a pleasure to read.

* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director and board consultant. She is the author of "Dilemmas, Dilemmas" a book of real life case studies for company directors and of "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector". Her newsletter "The Director's Dilemma" is read in 32 countries around the world and she is a frequent presenter at international governance conferences and education events.

Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards