Fishing At C- Level

Gotta be a big game hunter like Teddy Roosevelt.  Gotta find high level decision makers who can green light projects and not string you along.  Gotta bait the hook and fish for C- level execs,  so you can close some deals and pay some bills.  Oh yeah!

OK,  so how to do it? Let’s start by looking at the size of your C-level’s  organization.  If your client sweet spot is companies with fewer than 100 people,  you are likely to find the CEO, CFO, Executive Director or Development Director at a Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce event.  If you’re fishing in organizations with 100 – 1000 + employees,  you may also find C-levels at Rotary and Chamber meetings,  but you’ll have more luck at university sponsored business forums or prestigious networking association events.

In general, when looking to meet C-levels in larger organizations,  it is wise to attend marquis events:  special speaker programs,  awards luncheons and industry specific programs.  C-levels rarely attend holiday parties or networking breakfasts (except for those sponsored by their prestigious networking group and those are usually private).

What if you need contact names and titles? Sometimes,  you can find company leaders on the website.  Other times,  you can call the main number and ask to be transferred to the head of a certain department.  You can also try to meet someone from the organization at a conference or  networking event and chat them up.  Such encounters may or may not pay off.  Employees may fear pissing off a C-level by revealing the name.

You can also use  ZoomInfo, which is a resource discussed in The ROI on 2.0 posting of December 8, 2009.   For a fee,  ZoomInfo will allow you to basically access a company organization chart and find out who leads which business unit.

Once you get specific names and titles,  then internet search,  read the ZoomInfo profile,  LinkedIn profile and anything else you can locate to determine where you might find those people and what their hot buttons could be.  Where might they go to meet peers and network or stay current on industry and business issues?

When you attend programs where targeted C-levels might be found,  skillfully devise the set-up.  Arrive early.  At the check-in desk,  scan name tags to learn who will be in the house.  If you see a name tag that’s on your wish list,  prepare an ice breaker.

I’ve found that comments about the speakers and program focus are excellent conversation openers.  Also, take notes at the program.  This will allow you to 1).  pose an intelligent question during Q & A,  which is wonderful for visibility as it encourages conversation with others,  including the speaker;  and 2).  can segue into a conversation with your C-level at the break.  Oh, and try to sit with this person at lunch.  However,  I caution you to not be too obvious.  Do not appear to stalk.

Remember that your C-level is also there to network and has an agenda.  If you are lucky enough to sit at the right lunch table,  relax and join the conversation.  Everyone will introduce themselves and there will be some mild talk of business.  You will meet a few more C-levels who may be good prospects.  Think relationship building and not selling.

Now for the ask. You need follow-up with your C-level.  Follow your instincts on the flow of your interaction.  If the program is short,  you’ll have to act fast.  In a day long program,  you may want to approach at the afternoon break.  Whatever the timing,  tell  C-level that your product/service has the capability to impact specific success factors or other business concerns that he/she is likely to have.   Ask if the need is being addressed and who might your competition be?  Request an appointment in or out of their office to discuss mutual alignments.

Be calm and professional,  get your point across and don’t arm twist.   No matter what happens,  you’ll learn whether you have a chance with this person and organization or not.  If not,  well,  you’ll know and will waste no further time on pursuit.  In 6-12 months,  you may cross paths again and maybe get another chance.  If yes,  you are on your way—don’t blow it! Focus on big picture outcomes and benefits and make your best pitch.

Thanks for reading,


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