Ad Agency New Business: Engaging the C-Suite


After learning from a new client that chief among the reasons for choosing us over a competitor was our ability to handle conversations with the C-Suite, we decided to explore the overarching intricacies of engaging this important organizational subset.

Interrogation selling is a “bottom-up” approach designed to gather the basic organizational and historic information needed for a predetermined sales strategy.

Interview selling is a “top-down” approach designed to gain an in-depth understanding of the business challenges an executive is facing in order to create a climate of intellectual reciprocity.

Interrogation questioning frequently consists of questions beginning with phrases like:

“Are you…?”

“How do you…?”

“When will you…?”

These questions often put a prospect on the defensive and can create the impression that you are not adequately informed or prepared for the conversation. They also signal that you are primarily concerned with aligning quick sales solutions.

The interview approach is focused on uncovering organizational objectives and the prospect's perceived path to achieving them. It requires strong listening skills, as well as, in-depth knowledge of the marketing solutions landscape.

Questions typically begin with:

“Tell me about…”

“What has been your experience with…?”

“Do you think that…?”

These questions require a certain level of knowledge concerning the executive’s industry and organizational functions. Such inquiries are designed to uncover detailed information about specific business issues, as well as, what the prospect may or may not want to do about addressing them. It is not an opportunity to offer tactical solutions.

Successfully interviewing a senior executive requires both a willingness and an ability to conduct a detailed conversation.  It often concludes successfully with the prospect’s request for a meeting to further explore the issues and to meet the team. It is not an opportunity foryour business development representative to push a capabilities presentation designed to ply your wares.

At the end of the day, a myriad of factors contribute to successfully engaging the C-Suite. Mastering these skills will maximize positive perceptions of your agency and create quality new business opportunities.