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!

    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 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.

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    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

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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.

    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: 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:

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    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 memberservices@cose.org 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.

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    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: Iron Sharpens Iron: The Benefits of 'Mastermind' Groups

    Iron Sharpens Iron: The Benefits of 'Mastermind' Groups

    There is strength in numbers, especially when you're working with like-minded individuals. Behold, the power of "mastermind" groups.

    Freedom. Happiness. Adventure. Mmm. Three of my favorite words. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “Yeah, you know what, Chris?  I’d like less of those in my life. Tell me: How can I make that happen?” 

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    And yet, at times, it can seem like that’s exactly what we signed up for in our lives as we accomplish more and more and more. Ahhh, yes. It’s that good, ol’ “Paradox of Progress”:  The more “success” we capture, the more complexity we often face. 

    We know that each business stage—and each life stage—introduces new challenges and opportunities for growth. If we’re somewhat truthful with ourselves, we can probably admit that we default to our typical, go-to, “This has always worked for me and I always operate this way,” strategy when we first encounter a new hurdle.  And if we’re brutally honest, we can probably acknowledge that we devote far too many resources—our time, our energy, and our money—as we confront these new hurdles. 

    We know that appearances never tell the whole story and while an outsider might conclude that everything’s marvelous because our businesses are successful, we may think differently. (After all, we’re the only ones who can truly define success for ourselves.)  Maybe we’re bogged down with employee problems and missing our kids’ soccer games because we’re “tied up at work.” Or maybe we’re taking a phone call in the car instead of singing along with the Boss on “Thunder Road” or joining Demi as she hits that high A on “Sorry Not Sorry.”  (Oh, come on. Don’t act like you haven’t been there.) 

    Maybe we’re checking our email too often while we’re on vacation. Or maybe we’re suppressing all those thoughts of discontent, justifying our situations as “the price of business,” not realizing that the ultimate outcome of this pattern isn’t satisfaction, but regret.

    I don’t think anyone who runs a business wants to earn more restriction, more stress, and more sacrifice.  I just don’t. We’re creators and we’re artists. We want to build our lives with more of the good and less of the bad.  We want to iron out wrinkles.

    The benefits of a mastermind group

    I can’t envision a tool better suited to smooth away the creases in our lives than a “mastermind” group. For those of us who are unfamiliar with the concept, simply put, a mastermind is a bunch of individuals united for one, overarching, common purpose: to help one another grow as “iron sharpens iron.” (Yes, I just used a different type of “iron” analogy.) The notion certainly isn’t new or novel and I’m convinced that joining a mastermind, or building our own, is, hands-down, the best way for anyone to win more clients and customers, serve them better, boost our income, and liberate our time. Masterminds mean more freedom, happiness, and adventure for everyone. 

    Think about it: Although we might have friends and family members who love and support us in a variety of ways, how many of them can truly provide us with an unbiased, objective “push” toward that next level? Imagine being in a group where people are open and honest about their personal and professional struggles and can receive input from other creators who bring unique perspectives and diverse experiences to the metaphorical table.  Picture nine or ten people who are “all in” on our success. 

    Good mastermind groups help clarify our definitions of success. They help us accelerate. They help us execute. They force us to share in one another’s lives and struggles. They keep us accountable. They motivate us.  They move us. 

    I mentioned that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we can probably admit to spending too many resources as we employ our typical “go-to” tactics to overcome new obstacles. Well, a mastermind group can be a new approach to success. It can counterbalance that “Paradox of Progress,” and it can eliminate stress and constraints. A mastermind can help drive us towards more freedom, happiness, and adventure—and those are outcomes we can all embrace.

    Christopher Leo is the owner of Flash Three Consultants and co-owner of Breakthrough to Billions. A former English teacher, newspaper editor, and football coach, Chris is committed to helping creators get what they truly want from their personal and professional lives through the power of masterminds. Visit flashthree.com, breakthroughtobillions.com, or email him (mailto:cleo@flashthree.com) to continue the conversation.

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