What CEOs actually think when you pitch them (a snarky soliloquy)

Tony Hughes


Whether they say it or just think it; this is what's going on in the mind of the CEO when you finally manage to get in front of them. The very best sales people avoid objections altogether because of the way they engage. I've previously written about Decoding The CEO but now browse this list and consider the way you sell. How can you improve your execution and elevate the conversation?

Have you taken the time to truly understand my business?

Are you going to waste my time with generic insights I already read in industry news; or are you going to bring me new information and a perspective that matters?

I am so relieved that you took the time to read my book and understand how passionate I already am about this initiative.

Great, you took the time to meet with my CTO and understand the underlying technology issues.

I'm grateful that you built consensus with my team and didn't expect me to move unilaterally!

I don't care how many big logos you have on your presentation, how will you provide exceptional service as a partner to me?

Why aren't you listening?

It's incredibly refreshing that you're making eye contact and really seem to understand what I'm communicating.

You assume that I'm way more active on social media than I am. I'm extraordinarily busy running a company and most of those accounts are managed with my team I trust who set-up this meeting.

Let's back up to 10,000 feet and talk about the overarching strategy rather than get bogged down in tactics.

I don't care about the features, functions, advantages or benefits. What does this do for me at a business level?

What is the clear and compelling business case that will create operational efficiency or help us drive sustainable revenue this year?

Oh no, not again (eye roll), another 50 slide PowerPoint. Snore!

Gross, is this so-called account executive really picking his teeth with a business card? I get that we're in tech and it's a bit informal, but why didn't you do me the courtesy to shower or press your collar? Your suit looks flammable.

Thank you for capturing my attention with a key insight in the first two minutes of the meeting by starting with the Why.

Please don't assume I have millions laying around to spend on your solution just because we recently went through a giant funding round.

Your products and services look exactly like all your competitors. How on Earth am I to differentiate? Maybe we'll just build something better ourselves.

Do you actually have the gaul to hit on me right now?

You keep name dropping people I actually know who have clearly never met you or heard of your company.

Did you really just ask me, 'What's keeping me up at night?' You should already know.

Please don't assume that just because we buy from you that you're already considered a partner, trusted advisor or that a renewal is a given. You still need to earn my business.

I'm impressed that you are intimately familiar with a major speech I gave at Davos last week and that you did your homework before the meeting.

We can talk about castles in the air all day. What's really going to impress me is your concrete understanding of the outcomes I need to deliver and the risk that need to be managed. I care about the numbers.

Oh goodie, you brought an ROI calculator that is not a manipulative sales tool. Your projections are conservative and actually based in fact. Excellent, you took the time to convene with my CMO and build this forecast accurately rather than exaggerate 1,000 percent growth!

Why would I go to a dinner with your team when you haven't provided any value in the meeting? You show up and throw up, talk one hundred miles per minute and do a data dump. Please listen to what I'm really looking for in the requirements.

Crossing your arms at me is not sending me a signal of confidence.

This is phenomenal because you've tied your solution to an actual retention problem evidenced in our balance sheet.

You are the most strategic sales person I have ever met. I am going to sign up for all your products and services and recommend you to my network of thought leaders in the industry.

You took the time to collaborate with me on this proposal and exactly understand our objectives, constraints and vision.

I'm impressed that you brought an executive sponsor to this meeting (your COO) and a highly technical resource to ensure the integration will work.

It sounds like you are fully focused on the implementation and execution phase. You've clearly mapped out how we're going to go live with this solution and which teams will need to be involved.

This RFP is perfunctory. I'm only talking with you because I have to and I need to vet all options to ensure I'm not getting a raw deal with my existing supplier.

You've already done all the work and wrapped this deal up in a bow. My only question is, what are the risks? Why are you overconfident?

Are you open to me calling your reference clients in my vertical? Or, I've already back-channeled and vetted your solution and talked to a few of your top clients.

No, I'm not attending South By. I've sent my entire team to the major tech conference so I don't have to go. Or, I'll be there on stage and fly out that night so I obviously won't have time to meet there. Make it easy to do business with me and let's find a time that mutually works for both of us.

Assume I read everything you read. Now what additional insight can you bring me from my competitors in the industry or specialized knowledge you've developed solving these problems for very similar customers.

Do you understand my challenges and strategic objectives? Represent this to me on a macro and micro level at the same time.

Why do you keep dodging the issue of security risks, SLAs and corporate compliance.

You seem way too desperate to sell me this. What's wrong with it? I was going to authorize an annual commitment until you dropped the price to crush your quota for the quarter. Now I'm annoyed with a discount that significant because you were planning to rip me off with your overblown margin. I'll stick this out another quarter and get an even better deal then... when you desperate to make the sale. By the way, when is the need of your fiscal year?

Oh boy, we've got a live one. It looks like he read The Challenger Sale and interpreted it as being condescending, arrogant and looking to teach me a lesson. I don't know you, trust you or like you and I'm suspicious this isn't just a vapourware slideware show that you're going to build after I buy.

I don't speak jargonese.

I actually was a computer science major, thank you, so I'm a bit shocked that you're going to explain how an API works to me like a child. We've all moved of to web services anyway.

Great job, you've taken control of your sales process and there's absolutely no chance you're going to step inside my conference room again.

You've completely diagnosed and prioritized my biggest problems and built a plan for us to solve them together. I understand the value that differentiates your solution and I'm ready to buy from you primarily because of the experience I had with you. You were humble, responsive, demonstrated expertise and built a pragmatic fiscal scenario.

You're the real deal! You win.


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.

Main image photo by Flickr: Fortune Live Media


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