It’s the meeting for which you’ve been waiting.

Finally, you’ve been able to secure a meeting with the CEO of the company you know you can help.  For the past year, you’ve been researching the company and developing relationships with as many people as possible.

In particular, you have gotten to know the two gatekeepers who have been up to now blocking your way to the CEO.  Last week your call to the administrative assistant finally hit home and you’re on the CEO’s calendar in three weeks.

Now is the time to get ready. The degree to which you prepare will directly impact the success of your meeting.

Below are 6 key things you need to do before your meeting:

1. Set up Google Alerts to receive any updates that may appear on the internet for the company, the person you’re going to meet and the other top people in the company with whom the CEO interacts.

2. If the company is publicly traded, read their annual reports and their quarterly filings, and listen to the recordings of their quarterly investor calls.

3. Benchmark the company with their major competitors to determine how they compare.

4. Identify the strategic objectives on which the company is working. In particular, learn all you can about the key initiatives with which you have reason to believe the CEO is most concerned.

5. Monitor the news to determine if there are any political or newsworthy events that could impact either the CEO or the company. Monitor the trade journals and industry websites that pertain to the company’s industry.

6. Know the educational background of the CEO and identify any key alumni and school events with which the CEO may be connected.

Use the information you obtain from the activities listed above to help you develop a list of “peer comment/questions” you can share with the gatekeeper or CEO if the opportunity arises.

“Peer comments/questions” are those things you can share briefly with the CEO or gatekeeper that allow them to see that you are aware of the environment in which they operate –  and that you are comfortable talking about those things.

By positioning your peer comment as a question, you not only have the ability to share something with them, but you also will engage them in conversation.

Making a peer comment/question part of your opening dialogue with the CEO will reassure the CEO that they are not wasting their time with someone who does not understand how valuable the CEO’s time is. It also demonstrates that you comprehend their level of decision-making responsibility.

Remember – your peer comment/question is not the opportunity for you to share your 5,000 word opinion on a topic.  Your comment/question should be brief and framed as an opening to get the CEO to share their opinion.

It is not necessary for the peer question/comment to relate directly to your meeting topic. In fact, is better if it is on a completely different topic. You will show the CEO that you do not have tunnel vision and you have a broader understanding of the world in which they operate.

If you’re wondering why I use the term “peer,” it is because the topic you’re bringing up is designed to be a topic the CEO may very well be discussing with their peers.   This allows the CEO to naturally begin to see you as one of their peers, thus increasing their comfort in sharing information with you.

You shouldn’t hesitate to share your peer comments/questions with the gatekeeper  as well. The gatekeeper is really an extension of the CEO. When you make relevant comments or pose “peer” questions, you increase the gatekeeper’s comfort level. If the gatekeeper feels comfortable with you, this contributes to the CEO feeling comfortable.

If you have managed to land that all-important meeting with a CEO, don’t delay in your preparation.  Invest the effort and time now so you can experience the valuable dividends later.

Copyright 2011, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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