• Stephen Timme and Melody Astley of FinListics co-authored the book “Insight-Led Selling” to help sales reps more deeply understand what their executive buyers care about.
  • There are more stakeholders than ever involved in big sales decisions. As a seller, your first job is to determine who really has the final say. You run the risk of losing a deal unexpectedly if you aren’t sure you’re talking to the alpha buyer from the start.
  • Numbers are important, but it’s not necessary to prove that you can transform every metric a company cares about. Which specific KPIs can your solution influence? 
  • No one loves talking finance, but there are ways to adjust your language to indicate how you’ll improve numbers, instead of digging too deeply into how much.

Have you ever felt like SDRs get a bad rap from high-ranking prospects? You aren’t wrong.

Every industry has its quirks and unspoken rivalries. In sales, we sometimes see buyers looking down on hard-working sellers for jumping in with a pitch too fast or sending the same canned emails as everybody else. 

You might be able to see where decision-makers are coming from when they’re immediately turned off by the standard SDR-style approach, but what do they expect you to do instead? 

Not many people at the top are willing to share what makes them pay attention to a lowly rep. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with two people who took the time to do just that. 

Stephen Timme is Founder and President of FinListics Solutions, which offers sales intelligence software that helps B2B sellers more accurately speak the language of their buyers. Melody Astley, CRO of FinListics, is his right hand. 

Stephen and Melody were quite productive during the COVID-19 pandemic — they co-authored the book “Insight-Led Selling” and distilled all their industry experience into this comprehensive guide to what execs want to see before they’ll consider a deal.

We chatted about the book and their expert insights on an episode of the INSIDE Inside Sales podcast. Here’s some of what this expert duo had to say.

Step into a nice pair of executive shoes

We all know it’s important to acknowledge a prospect’s pain points, but it’s easy to mistakenly identify them. That’s because, as the seller, you’re looking for pain points the buyer may not even know they have yet. 


Instead of reaching deep for a buyer’s true anxieties and fears, you could be assigning them issues you think they should have.

The problem is that experienced buyers have heard it all before. They’ll know when you’re reaching — and they’ll sniff it out right away if you’re feeling insecure about your angle.

Put on your finest executive shoes, even if you think you don’t have any. Think about how many cold calls and emails your prospect gets every day, and give them the consideration of taking a fresh approach.

“To reach out to me, be relevant. Because otherwise, it’s swipe left,” says Stephen.

What do your ‘alpha buyers’ value?

These days, most high-value deals have 10+ stakeholders involved — more than ever. As Stephen puts it, sales is now somewhat a team sport, with each department playing a different position.

However, unlike in a regular sporting event, the team that’s responsible for making a big purchase decision isn’t always united around a singular goal.

“If you’ve got 12 stakeholders … every person is going to have a different perspective on what is valuable,” Melody points out.

Since it’s impossible to speak to every voice on a buying committee, you have to narrow the field and be sure you’re talking to the people who make the final call: the “alpha buyers.”

Otherwise, you could assume you have a done deal, only to come up against an unwelcome surprise when the person you’ve pitched doesn’t have the authority you thought they did.

It’s your job to figure out: Who are the alpha buyers in this organization and what do they value?

Then, spend your time talking to those people only.

Pinpoint a few KPIs you can influence

Stephen and Melody are all about being metric-driven in those conversations, but they’re quick to say you don’t have to be driven by all metrics — just the ones your solution can directly influence.

You might have to do some digging to figure out what those are because you’re probably used to thinking about sales metrics and not much more. Your buyer, on the other hand, wants to know what you’ll do for their company’s overall financials (because chances are, they’ll have to justify their decision to connect with you).

And just like each department will have unique values, they’ll also care about different results. Your due diligence process should always include uncovering the KPIs your alpha buyer is watching and connecting them with your potential impact.

Speak the language of money

A big focus of Stephen and Melody’s book is the kind of phrasing you need to use to make your prospect feel comfortable. If you were selling to a baseball coach, you’d talk batting averages and errors. When you’re in the room with executives, you need to talk margins and capital. 

In other words, money talk.


The vocabulary of the upper echelon of business folk is what inspired the name of Stephen’s company: FinListics stands for financial linguistics. And as a former professor of finance, he knows just how boring the subject can be if you take it too far. 

Part of linguistic fluency is being able to communicate the way people really talk. If you’ve been paying attention, there’s a colloquial side to the language of execs just like there is for any other world language.

The key? Leave the minutiae for the meetings. Stick to general references to how the company’s financial markers will trend positively once they start using your product or service.

You don’t need to throw around exact numbers. On the contrary, high-level chat about a company’s financial standing and goals is more common — and effective. It’s the language of how, not how much, that closes a deal.

Not only is speaking Finance-ese a quota-driving skill, but it’s one that’ll take your career to new heights.

“When you begin to understand [financial speak] and internalize it and make it part of your sales motion, this is a skill that has no obsolescence,” Melody says. “It’s a skill that will port with you through your whole career, regardless of technologies that come and go, regardless of business models that come and go.”

Take it from a CRO: Speak my language, mention the numbers I have to care about to keep my role, and you’ll get at least a few minutes of my time.

If you can’t fully tell me who your buyer is (in a language they would use) in 15 seconds, you’ve got some work to do. 

Luckily, Stephen and Melody have some helpful templates for you to try. Check out their book and start dissolving your fear — before your next prospect smells it.

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