These are the kind of people who schedule their day in 15-minute blocks. They have notoriously short attention spans – but if they’re willing to meet, you’ll get their undivided attention. Here are 10 things they wish you would do when you pitch to them.
1. Cut to the chase. Boil everything down to the essentials. Go into your meeting with 3-5 key points (we do this with a framework we call The 5-Point Pitch). That’s it. Senior execs do not want to hear the backstory and all the details unless they specifically ask for them.
2. Clearly state the problem or opportunity at hand. As you do this, you want to convey two things: value and urgency.
3. Back up your recommendation with hard evidence. Have a few key numbers/metrics/findings at your fingertips. Senior executives want fact-based recommendations, not just good ideas.
4. Bring a visual, but only if it’s simple. Complicated charts and diagrams will be ignored. Simple visuals will illustrate your point.
5. Never over-promise. Unproven, overly optimistic projections will not impress the big boss. They’ve seen and heard it all before.
6. Use plain English. You’re a specialist. The decision-maker probably isn’t. Lose the industry jargon and technical terms.
7. Be prepared for pushback. Do your homework. Anticipate the tough questions, and have crisp, clear answers in your back pocket.
8. If you don’t know an answer, give the military response. Don’t hesitate. Don’t waffle. Don’t try to cover up or make excuses. Simply give the standard response taught to members of the military: “I’ll find out.”
9. Tell executives exactly what you’re asking them to do. State the next action step that you want them to take. Ask for it clearly and specifically.
10. Relax. If you take the position that you’re going in to help the executive instead of trying to impress the executive, you’ll relax and your presentation will be much more effective.
Ultimately, you’re pitching one thing:
The cost of doing nothing vs. The cost of your recommendation
We were recently meeting with the former CEO of a Fortune 500 who now consults with other CEOs and senior executives. We talked about the pressure on senior leaders who are making high-risk decisions. It reminded me that there’s a risk/reward scale inside the mind of every CXO.
The whole time you’re talking, they’re adding up the risks of your proposal on one side of the scale and weighing them against potential rewards on the other side. You have to prove one thing: that the cost of doing nothing is greater than the cost of implementing your recommendation. The challenge is being able to do this when you only have a few minutes with the big boss.