Sales: What To Do When A CEO Drives A Stake Into Your Heart

selling to CEOsWe’ve all been there.

You work months (or in our recent case, 18 months) on a sales opportunity.

You jump every hurdle, scurry through hoops, do a bunch of add-ons, and finally get buy-in from the critical department you will work with…with the key personnel getting all jazzed up about the potential project.

You even do a series of presentations to the team you’ll be working with. And are received well…

And then…

The CEO kills it.

Dead, dead, dead.

There are lots of reasons why this can and will happen:

1. Maybe he just doesn’t like you.

2. Perhaps he just doesn’t understand the bigger picture of how your solution fits into the company mission.

3. He might have a preferred vendor. And it is not you.

4. Might be that he is confused, and thinking they already do what you are proposing.

Well, with numbers one and three, there just might not be anything you can do. Sometimes, these kinds of things are just out of your control…

But, numbers two and four, the fault is all yours.


You didn’t communicate clearly. You didn’t articulate things clearly.

Yeah, I know you get it. I know you sent things in a draft scope of work that seemed to you to be really clear.

But alas, CEO dude didn’t get it.

Which means you didn’t make it simple. Clear. Easy-to-understand.

Yeah, getting the attention you need with a cooler, colder, barely lukewarm prospect is harder.

But when you have their attention, when they’ve invited you in, invited you to make presentations in front of key management personnel…


Shame on you.

I only pray you will get another chance.

So, here are a few things you can do:

1. Start over. Get them reconnected into a meaningful, longer-term content marketing program that will do a BETTER job of educating not only the CEO, but the entire team.

2. If you can get their attention again, you have to look them in the eye, and ask what happened? Ask where the disconnect happened. Ask which of the four options above was the CORRECT ANSWER.

3. Get congruent. Methinks what happens in situations like this is that each side (the prospect and the vendor) have different visions on what is being proposed, and how it will be played out (again, they aren’t clear on what you are going to do). So, the hardest thing to do will be to get on the same path. Once this is done, your opportunity might be back on track.

Yeah, the CEO just might not like or trust you.

But most likely, especially if you’ve been invited to the inner sanctum, he just doesn’t understand how you will help his organization.

And that, frankly, deserves the kiss of death.


Join the list to learn how to build tools to woo those hard-to-woo CEOs.

Drawing by Hugh.

About Todd Schnick

Todd is a marketing and business strategist, writer, speaker, radio show host and producer, and distance runner. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.