Have you ever thought about where it’s best in an organization to begin customer contact? Most salespeople will agree that starting at the top is a promising strategy. It may be more challenging, but the benefits outweigh the risks. Here’s how you can be successful when you’re trying to reach a top executive.
A unique strategy to get attention. I meet with lots of salespeople to consult with them on improving their strategies. I worked with one manager whose work includes appointment setting for a high level sales force. These sales professionals are involved in multi-year, multimillion dollar sales. His appointment targets are C level officers or senior executives of fairly large companies. Clients include Fortune 100 companies as well as mid-sized city and county governments. Here’s how he starts. He writes a letter to the CEO. You can understand why. Cold calls just aren’t as effective at that level. You should write one page on quality bond without a company logo. Why? You want your letter to get read. Letterhead with a logo look like a sales letter and will get thrown right in the trash. Without the logo, the CEO will read it thinking it’s a complaint letter.
Make your letter short with only 3 or 4 paragraphs with each paragraph being able to stand on its own. Start with the value proposition that will concern a CEO. Those issues are of an enterprise nature. These types of issues contain costs, enhance shareholder value or increase revenue for the company. If your issue is not broad, it won’t get the CEO’s attention. In the first few sentences of the letter, mention correspondence to other high level executives in the company like the CFO or COO. This mention forces the CEO to talk with the other executives and find out about the subject. You want to create buzz for your work. CEOs can’t have a fellow executive knowing something that they don’t know.Conclude with stating when you will call the CEO’s assistant whose name you should mention. Send your letter by Fed Ex.
Know what to expect when you call. Some people are intimidated by speaking with a CEO. If you’re prepared that’s less likely to happen. The assistant has most probably briefed the CEO about the call. Expect that CEOs typically answer the phone simply by stating their full name without a greeting. You must be prepared to engage the CEO quickly. Thank the CEO for taking your call. Be conversational. Slow down when you speak. You’ll sound more confident and less intimidated. Then get down to business. Follow with, “(CEO first name), the reason I’m calling you this morning is (the specific results you have achieved) with (names of other prestigious companies).” The more specific and concrete results, the better it is for you. Even if you stumble, maintain your relaxed conversational tone. Some CEOs will stay on the phone and talk and others make a quick judgment about next steps. When you get the appointment, expect it to be scheduled for weeks if not months out. The CEO might want to have his senior executives in the room with him. Coordinating the schedules of that many high level executives takes some time.