Selling to CEOs? 5 things you must do (and 4 things not to do)

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CEOs never idle. The want your ideas. But how do you catch their attention? Read the 5 things that will make your sales soar. (and things you need stop doing)


  • 1. Selling to CEOs? 5 Things you must do (and 4 things not to do) Always pitch 2-3 ideas the first five minutes. If I like what I hear, you will get 55 more minutes, if not its over. CEO of a noted, fast growing software company His words hit me right in the stomach. I realised why I had not been too successful selling to CEOs over the years. So I changed my sales strategy right away. Here is what I started doing:
  • 2. #1: Pitch 2 ideas the first 5 minutes of the sales meeting. (This way I showed I had a couple of fresh ideas to bring to the table, that it was valuable to have a meeting with me. 9 out of 10 CEOs energy levels increased, they became energized and creative, looking for new ways of doing things. Finally: since you booked the meeting the CEO is expecting you to fire the first shot.) #2: Use a killer pitch format. (You start with your idea, present the customer value, a relevant timing, why your company is the best choice and a suitable next activity if the CEO wants to pursue. This way you help the CEO to get the whole picture) #3: Lean back and listen to the CEO. (To my amazement the CEOs started to tell me what they wanted to do, and why they wanted to meet me. Almost every CEO I have met, since I changed sales strategy, have had a plan, and my company was a potential part of that plan. WOW!) #4: Act agile and fast. (CEOs never idle. You have 72 hours to act. Get your best team working on the details and stay in touch with the CEO. Call before 8.30 AM and after 5.30 PM. If they dont answer, send a SMS message and expect a call back later that night) #5: Present alternative solutions. (CEOs take decisions based on facts. You provide the facts, suggest a 2-3 solutions, impacts, risks and ROI. Ask for a decision! ) Here is what I stopped doing: #1: No more powerpoints (its boring and takes the focus from you)
  • 3. #2: Never talk about customer pains (The smart CEOs already knows about the pains & limitations of their organisation. They want your fresh ideas, not to talk about pains #3: Dont ask open ended questions the first 15 minutes of the meeting. (The information you want (strategy, organisation and financials) is a part of your home work, If you ask the CEO these questions in the beginning of the meeting, you are showing your lack of knowledge and (worse) disrespect for his/her time) #4: Do not present you and your company. (The CEO serious CEO have already checked your LinkedIn profile, homepage and checked a few references. They know about what you can do. Do not intimidate them by assuming* that they dont) Results After I changed sales strategy I got very successful selling to CEOs. I have (since august 2013, that when I did my empirical study, simply asking five CEOs how they wanted sales people to sell to them) met 20 CEOs, Statistics: - 7 initiated a business opportunity with me (closed five so far) - 8 introduced me to the sales director and empowered him/her to buy from us - 3 were interested but put me on hold for various resons - 2 were just polite (but are now in my LinkedIn network and I can call on them any time) Final good words about selling to CEOs:
  • 4. CEOs are risk takers. They are hired to create change, not stability. The right strategic choices (and a bit of ice in the stomach) will generate positive results. The CEOs job is to look for out of the box solutions. Your job is to create a killer pitch for your solution - and starta sales process where the CEO is your best sponsor. Ladies and Gentlemen: Go out and sell! Jens Edgren / +46 707998800 About the author: Jens Edgren is the CEO of Salesmakeover, the Solution Selling partner in Scandinavia. He has been training sales people and managers for 25 years, on a globla basis. Published books: "How to sell the answer to a solution?", "Salesmakeover, how to create a solution oriented sales organisation?" and "True stories, how to close business fast and safe", available at and