(Sales) Book Review: Selling to the C-Suite by Stephen Bistritz and Nicholas Read


Let me start out this book review by simply saying that if your job consists of selling to or establishing meaningful relationships with senior executives in large companies, then you NEED and MUST read this book. Not doing so is only cheating yourself and the company you represent.

Here’s a quick scan of the answers you’ll find in the book :

•When do executives get involved in the buying process for major decisions?
•How do salespeople gain access to executives?
•How can salespeople establish credibility with executives?
•How can salespeople create value at the executive level?

Bistritz and Read (Authors) have done a wonderful job in not only qualifying how to sell into the ‘c-suite’, they move beyond the anecdotal and into the empirical by sharing with us the reader how they arrived at their conclusions. The book is based on actual interviews, over 500, done with senior executives.

I had several ‘holy bucket’ moments as I read through the book. Here are just a few:

1) Knowing when and why a senior executive gets involved in the decision making process and also the reasoning behind it. We’ve all heard the cliche, “By the time most salespeople get involved in a sale, it’s too late.” This book explains why that’s so and how you can avoid the ‘late to the party’ effect.

2) Understanding what executives want from a salesperson and in what order (i.e., priority). This was quite insightful and quite surprising. Here’s a tease: it’s not product knowledge or knowledge about your competition that ranks high with executives.

3) What do salespeople have to do in the Internet Age to remain relevant to senior executives? The authors explain what has changed in the mind of the consumer and how our clients perceive salespeople in today’s info-glut environment.

4) Does cold calling or writing a letter to the CEO really work? Find out five ways to get into the c-suite and which are the top 3 most effective ways to connect with a senior level executive.

Bistritz and Read write in a very simple yet eloquent style. Neil Rackham provides a candid foreword for the book which in it of itself makes for good reading.

I’ve rarely been taken in by a book that constantly made me stop in order reflect on what was being said. Add to that the fact that the book is literally peppered with actual quotes from senior level executives that gives us the reader a heighten sense of what’s important to executives. Isn’t that what selling is?

I could go on but I’ll simply end this review by saying that this is by far the best book I’ve read on how to establish effective and fruitful C-Level relationships.

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4 Responses

  1. Victor,
    Can you compare this to “Selling to VITO?” – Anthony Parinello
    Thanks!

    • Hank,

      Both books are worth the read. That said, if I had to paint the two with a broad brush, I would compare the two as follows:

      1) ” Selling to Vito ” is a ‘tactical approach’ (writing letters and follow up calls) to setting up an appointment with a C-Level executive backed by anecdotal evidence (i.e., no metrics/data to support the author’s assertion).

      2) ‘Selling to the C-Suite’ has a more encompassing ‘strategic approach’ to selling to senior level executives backed by qualitative empirical evidence (i.e., interviews and surveys).

      Interesting enough, Selling to the C-Suite’s study/data makes a list of the top five ways to contact and influence c-level executives and it ranks the ‘Vito Letter Approach’ at number 4. Number 5 is cold calling (i.e., least effective way to reach the senior level executive).

      In short, Selling to Vito is a tactical approach that does work but according to Selling to the C-Suite is not the most effective way to gain access to senior level executives.

      Think of Selling to Vito as another tool in your sales toolkit. Think of Selling to the C-Suite as a blueprint for how to build a more effective C-Level mousetrap.

      Hank, thank you for that great question; hope that helps!

      Victor Antonio

      p.s., I’ll be posting a ‘Selling to Vito’ book review in the next week or so. I highly recommend it…there are some nuggets in the book that every salesperson should be aware of! Remember, every little bit helps and for some industries, the VITO Approach, might be just the tool you’re looking for.

  2. I think Victor nailed the comparison between Selling to Vito and the book I co-authored – Selling to the C-Suite.

    When we initially conducted our research with CXO-level executives in 1995, we searched the literature and couldn’t find any books or articles that were focused on how executives wanted to interface and interact with professional salespeople. That was the reason for the first of a series of research projects with CXO-level executives, where we asked those executives about their relationships with professional salespeople.

    Then in our book Selling to the C-Suite, we tried to describe how salespeople can best create, maintain and leverage relationships with C-level executives, according to the executives themselves.

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