As a business leader or sales professional, connecting into organisations and selling to C-suite executives can be a challenging task. It requires a strategic approach that goes beyond just pitching products and services.

The C-Suite is a group of high-level executives who are responsible for making strategic decisions for an organisation – the CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, CTO. They have a significant impact on the direction of an organisation and the allocation of resources including budget decisions.

Historically, it has been difficult to involve the CEO, CFO, or even the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) early in the sales process (or at all). Most CXOs delegate the research and screening to their internal team and only intervene to confirm a suggestion at the conclusion of a negotiation.

But, the COVID-19 epidemic has somewhat upset the apple cart and C-suite executives are now proactively seeking out strategic opportunities to manage change and improve business performance. This has made it far easier for sales professionals to get in touch with a C-level decision-maker.

A study performed by on more than 500,000 recent sales meetings held by more than 100 of their clients across 10 key sectors provides compelling evidence for this.

Compared to their involvement in January and February of 2020, CXO engagement in purchasing decisions has increased by an average of 86% since April. This brings a lot of opportunities for connecting with C-suite executives and selling into organisations. 

In this article and podcast episode 82, we will explore ten steps for success in connecting with C-suite executives. These centre around understanding their strategic priorities and tailoring your pitch to meet their needs.

#1 – Research Your Target Market

#2 – Understand the Buying Process in an Organisation

#3 – Use Personalization in Your Outreach to Drive Sales Calls

#4 – Spend Time Preparing for a Productive Meeting

#5 – Communicate the Value of Your Products or Services

#6 – Be Prepared for Objections

#7 – Demonstrate Thought Leadership

#8 – Prepare a Compelling Data-Driven Pitch

#9 – Follow-Up and Maintain Relationships

#10 – Continuously Refine Your Strategy and Approach

 We’ll also include some of the common mistakes that service providers and even trained sales professionals make when trying to sell into organisations and provide actionable steps for success.


The 10 steps provide key strategic levers provide you with some inroads for successful outreach and consistent success selling to c-suite executives. 

Let’s dive into each one.


#1 – Research Your Target Market

C-suite executives are typically focused on strategic priorities such as growth, profitability, and market share. By understanding their priorities, you can better position your products or services to meet their needs. This requires a deep understanding of the industry and the competitive landscape.

The next step in selling into an organisation is to identify your target market and the key decision-makers. That probably sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how surface many people are about this important step.

A lot of my clients think they did a great discovery call and gathered all the necessary information. Wrong. Most completely miss some key questions around needs, budget, and urgency. They also often don’t explore the cost of inaction with the person, which can really highlight the implications of not moving forward.

When preparing to meet with members of the C-suite, you must take your market research and sales preparation to the next level to ensure a productive discussion on both sides.

Research and analysis will really help you understand the organisation’s structure, priorities, and challenges. By doing your homework, you can better tailor your pitch to the needs of the organisation and the specific decision-makers.

Before connecting and selling to C-Suite executives, here’s the homework we do:

  1. Identify organisations that fit you target market and create a pipeline spreadsheet to capture the key info and track your outreach.
  2. Research the company’s history, products or services, and industry. It will also help you develop a personalised approach that demonstrates your understanding of the organisation.
  3. Once you have your pipeline list, you can sort and rank according to how well they fit your criteria, so you prioritise your outreach efforts.
  4. Next, you’ll want to look at their structure to identify an appropriate department and roles to get to a named c-suite contact.

So how do you go about all this market research and planning?

Well, in today’s digital age, it’s easy to find information about your target market. You can use online resources such as company websites, LinkedIn, and social media to get an idea of the company’s culture, structure, and goals. This research will help you develop your pitch and better understand the dynamics of connecting with and selling to C-Suite executives.

To take this a step further, you need to understand the priorities of the C-Suite. The C-Suite is responsible for making strategic decisions that impact the organisation’s direction. They have strategic priorities on their mind, such as growth, profitability, and market share, performance improvement and efficiency.


#2 – Understand the Buying Process in an Organisation

Understanding the buying process is another essential lever for success. You need to understand the stages of the buying process, who is involved, and what their priorities are. This will help you tailor your approach to each stage of the decision making process and demonstrate your value along the way.

To successfully sell to an organisation, you need to identify the key decision-makers. These are the individuals who have the power to make purchasing decisions. You need to identify who they are, what their priorities are, and how they make purchasing decisions.

Most organisations have procurement policies and financial regulations that determine thresholds for buying services. So it’s useful if you can gain knowledge of what those thresholds are, so your proposal looks favourable as far as the timeframe of the contracting process.

If you’re speaking with a functional head in the first instance, it’s a great opportunity to ask them these questions about their annual planning cycle, budgeting and procurement processes.

The trick is to get the C-suite talking. Ask lots of open questions, get super curious to learn and understand rather than pitch and persuade. If C-level executives are chatting more, it shows you they’re engaged and attentive to the problem and/or your proposition.

Make sure you don’t aim all your questions at the C-suite, get the perspectives of others around the table too, particularly the person who was your initial contact person. Have them feel heard and their opinion valued as part of your argument, drawing on any earlier email exchanges or calls.

By asking lots of why questions and learning what’s worked well, not so well, what the impact of solving their issue would be on the business, you’ll learn valuable information about the C-suite objectives, objections and decision criteria. This really informs how you present the final recommendation (or pitch!)

Building a good relationship with decision-makers is critical to your success. It involves developing rapport, trust and mutual respect over time and demonstrating your expertise and value. An initial contact may be achieved through networking, attending industry events, and providing value through your communication with individuals in the key roles relating to your service, program or product.

Typically, if you’re in the coaching business, your key contact is likely to be part of the Human Resource directorate, responsible for organisational development, professional development including leadership and management. If you’re in the consulting business, it may vary depending on the specific areas of expertise, such as technology and IT, finance, operations, education, customer services and so forth. Depending on the size of the organisations you’re targeting, this could fall under one C-suite’s responsibility or a divisional manager. If you work with small to medium sized businesses, you might find that’s more likely to be the case.


#3 – Use Personalization in Your Outreach to Drive Sales Calls

Personalisation in your outreach can make a significant difference in your success. By personalising your communication, you can demonstrate that you understand the organisation and the major concerns of the individual you are reaching out to.

You can personalise your outreach by doing the following:

  • Addressing the recipient by name
  • Referencing their company or industry
  • Highlighting their specific pain points and challenges
  • Offering a solution that meets their needs.

By personalising your outreach, you can establish a connection with the C-Suite and increase the likelihood of getting a meeting. You’ll get a far better result than if you send a generic message that could have been sent to anyone.

Don’t expect if you send a PDF or a link to your website that the person will look. People aren’t that curious unless you give them a good reason to. You’ll also have a much greater chance of convincing a C-level executive to look at or approve a proposal if you can talk clearly about how your service solves a crucial business problem and produces bottom-line benefits.

But first, you have to get them to the table, whether in-person or on a virtual meeting.

According to the report, 71% of C-suite executives participate for economic rather than technical reasons. There may be no better competitive advantage you can provide right now for CFOs than the opportunity to produce a big return on investment fast.

And the data also indicates that in the small to medium sized business sector, CEOs are three times more likely than mid-market or enterprise CEOs to attend a buying decision meeting.

One way to increase the chances of a C-suite executive agreeing to a meeting with you is to set out a detailed agenda and send it out along with your invitation. To be honest, failing to take this most basic step can be the difference between getting a foot in the door or having it slammed in your face. Why would someone participate in a call if they have no clear idea what it is about.

A clear agenda not only helps to set up their expectations but also allows them to feed their ideas (and objections) into the process from the outset, so you can go in prepared!


#4 – Spend Time Preparing for a Productive Meeting

Once in the meeting, you’ll want to quickly establish a connection with the C-Suite and show you’re committed to their organisational success. To create rapport and build a relationship, you need to do the following:

  • Be respectful and courteous
  • Provide value upfront
  • Be honest and transparent
  • Be empathetic
  • Establish a connection

One effective way to establish a connection is by starting with a common ground, something you both care about or something that both parties are passionate about. For instance, if you are both passionate about sustainable living, you can use that to create a bond.

But beyond that, it’s about demonstrating your experience in the industry, your understanding of the landscape, and the challenges that businesses and organisations are facing.

When using a slide deck or data or other presentation materials, be sure to tailor the content and approach according to who’s in the room. The C-suite functions are your guide here.

CEOs and CFOs are primarily concerned with how their teams can save money, be more productive, and generate more income. As financial decision makers, they tend to prefer and spend way more time viewing live demos rather than slides.

On the other hand, CTOs, CIOs, and CISOs are more concerned with dependability, flexibility, security and/or compliance.

Even if you think your meeting is with a middle manager not the C-suite, C-level execs have a funny habit of showing up when you least expect it. Recent sales meeting data analysis by reveals that actually happens 10% of the time! So go in expecting them to attend, so you don’t feel ambushed.

The alternative is to have your main contact person bring the decision maker into the meeting. But again, an agenda is critical here, so they are not just present they are leaning in, curious and interested in the opportunity you’re bringing to the company.

If the prospect of selling to the C-suite makes you nervous, it’s useful to remember that when you involve the C-Suite directly in the buying process, your win rates improve dramatically. Just relax in the belief that you can really help them, and it goes a long way towards a productive discussion.

If you have the decision maker in the meeting, and you’re prepared, it can save you a whole lot of time and resource chasing, getting ghosted, and feeling rejected. One way or another at least you’ll have a definite yes, no or maybe later.


#5 – Communicate the Value of Your Products or Services

Understanding the organisation’s strategic priorities, pain points, and challenges will help you pitch your products or services to meet their needs. Doing your due diligence in the market research phase will really help you connect the value of your products or services with what matters most to the organisation and its strategic leadership.

To connect with C-Suite executives, as well as what they value most, it is essential to understand their language. You need to speak to them in their terms, understand their strategic goals and how they articulate them, and provide evidence of how your product or service will help them achieve those goals.

For instance, if the C-Suite is focused on growth, you can emphasise the potential increase in revenue or market share that your product or service can provide. By understanding their priorities and tailoring your message to those priorities, you can make a compelling case for your product or service.

Tailoring your presentation or pitch to the organisation’s needs is another critical lever for your success. This requires a deep understanding of the organisation’s challenges and the specific pain points of the C-suite responsible for the area you work in.

When communicating the value of your products or services, you need to demonstrate how they will help the organisation achieve its strategic priorities and overcome its challenges. You can’t leave them to infer the connection.

To effectively communicate the value of your products or services, you need to build a compelling business case. A compelling business case can be the difference between success and failure.

You can use the following approaches to communicate the value of your product or service:

  • Highlight key features and benefits
  • Provide relevant case studies
  • Highlight your competitive advantage
  • Demonstrate your expertise.

The key is to make your message clear, concise, and compelling. By communicating the value of what you deliver, you can make a persuasive argument for why they should invest in your offering.

Highlighting your expertise and experience is critical to building trust and credibility with decision-makers. This requires a strategic approach that goes beyond just listing your credentials. It involves demonstrating your deep understanding of the industry and the specific challenges faced by the organisation.

Your expertise is a big part of your value proposition and you can share this either before or after you talk about your specific offer.


#6 – Be Prepared for Objections

When selling to the C-Suite, it’s common to face objections. These objections can be due to budget constraints, existing contracts, or lack of perceived value. It’s an opportunity to fill in any gaps.

So be prepared for the kind of questions or objections that might come up, and have responses that demonstrate how you, your team, your approach, or your product or service itself can overcome them.

Being prepared for objections and questions is critical to success in selling into organisations. This requires a strategic approach that goes beyond memorizing clever answers. It involves anticipating what’s likely to be a factor, and developing thoughtful responses that address the specific concerns of these key decision-makers.

Using case studies and testimonials is a powerful way to build credibility with decision-makers and mollify objections or concerns. This can be focused on presenting data or statistics, but it also can involve telling compelling stories, both of which demonstrate how your products or services have helped other similar organisations achieve similar goals.


#7 – Demonstrate Thought Leadership

Demonstrating thought leadership can help you stand out from your competition. By providing insights and knowledge on industry trends and challenges, you can establish yourself as an expert in your field. This can help you build credibility with the C-Suite and demonstrate the value of your products or services.

When connecting with C-suite executives for the purpose of selling into organisations, you can bet they will look you up! They’ll be looking at whether you’re established, credible and different to other providers. That is, whether you have a unique approach to achieving the results they’re looking for.

Beyond having a decent website and presence on professional networks like LinkedIn, you can demonstrate thought leadership by doing the following:

  • Writing articles or blog posts
  • Speaking at industry events
  • Offering webinars or workshops
  • Providing case studies and testimonials


#8 – Prepare a Compelling Data-Driven Pitch

Preparing a compelling pitch is essential to your success. You need to develop a pitch that highlights the value of your product or service and demonstrates how it can contribute to the organisation’s strategic priorities. This requires a deep understanding of the organisation’s needs and priorities.

To build a compelling business case, you also need to address a few of the elements I mentioned earlier, including:

  • Understand the decision-making process
  • Understand the metrics that are important to the C-Suite
  • Quantify the value of your product or service
  • Provide a return on investment (ROI) analysis

Using data to support your pitch can be a powerful way to evidence the likelihood of a successful outcome. And case studies of past work with similar client projects or problems demonstrates the value of what you do.

You need to collect and use data that demonstrates the impact your product or service can have on the organisation’s strategic priorities. This can help you make a persuasive argument for why they should invest in your offering.

For the meeting itself, just because you might have booked an hour, you don’t have to fill it. If you send your slide deck or demo in advance for the key group including the c-suite to review in advance of the meeting, chances are you can dive more quickly in Q&A. You’ll spend time on the areas or concerns they’re most interested in discussing.

Finishing early can be helpful to you than taking up the whole time because it can gives all the participants on the buying side a chance to discuss the output of the meeting in real time right after your exit.

When that happens, they will be more likely to remember the key points of your presentation, leave the meeting with positive feelings, and perhaps, move toward a decision.


#9 – Follow-Up and Maintain Relationships

Following up and maintaining relationships is so critical. After making the initial connection, you need to follow up and continue to provide value to the organisation.

You need to keep the lines of communication open and demonstrate that you are committed to helping the organisation achieve its goals. This requires persistence and a willingness to go the extra mile. That doesn’t mean pestering, it means continuing to provide value into the mix.

Staying in touch is an important part of the relationship building process and will most definitely help you with closing deals.

Again, you need to take a strategic approach that goes beyond just sending emails or phoning up. It involves developing a plan for regular communication and demonstrating your ongoing commitment to the organisation’s success.

Sometimes you might want to drop in some interesting articles you found that are pertinent to the discussion you’ve had or support the business case for the intervention you’re proposing.

Here’s a few suggestions for how to follow up in an effective way:

  • Send a personalized email or message
  • Offer additional information or insights
  • Schedule a follow-up call or meeting
  • Share relevant industry news or trends.

By maintaining the relationship, you can increase the likelihood of future sales and establish yourself as a valuable partner to the organisation.


#10 – Continuously Refine Your Strategy and Approach

Finally, it’s essential to continuously refine your strategy and approach based on feedback and results. This requires a strategic approach that goes beyond just sticking to what’s worked in the past. It involves staying up-to-date on industry trends and best practices and continually looking for ways to improve your consultative sales process.



To successfully connect with C-Suite executives and sell into organisations, it’s clear that you need to take a strategic approach. These 10 steps help you steer the process from positioning to pitching.

It will require persistence and patience. But the rewards can be substantial if you’re going after significant and large contracts.

By spending some time doing your due diligence you will be far better equipped for the conversation selling to c-suite executives. You’ll come across as credible and align the value of your products or services with how you can help organisations achieve their strategic priorities and drive growth for the organisation.

This includes researching your target market, understanding the priorities of the C-Suite, using personalisation in your outreach, understanding the buying process in an organisation, building a relationship with decision-makers, setting up for a productive meeting, tailoring your pitch, communicating the value of your products or services, preparing for objections, demonstrating thought leadership, building a compelling business case, and following up and maintaining relationships.

By implementing these strategies, you can build strong relationships with decision-makers and drive sales and growth for your own business.  


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