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How to Sell to a CEO: From the Horse’s Mouth #2

How to Sell to the CEO

Having learned how to sell to the VP of Sales in the previous episode of From the Horse’s Mouth, we now move onto selling to CEOs. If you haven’t read the previous blog already, we strongly recommend you do so before treading over to this one.

For this episode, we picked the brain of Deepak Anchala, Founder and CEO at Slintel, to understand what CEOs want out of their encounters with salespeople and how one should go about them. We asked him 4 key questions that should help give you a few things to keep in mind the next time you sell to a CEO.

To give you some background, Deepak has spent close to 10 years in Sales & Business Development roles before moving onto farming and hunting positions that led to him starting Slintel. Here’s what we asked him!

Selling to a CEO: 4 Quick Questions

Pitching to CEOs – How is it different from pitching to other leadership roles?

How to sell to a CEO

The number one thing is that CEOs have very little time, irrespective of the stage of the company. Most CEOs are always busy with multiple initiatives that they’re handling. I think that’s the number one thing AEs should keep in mind because you probably don’t have a lot of time to nurture a CEO towards closure. You want to get straight to the point and respect their time. 

Name 3 things that AEs should keep in mind before getting on a call with a CEO

The first thing, like I mentioned, is getting straight to the point. For example, if you’re doing a LinkedIn connect message don’t send an initial message then follow up over and over again for a third and fourth time. You need to make your ask very clear in your very first message.

Number two would be to do a lot of research on the CEO and understand what their priorities are. Depending on the stage of the company, every CEO has different things going on, whether it’s trying to make the product better or improving their go-to-market strategy. You can understand a CEOs priorities by going through their posts, checking out company press releases, and understanding the product and company in more detail by reading their website. 

Once you’ve done this get to the crux of it, don’t wait till the fourth message to ask the CEO what they really need. Talk about all the research you’ve done on the company and why your product is a good fit and get straight to the point.

What are 3 big deal breakers from AEs when pitching to a CEO?

CEOs, generally because of their time constraint, appreciate people who are genuine and who are really solving a problem that they have. As an AE, don’t try to be too salesy, as in don’t try to sell a product or service without adding value first because you really need to build trust. It would be a deal breaker if someone is prematurely trying to jump to pricing or a sale without really establishing value.

The second would be to listen. People who don’t listen very clearly to what the CEOs priorities are will not get the sale. This is because CEOs are focused on a few critical things in their organization. So ask those questions, listen very clearly, and position your product accordingly.

The third thing would be to not keep repeating the same message if a CEO is not responding to you. Constantly sending messages to a CEO doesn’t assure a response from them. Most CEOs tend to read all their messages and mails, so try to get the value out in the very first message.

In your career as a CEO, is there a particular AE who was memorable? Tell us your experience.

I think recently, just last week, I got the best sales message that I could have got in 2021 from an AE called Toon Lambrecht from Cumul.io. What was very interesting about this was that in the very first LinkedIn connect message, where people generally say, “I want to connect with you”, or “I want to learn more about you”, he got straight to the point and he recorded a personalized video that told me how their product can add value to our organization. It was a 30 second video, short and to the point, but super customized with a voiceover on why we should use their product.

Selling to CEOs

That seemed very interesting to me because people don’t spend so much time on the very first message. Most salespeople optimize for their own time so they send connection requests out to a lot of people and only after seeing who has added them will they move onto personalizing things. Just putting that effort early on pays off especially when CEOs receive hundred messages everyday. When they see the one message that stands out, especially in the very first message, you generally get a response from that.

Key Takeaways: Selling to a CEO

  1. Always get straight to the point when selling to a CEO because they have very little time, irrespective of the stage of the company.
  2. Do a lot of research on the CEO and understand what their priorities are before sending them a sales message.
  3. Listen. People who don’t listen clearly to what the CEO’s priorities are will not get the sale.
  4. Putting effort early on into your opening messages pays off, especially considering how CEOs receive hundreds of messages everyday. You generally get a response from it.

Make sure you stay tuned to our From the Horse’s Mouth series as we dive into more personas and things you should consider when selling to them!

Vasisht Nagarkatti

Vasisht Nagarkatti

Vasisht Nagarkatti handles content marketing at Slintel. A content ninja, Vasisht relishes any opportunity to get his creative juices flowing. Marketing, journalism, music, photography, filmmaking and web design are a few trades that Vasisht may find himself dabbling in.

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