IT Best Practices

Selling to the C-Suite: 7 Rules for Meeting with Top Execs

Every so often, we’re presented with the rare opportunity of meeting, one-on-one, with that elusive figure, the company exec. What should you say and how should you prepare? Geoffrey James writing for Inc. has seven rules to abate your fears and to clench your agenda with the company’s top dog.

Seven C-Suite Solicitation Tips

  1. Do your research.
  2. Preface with purpose.
  3. Establish credibility.
  4. Frame your case.
  5. Listen more than you talk.
  6. Add value to the conversation.
  7. Close on a next step.

Ahead of time, you’ll want to know the exec’s business agenda. And if you’re truly well connected and “peer-savvy” you’ll get the scoop on their personal agenda (i.e. – their career goals) as well. Next, you’ll need to preface the meeting with your purpose and role in the company. Yeah, it seems a bit lame that they don’t know who you are or why you’re here, but they’re busy people. They agreed to meet you, so meet them halfway.

Then comes your moment of credibility. You only get one, so make it count. Demonstrate how much you know about the company or about x initiative. Make it short and snappy, no frills or extraneous details required. How you frame your case is important too. Everything must come back to the bottom line. Remember, don’t tell, ask. Inevitably, they’ll know more than you on the topic (or should if you’re asking the right questions).

After you’ve asked your fill of questions, let them do most of the talking. Think of the exec not unlike you would think of a customer. In order to find out what they need, you’ve got to listen. Only then will your proposed solution have a fighting chance. However, James says to keep that solution canned for at least the first half of the meeting. Remember that you want to establish rapport and take in their perspective first. In the meantime, you can add value by relating your side of a given experience.

Lastly, close on your proposition by eliciting some form of commitment from the exec. But be sure to take their lead. If nothing else, settle for a group meeting to further discuss your solution. All that’s left now is a handshake.

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