bizEDGE New Zealand logo
Story image

Don't bug me: I'm the CEO

30 Apr 2012

I was having a coffee with a friend in Ponsonby the other day and our conversation reverberated around the left and right side of my brain for a few days. Not that it’s that far between my left and right brain cells, but the issue we discussed was pertinent to a rather angry conversation I had just had with a client.

A new client of mine, I’ll call her Mary for reasons of confidentiality, is a small business consultant who specialises in developing call scripts for companies that use outbound (cold) calling as one of their lead generation strategies.

Now for those who have read my blogs over the last few months, you know how I feel about cold calling so I’ll move on. Actually, no, I won’t….I hate cold calling and think it’s a total waste of everyone’s time.

Anyway, Mary had recently finished a calling campaign for a software company selling HR planning systems. Her targets were CEOs of big companies and she was very upset when she spoke to me, as her client was not paying her invoice. I asked why not.

"The calling activity had not produced any leads over the month that I was contracted,” Mary replied.

"Who were you trying to make contact with Mary?”


Having been a small time CEO in a past life I know a thing or two about the traits and characteristics of these sometimes important people. Hell, I thought I was super important when I was one. Silly story, that one, and I’ll tell you about it one day when I have a weak moment.

If you excuse the snobbery, the pomposity, the self-importance, the egos and the general cloak of impenetrability, the fact remains: these goliaths of business are busy men and women. Receiving hundreds of emails per day, dealing with mountains of reports for even more pompous and egotistical board members, dealing with stressed out and politically motivated executives and yes, the occasional staff member, it is little wonder our trusted CEOs do not have any time to speak to Mary who is charged by her client with flogging their HR software.

Crikey, having a loathing of all things HR, I would sooner have clamped my tender parts in a vice than listen to a glorious pitch (which, Mary, I am sure it was) on the virtues of HR software.

If you are reading this and cold calling CEOs, STOP. They will not take your calls; they will resist every attempt for you to make contact with them. This is not because they do not like you. It’s just that you are so far down in the pecking order that the polar ice caps will melt before they give you a hearing.

Now and then you will find an exception, but in general, CEOs do not care about what you have to say because they are working to their own schedule. They are just too busy dealing with the ‘noise’ that is their world.

This is the advice I gave to Mary.

  1. Write an interesting article that describes the business benefits and outcomes of HR solutions to business.  I can’t think of any but there must be one or two.  By this, I don’t mean a glossy brochure since they are of even less use than a cold call.  It does need to be clean, tidy and appealing to the eye though. Oh yes, for those of you that can’t spell to save themselves (like my good self), make sure you get the article proofed. Place said article in a visible area on your company website. If you don’t have a website then skip to Tip 4.
  2. Contact your target market and write down the names and postal details of the CEOs you are looking to engage. Their PAs will provide you with this information even if they are a bit scary to deal with. Make sure you have the correct spelling of their names. You will generally not receive their email details so don’t waste your words on that one. Do however ask their PA for their email address. They will certainly provide you with that.
  3. Write a nice personalised letter to the CEOs on your list. Sign each letter by hand. Take the time to handwrite the address details on each envelope. Do not use a mailing machine for the stamp. Buy a book of interesting stamps and get licking. Include your email details on the letter and suggest that you will be calling their PA to arrange a time to meet or at least obtain the correct person in the company to deal with. Odds are their PA will direct you there anyway.
  4. Three days after the letter has been sent, it’s time for email.  Send a nicely worded follow-up email to each of the PAs on your list. You will remind them very respectfully of the beautiful letter you sent and the hours spent vomiting into the porcelain in order to send this wondrous and most important piece of literature. Include a link to the article on your website. Attach the article to the email as well and suggest the PA passes this and the letter to his/her CEO. Remind them again of the reason for your inquiry and suggest that you will be contacting them in a couple of days to either set an appointment with the CEO, or his important other, namely the HR manager or Queen thereof.
  5. Now for the scary approach call. Stand up from your desk; dial the number and away you go. The scene has been set and all you are doing is asking for an appointment. It’s as easy as that.

As you can imagine, Mary did not think the $5/cold call that she was contracted to undertake would cover all of this extra effort.

"You are probably right,” I said, "suggest to your client then not to waste their money”.

If you think all of this is a real time waster then you would be 99% correct. There are ways to achieve the same result, but for that wonderful advice, you will need to call me.

Simple really.

About Sean McDonald

Sean is the founder and managing director of Sales Systems Ltd. His company and team of consultants help organisations improve the overall effectiveness of their sales and marketing operations through the introduction of new processes, tools and technology to ensure they are operating at peak performance in today’s highly competitive environment.

Sean is a regular contributor to Techday.