Pitching to C-level executives
By Julie Kramer, Executive Coach
The key to communicating with C-level executives, is to have something sexy to give them, make it compelling and present yourself as a peer. In this blog I will explore the first of these three tips and if you like this, go to click here for more premium Roadspring content and log in for the rest. A sexy gift is hard to turn down, hard to walk away from, and hard to hang up on. So no matter whether you call, visit or email them, with this kind of gift, you are bound to get some traction.
What is a sexy gift? This is information that is of great interest to the C-level executive you are talking to. It could be information about trends, products, systems, peers at other companies, laws and practices, or news about hot conferences, keynote speakers, or association meetings. The main thing is that it has to be personally compelling and engaging. What is personally compelling and engaging? This is something that affects them on a daily basis; some problem or issue that has not been solved yet. Old news is not good enough. It is important that what you are offering is new, current and compelling, because you want full engagement.
Let me give you an example. I was coaching a Director of Public Relations who wanted to contact Chief Marketing Officers and Vice Presidents of Public Relations. These were people she did not know and had not met. These were “cold calls”. The first thing we did together was find a “Hot sexy topic” to talk about. In the process of researching issues, I learned that a still unsolved issue for many people in Public Relations today, is “who owns social media? (Is it Marketing, Sales or Public Relations?”) This issue is very interesting and impacts the C-Levels. Professionals at all levels were and are still struggling with this issue. Most have not resolved it yet. Many become emotionally invested in the outcome. When my client learned that different companies have been dealing with this in vastly different ways, we organized this information to become a “sexy gift”. By formulating and organizing this hot topic, with real information about what the competitors were doing, she was able to get attention quickly, hold it and inform executives about common practices in their industry. This opened the door for her to pitch the benefits of her consulting services to their bottom line.
Another thing to keep in mind is the communication style you use with C-level executives needs to be friendly and get to the bottom line quickly. One approach is to use a style that brings in emotion that will leave a lasting impression. Short stories are one way to bring emotional depth to the issue and help a busy executive remember your message. You can also weave in examples, anecdotes, and metaphors to make your point more engaging and memorable.
Although you may not be at the peer level with C-level executives, it is possible to establish a peer level rapport for a short conversation. To establish yourself at the peer level you need to do several things. First, lead with something that interests them or a current business issue they are dealing with. Second, talk about what the competition is doing. Third, offer new ideas and solutions.
By addressing issues they are dealing with, you show that you are thinking from their perspective and also that you are someone who has critical insider information. This perspective alone, can lead to inclusion in high-level meetings or securing a consulting contract. When you start from the right perspective (their perspective, which is generally from the “big picture” point of view), keep it focused and concise, offer options and frame the issue in terms of how it impacts the business, then you are likely to be successful in reaching your objective.
C-level executives are known for their short attention span and have no problem interrupting. Expect and welcome interruptions. When you are interrupted, you may have caught their attention to an idea and this is a good thing. But this depends on if you have a business oriented value proposition, which impacts sales, profits, product direction and markets. This is critical; otherwise you are addressing the wrong level in the organization.
In summary, communicating with C-level executives requires having something sexy to share that shows you are thinking about business from the “Big Picture Perspective.” Expect interruptions, get to the bottom line quickly, and use a style that makes an impact. And most important of all is to be sure to present yourself as a peer.
If you would like further information or coaching on this topic you are invited to click here for a PDF download on C-Level Communications. For further details, teleconferences, or training contact Coach Julie Kramer directly at (510) 526-6723.