5 Ways to Make the Most of C-Level Access

5 Ways to Make the Most of C-Level Access

Thought leaders often underestimate the value of the red-carpet privileges they receive when they work with clients. I’m not talking first class flights and five-star hotels. Those perks are nice, but they’re not uncommon. You can book most of them online!

There’s one asset that most companies guard jealously—their CEO’s time. An average salesperson can’t simply call and request an hour with the CEO. Most salespeople spend their careers working leads and building relationships with connectors and influencers. Getting to a CEO can take months or even years, if ever.

But it’s entirely commonplace for a thought leader—after being booked to deliver a keynote or a consulting session—to ask the client, “Can I get a prep call with the CEO and other senior leaders?” This request is good customer service, and it’s often given a greenlight by the company’s gatekeepers.

Thought leaders—keynote speakers, scholars, and authors—have privileged access into the leadership of an organization, but many of them unintentionally squander this C-suite access because they don’t know how to make the best use of the time.

So, when the client’s gatekeeper gives you the “Yes” to speak with the CEO, what should you do?

First off, remember that someone booked you and saw value in your content. But that’s simply table stakes. You need more information to be able to serve your client and execute a great first event. And more importantly, the CEO will be evaluating you!

Getting a meeting with the CEO is a significant accomplishment. Don’t waste it! By following these five tips, you’ll keep the meeting on-point:

  • Do Your Homework: Study any information you’ve received from a gatekeeper in previous calls. Be informed about the company and its leadership. What have they been working on?
  • Lead with smart questions. Quickly uncover what matters to the CEO. Prepare questions in advance, and make sure they’re smart, targeted, and engaging.
  • Listen rather than talk: You want to spend about 70% of the time listening to the client’s context, and only 30% of the time talking about yourself or your content.
  • Create a reason for a follow-up: Don’t rush to sell. You’ll come across as self-serving and pushy. Instead, listen and build a relationship. Spend the first conversation focused on developing a great solution, but also plant a seed. Create a reason to touch base after your event.
  • Respect their time: Have an agenda, stick to it, and aim to finish early.

If you haven’t spent significant time in the c-suite environment, it’s easy to make rookie mistakes. Some people learn these skills inside organizations, working as an executive themselves or as a direct report to the c-suite. Others learn these skills as external consultants or salespeople.

As a thought leader, you could probably talk about your ideas for hours. However, you probably haven’t honed your sales and consulting skills as finely. Don’t mishandle precious executive conversations just because you haven’t learned to stop talking! Listen, learn, and uncover what the buyer really wants.

Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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