Last week a client and I were chatting over steamy hot chocolate and scones (yes, I have the best meetings) when suddenly she turned very serious. I could see her body tense as she asked “How can we get to the C-suite? Our executive team is very frustrated CIOs don’t want to meet with us. We planned an executive summit and only 3 people registered.” I couldn’t help but ask …why do you feel getting to the CIO is important? You see, this company sold technology, but they sold it to mid level IT managers. Managers that for years had been buying and advocating for their product.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Why does the team want to attract the CIO?
Client: To be honest I don’t think we need to focus on them but the executive team is pushing very hard.
Me: Why do you think they are pushing so hard?
Client: They think we have to be on the mind of the CIO or else we haven’t made it.
Me: What do they hope to result from a meeting with CIO?
Client: It will make everyone feel good. They think since we sell technology we have to be on the minds of the CIO and somehow it will shorten the sales cycle.
I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation but you get the idea of where it was going. Unfortunately, this client’s management team had fallen into the same trap as so many businesses before them. The allure of being on the C-suite’s agenda is tantalizing. We believe it will magically remove barriers to the sales process.
The problem is when the C-suite doesn’t have your offer as a priority you spend enormous amounts of money and energy chasing leads that won’t drive significant business and will have little to no impact on the sales cycle. In fact, my very unscientific tally of previous C-suite lead programs, shows they cost anywhere from 10-20X more than leads from less senior but influential buyers.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some companies for which selling to a three-letter title that starts with C makes sense. But in my experience the other 97% of marketing teams waste time and money chasing after executives who simply don’t need to learn about their offer.
The next time you, or your boss, is tempted to chase the C-suite ask these important questions:
- Is the c-suite the only title who has authority to purchase your product? Does the cost of your solution represent at least 5% of their total budget?
- Is your offering going to drive strategic value to the organization beyond a single line of business or function?
- Is one of the C-suite buyer’s top 3 priorities a problem your offering can address?
- Will promoting your solution to the organization advance the career or credibility of the C-suite executive?
If you can’t answer yes to these questions you are better off spending marketing dollars focused on the real buyer. Stop chasing the illusive CXO who really doesn’t care about your offering and arm your champion with the tools they need to successfully make a purchase.
If after answering these questions you decide going after the CXO is critical; spend time to build a nurturing program that is sensitive to their unique demands and be prepared to invest proportionally.