How to Make a 60-Second Sales Pitch to a CEO

Read on below to learn what sales pitches pique the interest of the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company.

I spent an evening with the CEO of a $3.6-billion company based in Minneapolis. We were at a conference held by the Young President’s Organization (YPO) at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

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    We walked and talked at the expo held for the construction industry. Really, he talked and I followed along to see how he conducted himself at an industry expo. I wanted to learn the secrets to how top CEOs get value from an expo since I have always found them to be time bandits. 

    Spoiler alert! He does not handle an expo like the rest of us mortals!

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    When I say “expo,” you all know what I mean. There are tables of vendors set up around the perimeter of the expo hall and the food tables are in the middle of the room. The attendees of the conference are hungry, so they want the food in the middle of the room, but they have to carefully navigate the hall to make sure they don’t accidentally run into one of the salespeople eagerly positioned around the room. It’s kind of like running the Greek gauntlet in Homer’s Odyssey and trying to avoid Scylla and Charybdis (extra credit if you remember this obscure Greek reference from high school). 

    The expo salespeople stand by their tables and as soon as you come within earshot, they are eagerly reading your name badge, engaging you by asking where you’re from and then launching into a 60-second pitch about their product or service. They give the same pitch over and over hundreds of times per expo.

    I observed the following methods that my CEO companion used while tackling the expo:

    Get right to the point. The difference between how most of us handle ourselves in these situations and how this CEO works the room is simple: If a vendor doesn’t get to the point, and fast, the CEO of the $3-billion company will interrupt and say one of two phrases:

    Response No. 1: “Please get to the point.”

    Response No. 2: “You’re talking to the wrong guy. Do you have any other products or services that might be of interest to me?”

    Be polite but efficient. I thought he would be “Minnesota Nice,” but he was quick to interrupt if the salesperson was wasting his time. He often tried to help them understand why their pitch was not landing well. Some of the salespeople understood that they were losing him and deftly changed their pitch. Many just got flustered and restarted their pitch with the same or different words. He politely walked away to the next booth. I don’t want to give the impression that he wasn’t nice, just that he was completely intolerant of wasting time. He came to the conference with a shopping list and if what you’re selling doesn’t include what’s on his list, he’s not buying. 

    Ask good questions. When he did get interested in a pitch, he asked good questions. He listened. He asked more good questions. 

    Follow up when interested. If there are any salespeople reading this article, please know that the best you can hope for as an expo salesperson is that he will take your info and promise he’ll have one of his management team members follow up. As we were walking, I asked him if he was sincere about that or if it was just a line. He assured me that if he says it, he really is planning to have a manager investigate the new product or service. He doesn’t care if they buy it or not, just that they consider the new idea.

    In under an hour, we visited all 11 vendors at the expo. He gathered value from the ones that he found interesting. I am sure he’ll have his people call them when he returns to the company—the good ones at least! 

    Jonathan Slain coaches a very limited number of best-in-class contracting, staffing and entrepreneurial companies that want to double (top and/or bottom line) within the next five years. If you are ready to buckle-up, please go to http://autobahnconsultants.com/ or email Jonathan@AutobahnConsultants.com


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    Next up: How to Set Up a Board of Advisors

    How to Set Up a Board of Advisors

    “Never tell your problems to anyone; 20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” --- Lou Holtz

    “Never tell your problems to anyone; 20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” --- Lou Holtz

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    The quote above from the former Notre Dame head football coach was referenced during a recent COSE Strategic Planning Course discussion about how business owners should best go about asking for help for their business. For a little context, the panel of SPC speakers were saying that when an entrepreneur is in search of advice, the best place to find it is from other business owners. 

    That’s where a board of advisors can come in handy for a business. But what’s the best way to go about setting up such a board? The SPC panel provided the following advice on how to put together a board that can help you work through your toughest issues.

    Pre-Check

    Board composition and setup

    So, who should you target to be on your board? People like you! You thought CEO was an acronym for Chief Executive Officer? It’s actually short for Consoling Each Other. These are the people who are going to have the best perspective on the various questions you have about staffing, sales, IT, and such because they’re living it too. Find people who have experience in a skill set that you don’t have. You’re a sales wonder, but struggle with marketing? Find someone who fills that gap. Pick people you will listen to, but avoid customers or vendors. You’re looking for neutral third parties here who aren’t afraid to voice their opinion and hold your feet to the fire.

    The COSE Strategic Planning Course can be a good place to find potential board members for your business. In fact, several speakers said they continue to meet on a regular basis with the other business owners they met during their SPC class.

    To avoid ties, try to have an odd number of people on your board. Also, setting a one-year term for board members is a good timeframe to start with to ensure there is a good fit for both the company and board member and to give the board enough time to understand the ins and outs of your business.

    Running the meeting

    Once you’ve settled on the makeup of the board, you’ll need to decide how often to meet. Setting up quarterly meetings is a good timeframe to start with. It’s also a good idea to pass along a copy of the agenda and any related materials so board members can begin preparing in advance. On the agenda, consider listing out how long you plan to discuss each item (e.g., 15 minutes to recap last quarter’s financials, 30 minutes on staffing, etc.) Designate a timekeeper for each meeting whose role will be to ensure the board doesn’t go over time on agenda items.

    If running a meeting is not your strong suit, don’t be afraid to designate someone to take on that role. You’ll also need someone to take notes during the meeting and then to distribute those notes following the meeting.

    Listen

    Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind about your board of advisors? Listen to what they have to say! It can be easy to coast along with your business. You need people who are going to ask you the difficult questions that you need to answer if your business is going to grow.

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    Next up: If You’re Not Performing a SBU Analysis, You’re Holding Your Business Back

    If You’re Not Performing a SBU Analysis, You’re Holding Your Business Back

    Every business—even small businesses—are complex organizations with multiple business units layered inside. These are called Strategic Business Units.  SBUs have their own markets, products/services and pricing structures.

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    Pre-Check

    For instance, a painting company could count as its customers:

    • residential
    • office
    • apartment building clients

    This is an example of one company having different strategic business units (SBUs) embedded in its corporate structure.

    In the above example, let’s say that residential accounts for 80% of this company’s revenue; office comprises 15%; and apartment represents 5%. Would it make sense for this painting company to treat each of these silos the same? If you answered “yes”, then you could probably consider enrolling in the COSE Strategic Planning Course, which delves deep into the magic of SBU analysis.

    Can’t wait for the Strategic Planning Course and want a little SBU insight right now? As a former graduate of the course, I’m happy to oblige. Here are my thoughts on the benefits a thorough SBU analysis can have on your business, and they happen to revolve around the way you’re currently looking at your company’s financial reports.

    The traditional income statement doesn’t tell the whole story

    You’re likely used to relying on your income statement to give you a sense of how your business is performing. The problem is, this statement doesn’t provide you a detailed look at where you’re making—or losing—money because it doesn’t dive into a detailed examination of the profitability of customer groups and product/service groups. Accounting systems that lump all sales onto a single line won’t give you any insight at all into the individual services and products you’re selling. Similarly, that same bundling of labor and/or material costs doesn’t help you figure out the real costs and benefits of a given product/service.

    A SBU analysis, on the other hand, can help you dig into the profitability of each of your SBUs and give insight into which businesses you should think about growing, or, perhaps, divesting. It helps you figure out where you’re making money and how to effectively revenue manage your product or service to best take advantage of this profitability. Different matches of products/services, priced incorrectly, can lead to underperformance.

    This, of course, is just scratching the surface of both SBU analysis and is just one example of the many lessons you’ll learn from COSE’s Strategic Planning Course. Again, I am a satisfied former graduate of the course and would be happy to answer any questions you might have about it. Please feel free to email me at bob@teamdianetti.com if you have any questions about how the course can help you grow your business.

    Bob Dianetti is the owner of Team Dianetti, a professional business coaching and training organization with offices in Hudson and Akron. Reach him via phone at (234) 284-2333. 


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    Next up: Lesson Learned: Make the Business Stand on Its Own

    Lesson Learned: Make the Business Stand on Its Own

    The latest piece of our “Lesson Learned” series has to do with the actions a small business owner should take to ensure her or his business is able to stand on its own.

    The COSE Strategic Planning Course offers small business owners invaluable advice on a range of subjects to help them grow their business. We asked some recent graduates of the program what their takeaways from the course were and during the next several weeks, we’ll be relating to you their insights. Today’s “lesson learned” comes from Tony Skerski of Transaction Realty, who talked about what entrepreneurs need to do to ensure their business can stand on its own.

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    Q: Looking back at all the lessons you learned during the COSE Strategic Planning Course, can you pinpoint some things you have or plan to implement in your business?

    Tony Skerski of Transaction Realty

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    Well one of the most important things I found from the class is I have to take myself out of the biz to make it an actual viable business to make it stand on its own.

    I can put procedures in place so that everyone throughout the company can do any of the jobs, and that will make the company be more sellable. And speaking of staffing, I also need to make sure I hire the right people and not train the wrong people.

    Some advice I would give other people who work in small businesses is that the old way of marketing your business is not the way of the future. You have to be giving content and that will give you the most marketing punch for your money.

    More COSE Strategic Planning Course takeaways

    Looking for more insight into the valuable lessons business owners learn while enrolled in the COSE Strategic Planning Course? Check out the other pieces of our “Lesson Learned” series

    Lesson Learned: Have an Exit Strategy

    Lesson Learned: Don’t Do It All Yourself

    Learn more about the COSE Strategic Planning Course

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    Next up: Lessons Learned: Invest in Your Team

    Lessons Learned: Invest in Your Team

    I took the COSE Strategic Planning Course in 2005/06; the impact on my company was immediate and dramatic. Over the next 6 years our sales doubled and our profit levels more than doubled. The course was exactly what I needed to help me understand the unique value that we offer and how to find customers that appreciate it.

    Lessons Learned Invest In Your Team

    I returned to the course year after year, always gaining new insights and happy to be able to contribute to the SPC community as a learning partner and later, a member of the planning committee. I came to look forward to the start of SPC every September and it is now as much a part of my seasonal clock as raking leaves and cleaning gutters.

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    Starting in 2012, as our eight person staff grew to a dozen as young, energetic people replaced retirees. I came to the realization that those who were going to help me run and grow my company needed to have the same business perspective that I did. I concluded that having my team experience SPC was an excellent way to accomplish this.

    While the Strategic Planning Course is primarily intended to help business owners grow their firms, become more profitable and plan their exit, there are many benefits to putting key employees through the course as well. Doing so builds knowledge, skills and accountability into the team members – apart from the owner – and therefore increases the value of the firm to most potential buyers.

    As of this spring, five Wecall employees (including myself) have graduated from the course and I expect this trend to continue. I’m convinced that this is one of the best investments that I can possibly make in my people. 

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    The following are what I see as the significant benefits: 

    Skills

    Going through the analysis exercises that make up the first three sessions provides the staff member with a deeper understanding of where and how the company earns its profits and may even result in new insights to the owner, by virtue of a different set of eyes looking at the same data, or perhaps the data has changed substantially since the owner took the course.

    Culture

    All participants in the Course are paired with a mentor/learning partner who has been through the course. The SPC mentor community is filled with business owners and senior managers who understand the strategic power of a strong company culture and freely share their experiences. Seeing how this has enabled the success of these other companies reinforces staff commitment to building our culture and empowers them to act on their own.

    Professional Growth

    Working with other business owners and building their own professional networks provides your team with confidence to use their own judgement and even challenge the owner to stay focused on the company mission.

    Entrepreneurial Mindset

    Seeing firsthand how other businesses grow, evolve and succeed has great potential to help team members develop the confidence to experiment with new problem solving approaches and take risks. This learning will help them contribute at a higher level in their current position and will serve them well in future roles.

    Paul Doherty is the president of Wecall Inc. Wecall Inc. manufactures specialty fasteners which are used in bridges, buildings and heavy industrial applications. Wecall products are sold worldwide to bolt manufacturers, fastener distributors, steel fabricators and general contractors. Wecall was founded in 1980 by Paul’s parents. Paul joined the company in 1997 after spending 13 years with General Motors in engineering and sales roles. Paul purchased Wecall Inc. in 1998 and now serves as President. Paul has been actively involved in the COSE Strategic Planning Course for 12 years. To learn more about how the COSE Strategic Planning Course can transform your business click HERE.

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    Next up: Life Hacks: 12 Easy Ways to Master Your To-Do List, Find Time and Simplify Your Life

    Life Hacks: 12 Easy Ways to Master Your To-Do List, Find Time and Simplify Your Life

    From simplifying your inbox to making your nightly routine as efficient as possible, here are a dozen life hacks that will add time back to your day.

    I am sitting on a flight home right now, writing this article, and I can’t help but wonder what my fellow passengers are doing. Some are sleeping, others are watching TV and a few are typing away on their computers like me. I just noticed the guy working on his laptop across the aisle from me has about 32,000 emails in his inbox. At least he’s working on the flight, I’ll give him credit for that, but I could really help him get control of his overflowing inbox. 

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    In this article, I’ll talk about ways to keep yourself organized, so you can find more hours in the day and leave more time in your life for what truly matters most to you. I’ll show you how I use Outlook to master my to-do list, how I have created daily routines that open up more “found time” in my busy days, and finally ways I keep things simple in a complicated world.    

    I consider travel time to be found time and airplanes are the last bastion of peace on our planet. On flights, my phone doesn’t work, so I’m not constantly getting pinged. I like to put on my headphones and do my “thinking work.” It’s a few uninterrupted hours where I can really focus. During the week, I’m hopelessly trying to multi-task, return phone calls, and running between meetings. Planes are my only time for writing articles and crafting thoughtful responses to complex emails. 

    Pre-Check

    Travel time allows me to complete tasks so I can enjoy other times in my week. I’m busy just like everyone else. I own two businesses, travel at least twice a month, my wife is a full-time professional, and we have two young girls (Caroline and Anne Penney, six and four years old). If I get my work done while I’m flying then when I get home I can be present for my kids. If you ever happen to see me on a flight, you’ll know exactly what I’m doing because I’m about to tell you. 

    Let’s talk about my to-do list first.

      

    Become one with your email

    I use Outlook as my to-do list and I have spent years perfecting my systems. Some people use handwritten lists, or day-planners, or other email programs, but Outlook works well for me. I am self-diagnosed as having a condition known as E.A.D. (email anxiety disorder). This disease is marked by the relentless pursuit of “inbox zero”; the highly sought after condition where one’s email inbox is completely clear. 

    Let’s turn our attention to some real world apps that I use to amplify Outlook’s natural abilities:

    1.  Sanebox.com is a Web-based service (works with any email program) and it filters your email before it arrives in your inbox. It uses artificial intelligence to move your receipts and newsletters into a separate folder called “SaneLater” which gathers all your unimportant emails so you can focus on the most important emails. Once a week, you can open up your SaneLater folder and review the emails, which almost never need follow-up. Sanebox prevents me from being pinged constantly by unimportant emails and thusly returns sanity to my inbox. 

    2.  ClearContext.com is a great email plug-in because with one click in Outlook, I can defer an email until a later date. ClearContext removes deferred email from my inbox and then returns them on the chosen date.  There are several reasons this is helpful:

    • Remembering important stuff. If I need to remember to get something done this weekend, I defer the email to Saturday. I know I could use reminders and to do’s but nothing gets my attention more than a fresh email at the top of my inbox.
    • Holding people accountable. If you email me and promise you’ll get something done by Aug. 22, I simply take your email and defer it until Aug. 22 and it automatically reminds me to check in on the project.  People I work with always wonder how I seem to remember everything. Hopefully none of those people ever read this article and learn my secret!

    3.  MailMyself is an app that I keep on the home screen of my phone. When I touch it, it opens up a blank text field, and whatever I type becomes the subject line of an email to me. Whenever I have a thought or an item to get done that I don’t want to forget, it makes it very easy for me to quickly create a “to-do.”

    4.  YouMail is another app that I love because it listens to all of my voicemails, transcribes the audio (humans do the transcribing, which is why I prefer YouMail to using the iPhone’s built in voicemail transcriber; it’s more accurate), and the text is emailed to me. I no longer have to waste time listening to voicemails and I never forget to call people back because there is an email reminder in my inbox.     

    As long as I run through my inbox at the beginning and end of each day, I know all of the really important to-do’s in my life will get done. I have one place that I store all of my tasks, calls, and notes, which means nothing falls thru the cracks.

    Play hide and seek with time and win

    Now, let’s discuss practical tips I’ve implemented to simplify my life and find more time every day. These ideas might not work for you, but I am hoping you can try to adapt some of them to your own life.

    1.  Create routines. When I get home each day, I have a routine. There is a specific place for my keys and wallet (hook and bowl by the door). Then, I always open up the mail and packages, take the papers out of my bag (notes I’ve reviewed, bills I’ve paid) and I file them away. 

    2.  Go Paperless. I mercilessly throw away any paper I don’t need.  The goal is to keep as little paper as possible. Often, I will scan it (buy a Fujitsu Scansnap and it will change your scanning life. I know it’s $400 for something that your multifunction printer probably does, but it does it so much better it’s worth the investment). 

    3.  Get Organized at Night. Each evening, I spend a few minutes making sure my bag has everything in it I need for the next day so I can “shut it down” for the night, enjoy my family, and wake up the next morning ready to work without spending time in the morning getting organized. For more on creating your own routine and getting organized, I highly recommend reading: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. 

    4.  Get up an Hour Earlier. I wake up at 5 a.m. as often as I can during the week and get my day started early. I use that precious extra hour in the morning for thinking work because research shows the peak time for our brains is shortly after we wake up.

    5.  Shopping Ninjas. The only stores my wife and I enjoy going to in person are home improvement stores (Home Depot just smells so good), clothing stores (it’s too hard to buy clothes that fit well online), and toy stores (it’s worth it to see the looks on our kid’s faces when they get a new toy in person).  For everything else, we use Amazon to automate our purchasing. Amazon makes it possible to set up all the recurring items we need (i.e., paper towels and coffee) for automatic monthly delivery.

    6.  Grocery Shopping. Growing up, we went to the grocery store once (sometimes twice) a day. I’ve now gotten it down to once every two weeks! I know this shopping behavior is unusual because we always get comments at the register about the large size of our orders.  (Note: I tried stretching it to one grocery visit a month, but we ran out of fresh fruits, vegetables and milk by mid-month and got tired of eating dry cereal and frozen vegetables!)

    7.  Simplify Your Wardrobe. In the mornings, I used to spend a lot of time picking out my clothes for the day. Then I discovered pants by Bonobos called “Weekday Warriors.” With the days of the week stitched into the waistband, I no longer have to spend time deciding which pants to put on in the mornings! 

    Plan Your Life or Life Will Be Planned For You

    My wife and I decided a long time ago it’s important to enjoy our downtime, so we’ve worked hard to craft our lives accordingly. The decisions we’ve made in planning our life together are really enough to fill another entire article (foreshadowing?), but I want to share one of the most impactful ideas in our life plan with you while we’re on the subject of creating more hours every day. 

    Live Smaller. We’re not sold on the tiny house movement, but my wife and I have chosen to live in a moderately sized house (2,500 square feet) so we can afford luxuries such as a housekeeper and a lawn service once a week. We used to spend at least two to four hours a week cutting the grass and cleaning the house (neither are favorite chores of ours) and now we spend those hours exercising (can’t hire somebody to do workout for you), getting to know our kids better, and drinking good wine.

    Hopefully, you’ve picked up an idea that will allow you to enjoy more time with your family or to spend more time perfecting your preferred hobby. Send me an email with your best life hacks and maybe I can share them in a future article or speaking engagement. I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills and find more time in my days. After all, the more efficient that I can be with work by leveraging technology and better organizational habits, the more time I can spend enjoying the fruits of my labor and isn’t that what this article is really all about!

    Jonathan Slain works with business owners and their executive teams to get control of their lives. For a FREE meeting to discuss your business, he can be reached at jpslain@gmail.com or 216-870-4219.

    Grasshopper