Seven Tips for Managing a C-Level Sales Call

It’s the holy grail for salespeople, and very few actually operate at this level. If you can do
this effectively you will be in an elite group, you will have deeper and more meaningful
relationships with your customers and you should enjoy a shorter sales-cycle and
improved close rates. There is no reason to be afraid, CEOs and other C-level executives
are regular people, they meet with salespeople often and many come from a sales
background themselves. I generally find that folks at this level are very open-minded,
attentive and action-oriented, all positive things to harness.

1. Do It! An effective C-level meeting is a major sales accelerator

My experience is that having an effective meeting at the most senior level can progress
your sales opportunity immeasurably, it may be worth 10, 20 or 100 meetings at the lower
levels. Barriers you have been facing, objections you have been getting, politics you have
been encountering, budget restraints and competitive threats can all disappear!
So be resourceful and find a way to make it happen. I won’t cover the ‘how to get a
meeting at C-level’ here as it would require a whole post on its own.
Once you have the meeting confirmed then invest the time and effort to make it count.

2. Deep and detailed background preparation

Make sure you know as much as possible about the company situation, their priorities,
their hot issues and whatever is relevant to your product/service offering. The CEO does
not want to be telling you the basics of what is happening in their company. By all means
ask them for their views on x, y and z issues facing the company, or ask them about
relevant industry dynamics they are facing, but do it from a position of significant
foundational knowledge.

3. Scout the terrain. Lean on your key contacts in advance

Hopefully you have already developed a supporter or two or three who have sponsored
you into this meeting, and they may have as much riding on the meeting as you do. They
can help with personality, how he/she likes meetings to run, current issues, any topics to
avoid etc.

4. Decide on a goal

Think very carefully about your goal and what you want the CEO to do after the meeting as
their action can be very powerful. You have to think about the potential consequences of
such an action as sometimes this can backfire and you might burn bridges elsewhere in
the account. It’s a powerful weapon that needs to be aimed very carefully.
The goal should vary depending on where you are in the sales cycle and how strong your
position in the account is. If you are a strong incumbent then your goal will be different
than if you are an outsider trying to break in. If you are the leading bidder for a big project
the goal will be different than if you are a low ranked bidder.

5. Have a clear agenda and structure

A CEO will expect you to prepare and will not mind if you take some control of the meeting
with a clear agenda that is relevant. Again put some thought and get input into the agenda,
ideally discuss with and have it agreed by the client in advance. Open the meeting with the
agenda and check in that it works for them.

6. Execute with relevance

You probably only have 20-30 minutes so make every minute count.

  • Build credibility. Without being long-winded demonstrate your knowledge of the
    account, their issues and opportunities as relates to your offering.
  • Create dialogue. Build on your opening to open up dialogue, that is get them
    talking, about their views, priorities, issues etc.
  • Focus in. Narrow down the discussion towards where your solution brings value to
    the business and aligns with their goals. This is ok, they know you are there to discuss the
    benefits of your solution as long as it isn’t the only thing you do. Of course get their views
    and any feedback around the relevance and strength of what you’re offering.
  • Make your request. Depending on which direction the meeting has gone make
    your request. You have to be flexible here and prepare for different scenarios based on
    how the meeting goes. I have been in meetings where the deal has accelerated right on
    the spot with the CEO and he has said to his folks ‘let’s make this happen ASAP’. Of
    course I’ve seen the opposite happen too, so be prepared for various outcomes.

7. Ask for a follow up

You should have this goal in mind from the start, we don’t want to just have a single
‘getting to know you’ meeting and think we’ve done a great job. We want an ongoing
relationship, and we should be presenting enough ongoing value that the client wants that
too. If all goes to plan then commitments will have been made in the meeting, maybe on both sides, that will need to be reviewed at a later stage. If you can get agreement to have
a follow up meeting to review progress against these commitments, or for another
compelling reason, then you know it has been a good meeting.


CEOs are generally aggressive and want to move things forward in their company as fast
as possible. So if you have value for them, that gets them to their goals faster, then really
focus on that and lead with confidence. They have the motivation and the authority to cut
through red tape and politics to get things done. There should only be upside for you if you
can get a meeting at that level and then prepare and execute well. And don’t forget to get
the follow up meeting!