The best way to capture the attention of a C-Level executive is to interview him. Senior exec’s loved to be interviewed. Additionally interviewing serves many other purposes.

1. It puts the focus on the executive and high level people like to be the focus of attention.
2. They get to do all the talking and executives like to do all the talking.
3. Answering your questions will let you know the executive’s thoughts feelings and desires, and this is what you’ll build your presentation around.
4. By letting the executive explain his needs and exploring ideas with him, you’re building credibility.
5. Once the executive has mouthed the words, he’ll know you know what’s on his mind, and be open to listen to what your presentation has to say about those thoughts, feelings and desires.

Think of yourself as an investigative reporter rather than a sales rep. Interview like Barbara Walters with questions specifically prepared for this executive. However, your question sequence must not be an interrogation of self serving questions, as in the game 20-Questions. Questions have to be indulgent for the recipient, open ended, and focused on the individual’s state of mind. Don’t be concerned the exec will get annoyed. If this is a first meeting or you’ve not talked about this project before, she knows you don’t know her spin on this endeavor and she will be open to reveal it.

However, to avoid learning a lot of irrelevant information frame your questions to elicit the kind of information you need. My favorite two are:
1. “How come you agreed to meet with me today?” (She didn’t let you in just because you asked for a meeting. She wants to know something and she thinks you can help.)
2. “What are some of the issues, concerns and/or opportunities you’re facing as it relates to this project or purchase?” (The words, ‘as it relates to’ will get her talking about your project but from her perspective.)

Now a lot of sales people naturally ask opening questions about the person’s day or well being and might even transition into the topic of the day. However, the push is to quickly present and tell why what they’ve got is good for the exec, and why she should buy it now from them. I hear it all the time from sales people,

“There’s not much time. They don’t know how I can help them, or what my services can do. So I have to tell them before they lose interest.”

They lose interest because you’re talking about you and things they’re not interested in you. Senior executives need to feel it’s all about them. They also need to know that you know exactly what they want. Even if you think you know, you have to let them know that you do. Chances are, however, you don’t and you’ll lose all your credibility if you miss and/or don’t understand completely. Besides, if you get the exec to open up you’ll recognize what s/he hasn’t mentioned, no matter whether s/he forgot to mention it, or doesn’t know about it, or doesn’t care about it. Prepared questions for an interview will set you up to reveal all of this.

If conducted with the intention to learn about the executive, the outcome of this interview will provide an arsenal of information which will be your roadmap for that presentation you’re so anxious to get out of your mouth. Hit the executive’s targets and you score. Miss them and you lose.

Common Situation

Questions are “You” Focused

People tend to ask self-serving questions to see if someone is interested in buying or choosing them, i.e., “When will you be approving your financial software purchase?” Or, “What’s the budget? Has it been approved?” Or “Who’s the competition?” Or “How can we help you with your financial problem?”

Resulting Problem

You Learn Nothing

These are all “I” or “we” questions. Executives don’t like that and deflect the “I” questions with ambiguous answers, which stops the sales person in his tracks. So he goes into a song and dance either trying to create a problem or advertise the latest and greatest. It’s annoying to the executive because it’s all about the salesperson.

Similarly starting a question with “How are you going to do blank?” or “Why are you doing blank?” are questions sure to put the executive on the defensive, which they don’t like. They deflect again by saying, “Everything is fine. We’ll get back to you.”

Check Yourself

Score: 4=Always; 3=Most Times; 2=Usually; 1=Sometimes; 0=Never.

1. When you meet a new exec or influential leader you haven’t seen in a while do you tend to have a standard routine? ____
2. Do you have a typical group of questions you use? ____
3. Do you feel uncomfortable starting out a meeting with questions? ____
4. Do you feel pressured that the exec has limited time and you’d better get you presentation out quickly? ____

Scoring: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4

5 or less is good; More than 5 means you need to rethink your approach.

And now I invite you to learn more.

Learn about interviewing, how to do it, and how to feel comfortable doing it.
10 pages of questions and techniques to yield an arsenal of critical information about the exec; Plus 5 complete strategies and tactics to use while interviewing; Plus a full Tak'n It to the Streets Worksheet to prepare you for executive conversations; Plus an application story to show how to work it. It’s all in this Problem Solving E-Book: Good Interviewing Leads to Great C-Level Presentations

BONUS TIP: Grab your FREE BONUS E-Book < a href => “Getting Past Gatekeepers and Handling Blockers

Author's Bio: 

Sam has put together his unique “Take’n It to the Streets” actions for you to feel you belong with any level or executive. Just click this link Elevate Yourself to the C-Level NOW 10 Strategies, Tactics and Techniques plus narratives and an example to show you how.