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.

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!

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 or email

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  • Next up: How to Master the Skill of Being Aware

    How to Master the Skill of Being Aware

    Dynamic leaders are keenly aware of how to leverage all their strengths. In her latest column, Monika Moss-Gransberry shares some of the lessons she’s learned about how to be aware of and leverage internal and external processes and environments.

    What makes a dynamic leader? The ability to make a difference just by entering a room. Not everyone has this talent, and it has everything to do with being highly aware.

    The place I most profoundly learned to make a difference with my presence is the Gestalt

    Organizational Systems Development Center, (Gestalt OSD Center). It was there as a student and then as a faculty member I was set on the path to self-mastery.

    I recall my mentor and teacher, the President of the Center, John D. Carter often said, “I want my clients to be able to play with all 52 cards in the deck—and the jokers.” This requires a keen sense of awareness.

    Awareness of your internal process and experience, awareness of the environment around you, and being able to shuttle back and forth and see how your thoughts, words, actions are impacting the environment and how the thoughts, words, and actions of others are impacting you is critically important.

    Gestalt theory and method have become one of the top five approaches to organizational change. For 40 years, the Gestalt Organizational Systems Development Center has been using Gestalt concept, theory, method and practice integrated with change theory and organizational development concepts to formulate and teach. This became known at Gestalt Organizational Systems Development.

    Change happens when a system becomes aware of something in a new way.

    Introducing a new experience to an individual or group expands their awareness and potentially their understanding of that experience. The the more awareness we have, the faster that change happens within us.

    Being able to make a difference with your presence in any room with any number of people anywhere in the world is the invaluable proposition that the practice of Gestalt can create. It is the self-mastery that allows for you to move authentically and strategically in the world with confidence and intention.

    Monika Moss-Gransberry is the president of MKM Management Consulting.

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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

    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.

    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.


    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: How Communicating Your Company's Vision Impacts Employee Retention

    How Communicating Your Company's Vision Impacts Employee Retention

    Do your employees understand the vision you've set for your company? If not, you might lose them. Here's why.

    Do you have a clearly stated and communicated vision for your organization? Do you believe all your employees know what the vision is for your company? Is it engaging and inspiring and does it drive key decisions that you and your team make daily?

    I have asked this question to CEOs and their teams for years and found that often, we get so busy and wrapped in goals and tasks that we forget the vision/purpose for the company. I have also heard some leaders say that their employees don’t need to know the vision, they don’t care about it, they only want to know what they need to do. Well, this is partially true but mostly false. 

    Yes, your employees need to know what is expected of them, but they also need to understand where (the vision) we are going and why (the purpose/mission) we want to go there. Unless you want drones working for you that only execute tasks and don’t bring their passion, ideas and creativity, you need to do the work of clearly articulating the vision and purpose. And if you care about retention and engagement, here are some interesting statistics:

    • Seventy percent of executives say employees’ desire for purpose is impacting HR’s ability to recruit and retain top talent.
    • Eighty percent of employees who said they have a good variety of benefits to choose from also said they identified strongly with their organization’s vision and values, as opposed to 40% of those who don’t.
    • More than four in 10 (41%) of employees feel personally aligned with their company’s mission and 49% with their values, yet 94% of employees and 98% of employers say those connections are critical.


    The need for meaningful work

    “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.”   – Friedrich Nietzsche

    The millennial generation is just coming into its own, and its members may not be as entitled and narcissistic as they are commonly portrayed. A study by the career advisory board at DeVry University looked at millennials’ attitudes about employment issues, based on input from hiring managers. The study found that 71% of millennials ranked finding work that is meaningful as one of the top three factors determining their career success, and 30 percent of millennials ranked it as the most important factor.


    Millennials are willing to make less money and work longer, nontraditional hours, as long as their work is personally meaningful.” source

    3 ways to check on your company’s vision

    Great leaders make the picture of the vision and purpose come alive for their teams. I work with executives and their teams to help them clearly identify and define their vision (what), purpose/mission (why) and strategy (how) so that they can focus on the work to achieve their vision. It ranges from half-day vision workshops to multiple day retreats, engaging as much of the leadership and key employees as possible.

    Don’t assume they know or they don’t care, here are three things that you can do right now to see how you are doing:

    Number 1: Look at your vision/mission/purpose - does it still relate to what you are doing today or does it need to be refreshed?  Is it motivating?

    Number 2: At your next team meeting, ask your leaders if they can share the vision / mission /purpose (without looking at the wall).  If they can all explain it consistently, BRAVO, WELL DONE, make sure it cascades down!  If not, consider spending the time to make sure it is not only communicated but understood and embraced by the leadership team.

    Number 3: Ask your sales team if they know the vision/mission/purpose. This is the group that has the most contact with your customer. If they are not aligned to it, there is a big missed opportunity.

    “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Joel A. Barker

    Knowing your vision/mission/purpose is the first step. It sounds simple, but it is so critical.  When you do this right, all your decisions and strategies are aligned to it and it makes it easier for everyone to make the right decisions, stay focused on the right goals and empower your teams.

    Need help?  Reach out to me for a free consultation at or schedule a time directly at FREE CONSULTATION

    Jill Windelspecht of Talent Specialists Consulting is an executive organizational consultant, coach, trainer and keynote speaker and podcaster - Brain Hacks 4 Leadership and certified John Maxwell Team Member.  Leveraging neuroscience  and social science to focus on People…Science….Purpose.

    Schedule a Free Consultation Here: Schedule Now

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  • Next up: HR Questions Every Small Business Owner Must Answer

    HR Questions Every Small Business Owner Must Answer

    As part of an ongoing series, Mind Your Business is sitting down with COSE Investor Level Members to get to know more about the issues facing their businesses. Today’s Q-and-A is with Cheryl Perez, president and managing partner of BIG-HR.

    Navigating the ins and outs of HR issues can be challenging for many companies, but perhaps particularly so for smaller enterprises. Whether it’s understanding what you need to know before terminating an employee or untangling everything that goes into I-9 rules, there’s a lot to get up to speed on. We sat down recently with Cheryl Perez, president and managing partner of BIG-HR and a COSE Investor Level Member, to understand some of the most important questions every small business owner must be able to answer. Here’s what she had to say:

    MYB: How would small business owners know when (and if) they can terminate someone?

    Perez: Of course, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive whenever I am speaking with a small employer is: When can I terminate this person? Usually by the time I have received this question the employee has become so much of a problem that the employer can no longer even justify why keeping him or her on staff is critical. The best way for me to answer this question is really, unfortunately, with a question. And that question is: Where is the employee in achieving the action plan that you set during his or her most recent disciplinary or performance review conversation?

    You see, whether you can terminate someone depends upon the proactive nature of your disciplinary and performance review processes. The most critical piece of supporting termination is documentation, and usually if someone has been doing a good job at documenting poor performance issues then it is clear to all parties involved when that termination is going to take place. The action plan that you set forth, in your most recent conversation regarding the behavior, is what sets the deadline for termination. Your action plan should be specific and say something like: In 30 days if we do not see improvement we know we will part ways. The main problem I see in getting this question is that there usually has been no prior disciplinary or performance review process in place that limits the employer’s ability to terminate. You know when you can terminate someone based upon the expectations you have set along the way. You may be in a no-fault state, but no fault does not equal no potential for wrongful termination suits.

    MYB: What about breaks and lunches? Does a small business owner have to pay for those, or provide them?

    Perez: In short, the answer to this question is: It depends. Each state will confirm how many hours an employee must work before breaks and lunches must be provided, and it will also determine how long those breaks and lunches must be depending upon employee age. Typically, if you are providing breaks and lunches for an employee they are paid but, again, it just depends upon the employee status and what your state regulates. For instance, Ohio labor laws require employers to provide employees under the age of 18 a 30-minute uninterrupted break (unpaid) when working more than five consecutive hours. Ohio does not require employers to provide breaks, including lunch breaks, for workers 18 years of age or older.

    MYB: What’s the best way to handle I-9 regulations?

    Perez: Most employers during the course of hiring an employee collect an I-9 form to verify citizenship or authorization to work in the United States from a new hire. Without really knowing what to collect and what dates to use an employer can be putting themselves at risk based upon the time the I-9 form is collected, the date that the information is verified by the employer, and the signatures that are located on the documents as it relates to the hire date listed. It is critical that employers understand and know when they are collecting an I-9 form from an employee what could make the I-9 form invalid or require that the employer collect a new I-9 form once the old form expires. The I-9 form contains two major sections (sometimes three), with the employee needing to complete section 1 and the employer needing to verify and complete section 2. Section 3 is completed when an employer is rehiring a previous employee.

    The biggest piece of missing information that employers don't realize is that section 2 must be completed and verified within three business days of the date of hire listed on the form; otherwise your form is incorrect. Employers must retain I-9s for the later of three years from the date of hire or one year after the date employment ends. From time to time, the federal government may examine your employment records. If you fail to produce I-9s, you can be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties.

    MYB: Are 1099 contractors considered W-2 employees?

    Perez: 1099 versus W-2 is really related to the tax classification of a subcontractor or employee of an organization. The status refers to whether an employer should be taking out and paying taxes on behalf of the employee. If you are a 1099 subcontractor, the answer is no, the employer will not withhold taxes nor match them and you will be responsible for paying taxes on your own. If you are a W-2 employee your employer will withhold taxes from your paycheck and pay their portion for your employment. It is estimated that a high percentage of 1099 contractors are misclassified on an annual basis. If this misclassification applies then the employer is subject to severe penalties when, and if, an audit is performed.

    The best way to determine whether someone is a W-2 or a 1099 depends upon their treatment by the employer. With a W-2 certain things will be specific such as a schedule will be determined, training will be provided, equipment will be given, and expectations will be set (as well as other specifications). With a 1099 a project/task is usually contracted with very little to no direction, no training, and no equipment provided.

    MYB: And now for some shameless self-promotion: How have COSE events helped your business grow?

    Perez: I just love the organization and the opportunities. It’s chock-full of education. I make friendships with the networking events. And I also learn something every single time I attend an event or speak with someone because it’s full of small business owners just like myself going through the same stuff every single day. I make great friends, great clients and there are great networking opportunities, so I’d like to say thanks COSE!

    Cheryl Perez is president and managing partner of BIG-HR, which focuses on HR consulting and outsourcing. You can learn more about the company by clicking here. And you can also learn more about the benefits of being a COSE Member by clicking here. Or, contact our Membership Team directly via email at or by phone at 216-592-2355.

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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.

    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 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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