Often Sales People ask me about meetings with a CEO or President and if there are specific differences relative to these meetings. And, the answer is a huge – yes, this is a different level of sales meetings.
Yet, b2b sales people continue to meet with the top level executives and immediately fall into feature spouting machines. Whenever this happens, the opportunity has crashed and burned and the only person who is unaware is the yakking sales person.
Really people, do you believe the CEO cares about the details or features of your product or service? The CEO is only concerned with improving results. It is really that simple.
So here are a Five Tips for Meeting with a CEO or President in a selling environment…
Yes, relax and remain calm during your visit. Calmness is a sign of confidence and self-esteem, which are traits a CEO will notice in your behavior. This is the starting point for building Trust with the CEO. As a side note, you will find the CEO is usually a very nice person who possesses outstanding people skills. Be respectful and think like an owner of your business would think for added confidence.
- Be Prepared
Never go into a CEO Meeting unprepared. Know things about the CEO’s company – when it started, what industry they sell to. any financial results that are published (harder to get for a private company – yet there are usually estimates available OR call the sales department and ask about the strength of their company), also what are the Trends for the company and their market / industry. Have a list of potential questions regarding the information you learned in your preparation process.
Engage in a natural conversation with the CEO rather than ANY type of presentation. In fact, if you start using any type of scripted sales “pitch” with a CEO – your meeting will probably get cut short and you will lose the most valuable opportunity of gaining a relationship with the CEO. Use a get and take style of causal business conversations, routinely asking the CEO for their opinion on important market issues (related to their business rather than yours). Stay focused upon the CEO yet provide interesting statements about your helping company’s with issues like the CEO has verified. Use case studies or success stories so the CEO can insert their company into the situation being discussed. You will see a change in their body language when they are interested in a topic and they will usually begin to ask questions which sound like implementation questions (usually in the form of a detail being asked about for clarity) When this occurs, be sure to ask some clarifying questions to reflect your knowledge and experience level of dealing with these issues. Beware of making assumptions about what the CEO is asking about – always assume you are not sure and ask for more clarification.
- No Traditional Questions
This opportunity you to lose or leave behind the traditional questions used by most b2b sales people. Questions like… “Tell me what is keeping you up at night these days?” or “What are the three things troubling you the most?” or “If I were to hand you a magic wand with one spell left – what would you change in your company today?” Really? Refer to point 3 – this is not the time for rapid fire questions for the CEO to answer. Fact is – you should have all those answers in your pre-work notes. Then you are having an important discussion about these issues to show the CEO that you are a credible source of knowledge and experience. And, it does not hurt to suggest a solution or two during your dialogue with the CEO – this shows you are not desperate to make a sale.
- Be a Peer
This last point is a key important part of your meeting time. Act like a peer and you will gain more respect. Most sales people act like they are meeting Royalty or a Celebrity. For best results a peer to peer ( or Adult to Adult for you TA types) is needed. This move will allow for an Interdependency Level of relationship to form which is the highest level you can attain. Good things happen here and you will be seen as more of a Business Advisor that a Vendor type. To be a peer you need to learn more about the Business of Business. Become a Financial Acumen expert so you can easily discuss numbers and financial related concerns of the CEO.
Finally, the CEO meeting is a special meeting in one sense only – the opportunity of having a strong relationship will a CEO adds credibility to everything else you do with their company. Respect still must be earned, yet you will start at a higher level due to the relationship with the CEO.
You have the ability to relate with any CEO or C-Level Executive for that matter as long as it is important to you. When it becomes important to you, you will be able to find the answers to the items listed above. You can work on your confidence and self-esteem – and your results will accelerate accordingly.
Have a Great CEO Meeting.