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10 Ways to Get Time With the CEO

Don't be afraid to go straight to the top.

The best chance of getting any deal done is to start with the corporate leader and work your way down. Working your way up is like trying to scale a waterfall in rubber shoes. It can be done, but it takes forever and you always find yourself slipping.

But how do you get past the phalanx of gatekeepers, starting with the receptionists and hacking your way through to the ultimate gatekeeper -- the administrative assistant? You only have to watch

Ugly Betty

to know how difficult it is to get a phone call, let alone face time, with leaders.

Although you might have their telephone number, you can't just call them up. You need to have a game plan. Here are the components to your plan.

  • Mission: What exactly do you need to speak to the CEO for? If it is just to sell insurance or a copier don't waste her time. Your need to speak must have an impact on the top or bottom line. Possibly introduce the leader to a potential employee who has great sales or product development skills.
  • Pitch: Most of us get tangled up in our own words when we meet the president of a company. It was clear in our minds what we wanted to say, but because we are nervous, we aren't sure why we are approaching the CEO or what to say. It's good to write down exactly what you want to say and refine it.
  • Information: Put together information either in a Word document or a PowerPoint. Make it short and to the point.
  • Outcome objective: What is the objective of meeting the CEO? Is it to get more business? Is it an introduction to another person in the organization who you can help? Think about what you would like to get out of the interaction so you are not kicking yourself later for not making the most of your opportunity.

Now that you have a plan, you need to catch your quarry. What are the best ways to meet corporate leaders? Here are 10 tactics you can use to obtain time with leaders.




: I will find out what industries they belong to and try to go the regional and national conferences.




: I have written five books and I am working on a sixth, called

Sages of Business

, which is a compilation of interviews with corporate leaders over the age of 50. Many CEOs enjoy being interviewed and memorialized in books.



Speaking engagements

: If my target is the leader of a large company, I will contact his press people and find out when and where he might be speaking. It could be at an industry conference or chamber of commerce or to a group of stock analysts and shareholders.



Alumni contacts

: Alumni associations are great sources of introductions. If I know the leaders went to a specific school and I have a friend in the alumni association, I will ask him for an introduction.

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Trade association contacts

: A great source is trade association membership development professionals, who often know members by their first names. Part of what they are paid for is introductions.



Gifts of reading material

: Books are great gifts to send after you have read or heard from a speech something the leader has said. I don't know a business leader who isn't a big reader of books, especially biographies and strategy tomes.




: An email to friends asking them if they know the target or know someone who knows the target can be very helpful. It falls back under the "who you know" that can get you an audience.




: This will surprise some people, but politicians have a vested interest in seeing constituents grow their businesses. They have staffs that are willing to call to make an introduction if there is sufficient benefit to the district they serve.



Clip articles

: If I see the CEO in a newspaper story or see a story on a competitor, I will mail that story with my business card attached.



Internet radio

: Many people can't afford to purchase air time to start a radio show, but Internet radio is very inexpensive. Set up a show where you interview leaders on strategy and business building. Everyone likes to share his thoughts and ideas on how to build successful organizations.

The key is having a plan of attack and knowing what you are going to say to maximize your time with your target. You don't want to stumble when that opportunity comes up. Like any other part of your business, you need to be organized and prepared.

Marc Kramer, a serial entrepreneur, is the author of five books and is an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton's Global Consulting Practicum, where he serves as Country Manager for Chile.