A Question from the Sales Trenches

Hi Colleen. How much time does a C-level person give you in a meeting? In your experience as a vendor or a customer, in meetings that involve multiple people: 1. When do C-level people (CEO, COO, CIO, CFO, CLO, CMO, CSO, etc.), VP’s and/or senior directors arrive at the meeting? 2. When do they leave? 3. What specifically captures their attention and engages them? Your advice will be greatly appreciated, David.

Hi David! In my experience, when a C-level executive arrives at the meeting and how long they stay depends greatly on your relationship with them.

If you have a direct relationship with the executive and they have been part of the process since day one, for example, they will generally arrive on time and stay for the entire meeting. If this is a first meeting, then I would ask and expect to get between 20-30 minutes of their time. Getting more than 30 minutes can be difficult, especially if the executive has never met you before, and doesn’t know why you are meeting. If you can capture their attention during the meeting, subsequent follow-up meetings can usually be longer. Finally, if this isn’t a first meeting, and you also haven’t involved the executive in the sales process until the “presentation” or solution discussion stage, then you should probably expect them to stay only as long as they feel the meeting is useful to them.

Of course, herein lies the problem – if you haven’t included the executive in the sales process before this meeting, how do you know what will interest them? The key is to include senior executives in the sales process right from the start, and ask them questions about what engages them, so you can build your presentation around that information.

Every executive is different. In general, most executives are interested in:

  • Profits
  • Share price / shareholder value
  • Competitive advantage; and
  • Revenue.

Whatever they’re interested in, make sure to engage high-level executives early on, build relationships with them every chance you get – and ask them questions to find out what they’re most concerned about.

Good luck! Colleen