Many organisations talk about targeting the C suite, or top level management in an organisation. After all, they are usually the ultimate decision-makers and can open doors to other top-level connections. Yet most people will agree that it is very difficult to get the attention of a C-level executive because they are the most highly-protected and time-poor people in any organisation.
There are ways to target the C suite effectively and they depend on having a very clear and nuanced understanding of how you can add value and what constitutes value to the executive. They include:
1. Have a compelling offer
Take a moment to consider whether your offer is truly compelling for a C-level executive. Whether it is an opportunity to network with peers, raise their public profile or gain valuable information, you must deliver clear value in return for the executive’s time. Your offer has to be something that they can’t ignore and, equally importantly, it must be presented in a way that they can’t ignore. A cold call or email will not cut through the vast amounts of information and communication in a C-level executive’s day. It might not even get past their executive assistant. Consider creative ways to present information quickly, concisely and with a clear demonstration of the value and ROI. Examples of a compelling offer could be an invitation to a high-level networking event with potential customers or a profile-raising opportunity that features the executive as a thought leader. Or it could include the opportunity to access important industry research results or benchmarking information exclusively.
2. Make it personal
Like most people, C-level executives are more likely to respond to an approach that includes something they care about on a personal level. Find out what they care about so that you can tailor your approach appropriately. For example, if the executive is a long-time sponsor of a particular charity, it may be possible for you to include a benefit to that charity in your offer. Make a habit of attending events that the executive attends, whether they are speaking or simply attending, and try to meet them personally so that you can follow up again later. Beware of false intimacy though: it can backfire if you presume to know the executive better than you really do. Build a genuine relationship and you will be more likely to succeed.
3. Get a sponsor
One of the easiest and most effective ways to target the C suite is to build relationships at other levels in the organisation. This can lead to doors opening that would not have done so otherwise. For example, if your aim is to sell an IT solution, the logical first target may be an IT manager who may then give you an introduction or share the information with the CIO. It takes time to develop a reputation for delivering value. Once you have done so however, these contacts may act as sponsors, convincing the executive of the value of what you have to offer.
Before investing time and resources in targeting the C suite, consider whether your offer or product is genuinely relevant or whether you might be able to achieve the same amount of cut-through by targeting other influencers in the organisation. If the C-level executive is indeed the best target, do your research, prepare thoroughly and be persistent.