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How to Pitch a CEO: 4 Tips

Get the attention of a CEO and you've upped your chances of scoring a big deal. Here's how to do it the right way.

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There's a particular sparkle to sales people who are on top of their game: They've done their homework, they know that what they're selling is a good fit for the prospect, and they want the best for all involved.

Think you're one of those? Here's how to get in my door the next time you come calling:

1. Honesty is the best policy.

Nothing raises my hackles more than a salesperson lying his or her way to my direct line. If we weren't college roommates, childhood friends, or just on a conference call before our line got disconnected, you have no business saying so—no matter how authoritarian your voice sounds or how impressive your slide deck. Dishonesty is a terrible way to start a relationship, so let's get to know one another on more positive terms. It might be harder, but it will be worth it if our stars align.

2. Where's the beef?

Instead of explaining for 10 minutes that you respect my time, let's get right down to it. For starters, here are the slides I recommend you skip in your PowerPoint (although your designers did a great job; please tell them so):

  • Those 10 ubiquitous, initial "about us" slides, especially if they include biographies and baby photos. Actually, baby photos might be funny—so maybe leave those in.
  • The five pages of client logos that mean nothing to me. Instead, select the two or three clients that are most relevant to my business and present what you've done for them in a way that hits home with me. Have their email addresses and phone numbers handy, too, because if we're jiving, I just might want to talk to them too.
  • The same goes with proposals and, really, any communication. Less fluff and more stuff. Bullet points work well, as do links and screenshots if your product or service comes across better in a visual format.

3. CEOS are people, too.

Some people respond better when you use a nice graphic to support your points. Others prefer phone calls or lunch meetings. Still others might want minimal contact and 400 pages of PDF documentation to review. Find out how we can best communicate (asking helps), and your job will be a lot easier.

4. Help me be the best CEO I can be.

CEOs help people grow, help their teams solve problems, and are constantly looking forward to the future. If you want to play with me, help me take care of my people and grow my business. When you present your product or service, make sure I understand what's in it for me, besides the undeniable pleasure of doing business with you. Keep the conversation and pitch focused on specific ways you can help me do my job. If you do it well, you'll get the business.

IMAGE: Flickr/Big West Conference
Last updated: May 3, 2012

JAY STEINFELD is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the industry leader in online window covering sales, representing over half of window treatments sold online and doing more than $100 million in sales annually.
@BlindscomCEO




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