What CEOs want to talk about (it’s not your product)
Everyone tells you to meet with the decision maker. Everyone tells you to meet with the CEO.
However, it seems no one offers any advice on what to say what to do or what to ask when you get to that meeting.
Harsh reality: It’s more than likely the CEO doesn’t want to meet with you, much less talk about your product or service.
The paradox is that you, the salesperson, are polishing up your presentation to make it your best one ever. The only problem with that is the CEO doesn’t want to hear your presentation. He or she is busy running a business and has little time or interest in getting down to your specific offer.
Harsh reality: Instead of making your presentation, why don’t you just email it to the CEO? That way, when you get there, a decision has already been made and you can talk about what the CEO really wants to talk about.
Here are the 7.5 things CEOs are interested in:
1. Productivity. Productivity has many sides. It may be the production of people or the production of a manufacturing facility. It may even be the CEO’s personal productivity. Whatever the circumstance is, productivity plays a key role.
2. Morale and attitude. CEOs understand that attitude dictates morale and morale dictates communication, both internally and externally. If employees are not happy on the inside, customers will be served poorly on the outside.
3. Loyalty of customers. A far cry from satisfaction, customer loyalty is at the heart of growing the business and increasing percentages of profit. Loyal customers will do business with you again and refer others to you.
4. Loyalty of employees. The secret to loyalty is to hire smart, happy, self-starting people with a history of success. Treat them well, pay them well, and give them success training, not just on-the-job training.
5. Competition. Not your competition for the sale — their competition for their sales. What do you know about them and how can you help?
6. Market conditions/future. If you are able to talk market conditions and the future with the CEO, you will have his or her total undivided attention and respect. As a salesperson, you cannot ask for more than that.
7. Profit. Everything I've just talked about has, at its core, profit and profitability. CEOs do not want to “save” money. They want to “make” money. If you understand their profit, you will earn their business.
7.5 Intellectual exchange. Most CEOs are smart people. They like talking to smart people — people who make sense, provide value, offer useful information and want a relationship (not just a sale). Is that you?
Here are the real-world to-dos that will get you in the door prepared to give your presentation:
- Get personally ready. Most executives have some kind of bio online. Find it and figure out what you can talk about that fits with who you are or what you do.
- Get familiar with the 7.5 things CEOs are interested in and have something meaningful to say about each.You have to know about each one from the perspective of the customer, and then add your wisdom or your thinking.
- Have a reputation they can find. Be mindful that the CEO will Google you, find you on Facebook, look you up on Twitter, check out your LinkedIn profile, look for your blog, and look to see if you have any testimonial videos on YouTube. And, you can't stop them. What they find will impact the decision that they're about to make. How’s your reputation?
- Your first question must be emotional. It will lead you to the second — and may even lead to early rapport or common ground. Ask, “Where did you grow up?” This one question sends the decision maker on an immediate stream-of-conscious, emotional journey. Thoughts will flash about siblings, parents, friends, and growing up life. If there's a smile on his face, continue a little bit. Notice immediately that the atmosphere between the two of you is relaxed. If you have something in common say it right away. Note: The first question is based on your preparation and research.
- When you go from personal to business, ask before you tell. When it's time to segue into business, ask him for his knowledge of the history of his company’s use of your product or service. Get his wisdom and experience and get him talking about himself and his company in terms of you.
- Ask “who else?” It is likely you will not be working with the CEO once your sale has been made. Ask: “Who would be in charge?” Then ask: “Are they available now?” By meeting with the lower-level person, you automatically have an endorsement.
Editor’s note: This column originally ran in August 2014.
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 12 best-selling books. His real-world ideas also are available as online courses at GitomerVT.com. For information about training and seminars, visit gitomer.com or gitomercertifiedadvisors.com, or email Jeffrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.