Getting a meeting with a CEO, CFO or anyone else at the C-level can be challenging. I can tell you that you’re not going to get to them by using a fake ID badge or sneaking past the gatekeeper. However, you will by making a thoughtfully crafted and genuinely compelling case for a meeting.
Ask yourself what you would say to a C-level executive if you secured such a meeting. What message would be so obviously valuable to make them want to spend time with you? Instead of saying, “How do I get in there?” re-approach the problem by focusing on what you would say if you were to secure that initial meeting. I’ve encountered dozens and dozens of students who fantasize about meeting with CEOs. However, if I ask them what would happen once they’re in the room, their minds go blank.
I was teaching a class of about 100 people. I asked, “Is there anyone here who's landed a meeting with a CFO lately?” One person raised his hand and said, "I did the other day."
I asked how it went. He said, "Not so well." When I asked why, he replied, "Because we spent four months trying to get the meeting and spent about four minutes preparing for it. As a result, we didn't have a coherent message, and frankly I'm not sure we're going to be invited back unless we change our tune."
That brings us back to making a compelling case. You need to be focused on what C-level people care about -- namely making their organizations easier to manage, more valuable, or ideally both. How could you pivot your mission to be in line with theirs?
Another mode of attack is learning everything you can about your prospect’s company and the specific C-level executive you’ll be meeting. What does their company stand for? What are their values? What do their annual reports say? What does their website advertise?
Find out where your prospective C-level executive has been quoted, where they have spoken publicly or served on boards. Find articles they’ve written and PowerPoint presentations they’ve presented. Study their LinkedIn profile (including their connections). Doing so will give you an impression of who this person is, the folks they have done business with, and what their hot button issues might be.
Once you do that it's all about keeping the message concise. Keep it to a few sentences and practice it well. Have other people review it to make sure it’s concise and compelling. Think of it as fashioning the correct key to open a locked door. And with the right amount of preparation, you’ll know exactly what to say once you enter the meeting that will ensure you’ll be taken seriously and invited back.