Engaging with the EXCOM can be an intimidating experience but they can be a great help in clearing blockages. However if you are more from a sales perspective, clearly these budget holders are the ones that must be influenced.
Building relationships with the c-suite is always a challenge. Getting their time can often be hard enough but once you have their attention, what can you do to ensure you are remembered?
Have a vibrant conversation
What c-suite actually want is to have is a lively discussion that helps to improve their understanding of the problem at and the possible solutions.
For every meeting, think “How can we create a great conversation?” It could be a great conversation about how you could work together with a prospect, or about your observations on the client’s operations. Does the conversation:
- Improve the understanding of a problem or challenge?
- Help you to learn more about each other?
- Leave the discussion energised and wanting more?
The best bay to meet the CEO
Meet them before they become CEO.
It might be tedious if you are not naturally extrovert but if you build relationships with smart, motivated, interesting, and ambitious people, even if they’re not in an important job right now, stay in touch as there is a chance that in the future these will be the people you need to speak to.
Common pitfalls when meeting the C-Suite
There are plenty of books written about this so I'll just list some memorable pointers
- You spend too much time preparing for your meeting by reading annual reports and other background on the company, and not enough time learning about the person you are going to meet.
- Your plan for your conversation is too elaborate and rigid (this will reduce your flexibility and ability to improvise).
- The issue you are talking about with the client is not a true “red issue” of significant importance
- The executive sponsor involves other stakeholders prematurely, who then torpedo your efforts.
- The executive you are meeting with does not actually “own” the issue.
- You try to cover too many agenda items in the meeting (3 is usually the maximum).
- The case studies you have used do not resonate and are too generic.
- You rely excessively on PowerPoint or other written material and are unable to have an intimate conversation with the client.
- You talk too much and the client too talks too little.
- You ask questions that are tedious for the client because they are too general and do not implicitly incorporate a knowledge of the client’s strategy, organisation, and industry.
- You lean back on asking lots of questions (which is fine to a point) and then don’t add any real, substantive value in the conversation.
- You do not rapidly align the conversation to the client’s agenda (be it cost reduction, revenue growth, customer focus, or something else).
- You take too long to get to the point.
- You tell (describe statistics about your company, talk about methodologies, etc.) instead of sharing short client examples, best practices, etc.
- You lack self-confidence, which gets communicated through the words you use, your body language, and your overall attitude–you don’t walk in standing tall as a peer who has something valuable to share. On a phone call, confidence is projected through your voice and the clarity of your message. Don’t speak too fast, vary your volume, speak in short chunks – don’t go on and on, and make sure you leave spaces/pauses for the other person to interject.
- You are boring and unmemorable. Remember: You have to play to win, not to “not lose“– otherwise, you will most likely lose.