By: Jacqueline Brodnitzki, Principal

I recently came across an interesting post by Forbes Coaches Council, 13 Leadership Skills You Didn't Need A Decade Ago That Are Now Essential and was very heartened to see that coming in at number one is Executive Presence. Those of you who know Bates know that Executive Presence is at the core of the work we do, and I have seen firsthand just why it has become such a critical leadership skill in this demanding and disruptive business environment. One recent experience, where a senior relationship management team had to learn to communicate differently in order to be seen as strategic partners and deliver on revenue goals, seems especially relevant in communicating the potential impact of executive presence on creating business outcomes.

The C-Suite Sales Conundrum

In a very competitive marketplace, a financial services company’s relationship managers needed to learn how to communicate at the C-Suite level with their clients. The stakes were higher than ever to solidify business with clients through cross selling and demonstrating real business value. The case had to be made at the executive level and it had to be compelling to a very demanding and sophisticated audience. The relationship managers needed to articulate how their services can directly enable their clients to meet their business imperatives, and build the trust to move from the role of order taker to that of strategic advisor. And these experienced relationship management leaders were challenged with making the leap.

Uncovering the Success Drivers of C-Suite Selling

To help the SVP of this group figure out how to build the right skills and capabilities, we took his team through the Bates ExPI™ multi-rater assessment tool.  In doing the ExPI™ assessment, we found that the relationship managers were lower in substance than the other dimensions, especially practical wisdom, resonance and vision – all qualities that we have found to be necessary to be seen as strategic advisors.

Building a Team of Trusted Advisors

Armed with knowledge about which areas to build and reinforce, over the course of eight months, they worked on developing these qualities and thinking differently about how to communicate at the C-Suite level by connecting with what really matters to their clients’ business outcomes.

One area the team focused on in particular was to learn tools and techniques to systematically analyze and understand their C-Suite clients and how to articulate the business challenges their clients were facing, what they really care about, and what they were trying to achieve to grow their businesses. The relationship managers then learned how to tie their products and services back to those challenges, which enabled them to have much greater resonance with their executive audience, and showcase the practical wisdom which is so powerful in building trust.

As the relationship managers have learned to communicate in this way and demonstrate more substance in their interactions, they are now seen as strategic partners, rather than vendors. They’ve been able to expand business with their clients and to improve profitability of their own business, showing just how powerful executive presence can be.

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