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The one thing you have to remember about the C-suite is that those who abide there are under pressure. They must produce results, hit a home run every time they come up to bat. In order to produce results they must delegate responsibility, delegate to those who have talent and can be trusted. They like people who meet deadlines. People who don’t make major errors.
Therefore, if you happen to meet a C-level executive, you must appear both talented and trustworthy, as he/she defines it. In general, you must demonstrate that you know your stuff. Demonstrate that you are able to produce results. To do anything less is to disappoint, to waste the exec’s precious time. One must make a very good impression.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to make a sales presentation to a C-level executive, whether he/she is alone or with a team, take the time to do things right. Arrive early. If you are there to demonstrate a product, do a few test runs at home and do one also at the office. In advance of your appointment, ask the executive assistant if there is a room you can duck into to do one more dry run product demo.
If you will present your service and will use Power Point, do several rehearsals. Again, ask the assistant for early access to the conference room in advance of the meeting, so that you can set up the equipment and make sure it works and make sure that you can run it smoothly. You do not want any A/V glitches and arrive one hour early if A/V equipment will be used.
When you do start talking, cut to the chase. It is politic to ask the C-level what he/she would like to hear first. Plan to go off-script, so know your material very well. Expect lots of questions. Anticipate what those questions might be and role-play answers.
C-level execs have many plates in the air, opportunities to identify and evaluate, stubborn problems to resolve and fires to put out. They are thinking about seeds to plant today that will bear fruit three years down the road. Make your presentation about how your product or service can beat the competition, how to hang on to current customers, how to win new ones and how to increase net profit. In your presentation, do address the problems they will have achieving those objectives and how your product or service will help them reach the goal faster, more easily, less expensively.
Bruce Gabrielle, teacher of Power Point and presentation techniques and author of “Speaking PowerPoint: The New Language of Business”, says you should focus on painting a vision of a better future. Once your exec is nodding at the your description of the vision—and ONLY after—should you address product or service details. Cost will be less of a concern at this point, he claims.
Gabrielle also notes that while most execs like Big Data and like the idea of making data-driven decisions, they trust their gut and experience more than they trust numbers. They like customer success stories. They gain confidence in you if their colleagues have used your product or service. Have two or three success stories that make you shine ready to roll. Introduce the stories first and then follow it up with any quantitative data that you have.
Be advised that your C-level exec will judge you by the quality of your presentation. Consider it a test. He/she will see whether you are authoritative and know your business; will know how you handle pressure by your response to tough and unexpected questions being thrown at you; will gauge whether you are trustworthy and credible. In short, your C-level will quickly figure out whether you are someone to do business with, whether you are worthy of his/her time and money. if you pass the test, you will win his/her confidence and will be able to count on the exec’s full support.
Thanks for reading,