By Steli Efti, co-founder and CEO of Close

Do you know who checks their email practically every day? CEOs. 

Email is the preferred method of communication for many executives. Sure, a lot of work gets done face to face, over the phone and even via video conference, but email is an equalizer that many CEOs are comfortable with and use daily.

So, why is that CEO you’re trying to get in touch with not responding? Let’s talk about what you need to do to cut through their already busy inboxes and get a response. 

You’re writing emails that are too long.

This is the most common mistake I see. You think that you need to tell a CEO all the ins and outs behind your solution, your company and the 30 different features launched in the last month. 

That’s a one-way street to having your email deleted. Keep it short. 

You’re talking about your products too much.

Make the content in your email about the recipient’s needs and problems. It’s easy to get caught up in the internal hype you have about an upcoming product release. It’s even easier to ramble in an email about how great you are. 

What’s difficult is tailoring your email to give context to the CEO around the way your product can help them achieve specific business goals. Put yourself in their shoes. Understand the situation, and provide insight that they can use to make a positive change in their business. 

You’re not showing credibility.

The single most influential way to get through the noise in your prospect’s inbox is credibility. You can gain credibility through a lot of factors, but the most valuable is being associated with people the CEO already knows.

  • Can you get an introduction from someone on their board? 
  • Can you get an introduction from a trusted direct report? 
  • Can you get an introduction from another CEO? 

Introductions are a powerful way to get a CEO’s attention and establish credibility. The next best way to demonstrate credibility is to name drop clients you’re working with, results you have seen these clients generate, competition trying your product, notable press mentions and recent wins.

You used a generic or spammy subject line.

When you're scrolling through your inbox, what's more likely to catch your attention: “We're disrupting sales” or “Scale your sales with AI.”

I’m going to assume it’s the one that is more specific. Why? Because generic pitches with broad ideas are being delivered to CEOs every single day. Rather than making broad claims, grab attention by talking about the things you do best.

Make your subject line clear, specific and value-driven. Don’t use superficial language, and avoid vague messaging that doesn't add context. 

You have too many asks and requests.

Can we schedule a meeting? Can you send this to your CMO? Can you meet me for coffee? Can you advise who else might like this?

If you’re asking a CEO to do multiple things, it’s likely that nothing will be done at all -- other than your email getting sent to the trash.

Before you write an outreach email, think about what you want to accomplish. What would be the most ideal outcome? What is a realistic expectation? A CEO is generally not interested in sitting in on a demo. You’re better off asking them to send you an introduction to the person on their team you should talk to. 

The key is to not ask for too much. You have to be focused in your request. 

You haven’t shown you’ve done research.

The internet makes it easier than ever to understand what your prospects have been up to lately. A bit of research can open up a flood of insight. Have they been on a podcast lately? Have they newly announced a key hire? Have they recently raised VC money? 

Whatever it may be, show you’ve done some research. 

CEOs of publicly traded companies are challenging to reach, but it’s not impossible. The amount of information released during earning calls and investor reports can be used to your advantage for outreach. Did they mention something they view as a huge opportunity that you can help them capture? You just need to pay attention. 

This step isn’t easy, but it can help you stand out. It also demonstrates that you’re serious about their business and adds a layer of personalization most emails don't have. 

We both know that there’s no way to guarantee that a CEO will write you back. That’s impossible. But if I could leave you with one more tip it would be this: Follow up. Don’t just press send and pray. Make sure you set a reminder to follow up with that executive at a later date, and be persistent.

Steli Efti is the co-founder and CEO of Close, an inside sales CRM for startups and SMBs.

Published on: Dec 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.