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C-Level Meetings: How to Prepare & Host Them

Meetings with C-level executives often have more riding on them than team meetings. Find out how to make your high-level meetings successful.

By Fellow.app  •   July 13, 2022  •   7 min read

The key to success in so much of your work comes down to ample preparation, and C-level meetings are no different. If anything, it’s even more important in a C-level meeting since they can lead to a big boost for your bottom line. Whether you’re experienced at C-level meetings or new to hosting higher-level meetings, the guide below can help you run them like a pro. 

What is a C-level meeting?

A C-level meeting is a type of sales meeting where you pitch directly to a prospect organization’s high-level executives, such as CEOs. You’ll be face-to-face with key decision-makers, so if your meetings go well, you might lock in a deal pretty quickly. However, since things move much faster at the executive level, you’ll only have so much time to make your case. 

C-level meetings worth showing up to

A well-run meeting can foster communication and collaboration by including an agenda the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow!

How to prepare for a C-level meeting 

The key to a great C-level meeting is often brevity. The more details you can provide about your products or services in the least amount of time, the better. The below techniques and tips can help you boil down your pitch to the key points and get the most out of your time.

1Measure the C-level executives’ expectations 

The higher up you pitch yourself, the more you need to hone in on why the prospect organization should choose you. Think about it like this: Executives are responsible for larger-scale management of their organization, so anything they buy should have that scope. That means that your pitch should include proof that what your organization provides will lead to guaranteed results.

Many people crunch numbers to offer proof of growth: “If you purchase our product, your organization will grow by X%.” Of course, there’s no one growth percentage that’ll get you over the line with every C-suite. Each executive will have their own ideas about how much is enough. Figuring out the prospect’s expectations before the meeting is key to delivering a killer pitch

2Explain how your product meets their organization’s needs

One of the most important parts of the prospect’s buying process is determining whether your offerings meet their needs. You should figure out whether that’s true well before your C-level meeting. After all, executives are super busy. You might not impress them if you’re figuring out their pain points in real-time. 

Instead, you should research the prospect’s pain points beforehand and come up with meaningful, in-depth solutions to prove your value. Or you can work in the opposite direction – just pitch yourself to C-suites with the very problems your organization solves. 

3Come in with a thorough agenda

A meeting agenda can help you plan out your pitch’s talking points and keep the meeting within your time limit. Even if you’re confident in the details, a meeting agenda is key anyway since you never fully know what to expect. Maybe the executives have to cut the meeting short or they have a ton of questions about your product. In either case – and plenty of others – your agenda can account for that and help you adjust.

That’s not to say you should write down a response for every possibility (mainly because that’s impossible). Instead, you should leave space between your talking points for added flexibility. Meeting software such as Fellow’s agenda planning tool are great on this front – you can easily edit your agenda on the fly. Plus, with Fellow’s huge library of agenda templates, you can create your agenda more quickly and give yourself more time to prepare. 

Team Meeting Agenda Items

4Don’t be afraid to seek assistance 

Although C-level meetings don’t quite demand perfection, they come pretty close. You’re expected to be more prepared than for a routine meeting and make a stellar pitch in, well…not a lot of time. Needless to say, C-level meetings can be intimidating, so it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Really, it’s always okay to ask for help, but that’s especially true for C-level meetings.

With C-level meetings, there’s a lot of weight on your shoulders. Your organization wants you to succeed in your meeting and bring in a new client. You can frame that positively: If they’re invested in your success, they should give you any extra resources you feel you need. For example, if you’re not feeling super confident about your pitch yet, just bring in another person and seek additional feedback to help you better make your arguments. 

5Condense your pitch to 90 seconds

Not to be a broken record, but brevity can be your best friend in a C-level meeting. Executives are often thinly spread, so you risk losing their interest if your pitch isn’t clear and concise. That’s why learning how to condense an entire presentation down to the absolute bottom line is well worth your time. It’s a quick way to win over many a CEO. 

A good rule of thumb is to shorten your sales pitch into a 90-second summary. Include a brief description of your product or service’s main functions before getting into how it will benefit the prospect organization. Do this right, and you’ll make the sale that much more quickly.

6Rehearse

Once you’ve done your research and prepared a good pitch, you still have one step to take before your C-level meeting. Rehearsing your presentation in front of an audience – maybe your fellow team members, posing as hot-shot execs – should always come last. Going over what you’ll say can help you find areas to add or remove more detail. It can also help you master your meeting agenda, which can mean you’ll have an easier time accommodating interruptions. 

The key takeaway here is that most C-Level meetings are brief and you’ll only have so much time to make your case. A rehearsal can help you make the most of your time. 

How to host a C-level meeting

Preparation is one thing – now comes actually hosting the meeting. C-level meetings can be more intimidating to lead than typical ones, but the tips below can help you make a good impression. 

1Reintroduce yourself 

Don’t take it personally if you’ve spoken to a C-level executive before but they don’t remember you by the time the meeting starts. To again sound like a broken record, execs are often so busy that they see dozens of people every day. Can you really expect them to remember you among the sea of new faces? If they don’t remember you, simply shake their hand and reintroduce yourself, and then keep going.

2Build rapport wisely 

Building a relationship with a prospect can be key to a great sales pitch, but it works a bit differently in the C-suite. Most executives won’t have the patience for the usual small talk in a high-level meeting considering how little time they likely have for it. However, that doesn’t mean you should get right into your pitch either, because that can make you come off as coldly professional. Instead, start off with some quick questions about the prospect organization’s recent news. That can give you an easy segway into your presentation. 

3Go big-picture

CEOs and other executives take a broad view of an organization to steer it in the right direction. That means tying your product to a prospect organization’s tiniest operations could leave the C-suite bored and unimpressed. Instead, you should focus on the bigger picture: How what you sell can improve the organization overall. 

4Project confidence 

At the end of the day, you’re trying to be seen as an expert within your industry. You’re trying to offer a valuable opportunity to another organization. A big part of doing both is walking the walk and talking the talk – namely, appearing confident. Yes, you’re probably going to feel nervous walking into a C-level meeting, but most people respond better to confidence – it makes you seem more trustworthy. Even if you don’t actually feel it going into the meeting, putting it on can go a long way. 

Give an A+ performance for your C-level meeting

Meeting with higher-ups in your own organization is already intimidating – imagine meeting with other organizations’ executives? That’s why a C-Level meeting can be easy to mishandle – and that’s before the added time crunch for your pitch. But with proper research, planning via Fellow’s meeting tools, and the right amount of confidence, you can make every second count.

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