Because of my career, I get to meet a whole range of people. These people can range from kind and smart and funny (they usually get upgraded to ‘friends’ 😊) or they are well connected, they know, or work with, or can make a warm introduction to someone I would like to meet (for a variety of reasons) or they have impressive sounding job titles. I know quite a few CEOs, CIOs and other C-Suite type individuals. Again, this ‘C-Suite’ filter contains a wide range of people. Some smart, some hardworking, some very well connected, some where you think ‘how the Hell did they get *that* job?’. So varied are the characteristics of this ‘filter’ that I know it is not an easy shorthand for ‘the best person to speak to at this organization who can help me/buy from me/connect me/hire me etc …
I have often been perplexed with the obsession with ‘very senior job titles’ from some quarters. Over the past decade I have worked with partners on lead generation projects. Building a report that will attract names, creating a survey that be answered with quality data or gathering a roundtable of peers to listen to speakers and debate amongst themselves.
All these hosts will have a target list of companies or desired job titles they would like to connect with. That is the nature of the project.
What perplexes me is when you are working with someone and their demand is ‘CEOs only’. As if the CEO of Barclays Bank (for example) has nothing better to do than to schlep down to a meeting room at 8:00 am to snack on weak coffee and cold bacon rolls* while they listen to people debate the merits of document monitoring software. The issue I have with this strategy is two-fold:
- It lacks thoughtfulness and imagination. Obviously, you have not taken the time to investigate the market and find the right type of people who would be interested in your product. You also have no interest in listening to the experience and knowledge of the agency you have chosen to work with who can research and reach out to the correct people.
- This obsession is really about status. Yes, it is great to host an event with ‘CEOs’ on stage. You can tell your mum or your mates down the pub you got that CEO of that FinTech Unicorn to give the same, bland talk they give at every other FinTech event on the planet. But at the end of the day – what does that teach you? How is that even beneficial for your business?
Now I know that time is precious and finding that magic person who has the decision-making power and the budget to do business with you is paramount. But I offer you three counter arguments.
The person with the most senior or impressive sounding job title may not be the best contact for your business.
The C-Suite executive is usually running around the world, managing teams, fighting fires, flying the brand flag. They have direct reports that look for systems, products, solutions to help their business. That is the person you are looking for. And that person’s job title may be ‘manager’ or ‘lead’ or may not have a job title at all. Believe the people you chose to work with when they say ‘Trust us, the person you want at your roundtable is not ‘CEO Claire Smith,’ the person you want is ‘product manager Paul Jones’ who works at the job your product supports day in and day out.
People with senior looking job titles get swarmed.
The constant buzz of so many people seeking to catch ‘just five minutes of your time’ can be overwhelming. I know one CEO who puts his badge in his pocket when he attends events. Others that never leave their booth and meet with no one, unless they have a prearranged meeting. The myth making is rife in startup land. But I know of no one who made millions by chasing a global managing director of a European bank through a crowded lunch room (something I have witnessed) or by jumping into someones office, unannounced (something I had to advise a startup CEO to stop doing or the bank would bar him from the building).
Go after the people who will use your product.
The people on the ground – the project managers, the supervisors, these people will be more than happy to schlep down to a meeting room for weak coffee and cold bacon rolls** if that means they will be sitting in a room with other people like themselves. People who sit in the same trenches and face the same barriers and issues … and have advice and strategies to overcome them. Convince these people that you know their pain points and understand them, first. Then hit them with your product that can solve many of their problems.
What happens next? These people, whose pain you understand, will then find the people who have the ability to make decisions, the budgets and the power at their organizations.
Business happens all over the enterprise. On the shop floor, so to speak, as well as the corner office. Finding that special spot at an organization that will welcome your business like a piece from a primary school puzzle, takes thought and a considered process. Building that puzzle with a box full of ‘CEOs’ will just give you a mess of corners and no pretty picture to glue together.
*Weak coffee and cold bacon rolls will never be served at an FTT event
**Again, I stress, weak coffee and cold bacon rolls will never be served at an FTT event