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C-Level Executives Want to Hear From You. Maybe.

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
January 8, 2010

Tuesday’s post, The Truth About Why Salespeople Don’t Like Cold Calling, continues to generate no end of comments (both in agreement and violently opposed). A few comments have suggested that cold calling is ineffective when calling the C-suites. Others have commented that that cold calling is how they actually reach C-level decision-makers and influencers.

Could it be that some salespeople are more effective than others at calling and gaining appointments with C-level executives?

Cold Calling C-Level Executives

There is no reason that you, as a professional salesperson, cannot pick up the phone and call C-level executives, providing you have great ideas (and you do have great ideas!). There is no reason you cannot pick up the phone and say:

“Hi Tom. This is Anthony with The Sales Blog. I just read an article about your new initiative, and I have some ideas that I believe will helpful to you and XYZ Company with this project. I’d like to invite you to grab a cup of coffee and a quick discussion on two of these ideas. I promise it will be 20 minutes that will be worth your while whether you use us or not. What does Thursday morning look like?”

Does this require that you have the ideas? Absolutely. Do you have to be prepared to generate value on the appointment? Absolutely. Are some of these executives still going to say no? Absolutely. Which is why you never adhere to single approach and you use every prospecting method available.

Why Do C-level Executives Take Your Call

Who do you think has the worst case of insomnia in your prospect company?

No one, and I mean no one, has bigger problems with more at stake than C-level executives.  No one wants to make sure their initiatives succeed like C-level executives.

C-level executives are charged with achieving their company’s strategic goals and objectives. Where those goals and objectives rub up against market realities are where problems are found. Where problems are found is where there is opening for you to create value.

What’s Expected of You

In order to provide value to C-level executives, you have to be able to either solve a problem for them or help them create a new competitive advantage (although I would argues that creating a competitive advantage is still solving a problem, it is just creating the problem of not having the competitive advantage first). To get the opportunity you have to be a couple things.

You have to be supremely confident that you can solve their problem or help them with a competitive advantage.

You have to have the business acumen to be able to speak to them in their language, and the language of business is often financial or strategic. This means you have to be able to read a financial statement, and that you are as good with Microsoft Excel as your nearest CFO. You need to be able to prove out your points, and this includes ROI. Y0u also need to know how they compete and their strategic advantage in their market.

You need to forgo the simple rapport building. C-level executives are interested in business and they are interested in doing business with other people who are interested in business. (I am not suggesting rapport isn’t important, but you Damn well better not start with the trivial).

C-level executives need you to be their go-to-expert in your field. They know they are not subject matters on everything, and they know they cannot afford to not understand the parts of their business where your business can make a difference. They will expect you to be a subject matter expert par excellence, filling a gap that they have in their knowledge and experience.

You will need be the kind of person that is going to own the initiative and the results of what it is you sell. You will need to the kind of person who can achieve the outcomes you promise, engaged with your team and their team throughout the entire process.


Let’s not forget that C-level executives are human (well, I have met a few that may not be). They usually have more experience and greater competencies which has led them to a position of responsibility. This responsibility includes achieving results for their company, their clients and customers, their stakeholders, and their shareholders. They build teams to achieve those results, and their partners are part of that team.

If you can differentiate yourself, you can get their attention. If you can solve problems and/or create a competitive advantage (owning the outcome), you can be part of that team. Having the necessary skills is up to you.

And so is having the confidence to do so.


1. What do you believe about C-level executives that prevents you from being able to pick up the phone and call them?

2. What do you believe about yourself that prevents you from being able to pick up the phone and call a C-level executive?

3. What are you missing that, if you had it, would make it easier for you to make the calls higher up your prospect’s organizational chart? What do you have to do to get it?

4. What is your best language for calling a C-level executive?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.

Read my Blogs.com featured guest post on the Top Ten Sales blogs.

Read my interview on business relationships by Joe Sperry at S4 Consulting.

Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 8, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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