Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating it! I hope everyone had a great day with friends and family. As you know, we’re constantly striving to elevate our conversations within the organizations with which we partner. When we are able to engage at the C-Suite level, it’s usually with our sales partners and upper management, but I thought it would still be good to go over concepts and approaches for interacting with executives at this level. Meetings, as a whole, should only be held to make decisions about a predefined problem, and this is especially true when meeting at this level. Here are a few articles that can help hone your approach with the C-Suite:
First off is an article from HBR about How to Present to Executives. It’s pretty much just as the title states, although I think the two key takeaways for me are to not look like an idiot by rambling and to summarize up front. That goes along with the mantra around change of tell ‘em what your’ going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. And always, ALWAYS know what they want to talk about before you go in to visit them. They are giving you their time because they have a pain point that you can alleviate. If they don’t tell you what it is, ask. If they still don’t, discover it, but address it. Some of those concepts are echoed in this Slideshare blog.
HBR also has a great article on The Ways Chief Executive Officers Lead. I find this to be a great article when it comes to understanding how CEOs (and therefore their direct reports) operate and then once discovering that approach, using it to inform what you focus on in that thirty minute window and how you discuss it.
Inc. gives us Seven Rules for Meeting with Top Executives and continues along the theme already started in the HBR article. The most salient point? Listening more than you talk. I’ve heard this again and again from both executives and others from the standpoint that you can’t hear what the problem is if you aren’t willing to listen, and as I’ve noted previously, having an inquisitive mind, a constant state of curiosity is a trait we find in the leaders of all organizations. While you are going to (hopefully) have had the forethought to thoroughly research the customer and how we can help them with the problems they are facing, you never know what you can learn and the respect you’ll garner by being willing to listen to learn, not simply hear what they are saying.
Business Insider’s 12 CEOs Say How They Expect People To Prepare For Meetings With Them goes direct to the CEO level to ask what people in that role are looking for when people meet with them. Knowing the right thing to say, how much to say, and the brevity with which to speak can be incredibly daunting and so advantageous when employed. Given the desire by most of the organizations we work with today to make sense of the mountains of data being collected and added too every day I thought How to Present Analytics that Speak the C-Suite’s Language to be a good starting point for how we present data when we need to, however be wary of having too much data as part of what you present. For these types of meetings, unless you KNOW the CxO to be solely data driven, I find it better to have the data to prove the point as opposed as the main focus.
The last thought I want to leave you with is this: when we are meeting with someone from the C-Suite, our commitment to them giving us that time is to enable them to make a decision, whether it is to work with us or not. It’s perfectly fine to walk away from a meeting without new business in hand as long as you’ve made an effective use of their time. People in the C-Suite will respect that, especially if you use that time to then qualify what they DO need when you discover that they DON’T. These meetings, to me, are about building credibility and elevating ourselves into a position of trust. We can’t be all things to all people, and a CxO is going to see straight through any attempt to be so. Do your research. Understand the pain points currently faced and how we can help solve that problem. Be willing to give away the business (your service) in the near term to gain the larger business in the long term. Be curious, because curiosity, as noted, is the common trait seen in all members of the C-Suite, and that’s something a CxO will appreciate and respect in you.
While there is no tried and true method or silver bullet, this collection of articles seems a good starting point at least as we continue elevating our dialogues.
I have frequent conversations with my girls about all the gifts in our lives and reminding them to approach life with an attitude of gratitude. I hope everyone is having a great holiday, and remember to take a moment to reflect on that for which you are grateful.