3 Things A Startup CEO Looks For Before Taking A Sales Meeting

I had coffee with the CEO/Co-founder of a Silicon Valley based tech startup that has raised well over $50M and asked him:


“What needs to happen before you take a meeting with a salesperson for the first time?”


He said he looks for three things:

1. The salesperson was referred to me by someone I know and trust

2. The salesperson intends to share something new and innovative that could help me accelerate my roadmap

3. The salesperson needs me more than I need them

I was struck by #3, so I probed further.

He went on to explain that it’s always good taking a sales call when you’re not desperate for the solution/service they’re offering. He only takes meetings with salespeople representing something that is a nice to have. He prefers to have ‘must have’ conversations under his explicit control.

Someone on responded to the above post on LinkedIn with the following:

Interesting…smells of “group think” and “yes men” mentality. Would you like feedback? If there are any sales folks feeling a bit discouraged, here are my thoughts: #1 Um no. I’ve worked directly with C-suite execs for a long long time. They’ve all been open to meeting me for the first time without a personal referral…unless I count some great EA’s who’ve booked us meetings. #3 Wut? A bit creepy. Good thing I’m a sales professional who works with buyers who need solutions, because I’m a horrible co-dependent. Here’s the rub…startups need to do a lot of selling themselves to make good on their funding…most veteran sales professionals will pass on calling a startup based on their employer count (easy to find online). Who “sells” on the first meeting anyway? 🤔 Don’t worry, I’ll wait…😴 That said, Veteran C-suite execs understand #2, because this is where a conversation/dialogue starts to establish whether a solution is worth evaluating.


Below is my response to their comment.

Thanks for taking time to read this and reply with your thoughts. You make some very good points. I believe one should feel inspired rather than discouraged. Here’s why:

In the book “Selling to the C-Suite” by Nicholas AC Read and Stephen Bistritz, their research confirms that “a full 84% of Executives said they would usually or always grant a meeting with a salesperson who was recommended internally.”

On the other hand, “Cold calling ranked the lowest, with only 20% of participants (Executives) saying they would usually grant a meeting as a result, while 44% said they would never respond to cold calls.”

The idea is not to feel discouraged but to use research to increase your odds of getting a meeting with CEOs. Also, it’s a better experience to work smarter than harder. The #3 point is not about co-dependency; it’s about control. To your point about “who sells on the first meeting anyway?” many have, and many will continue to do so. Every interaction is a “selling” opportunity…you’re selling an idea, a service, a reason for them to take a second meeting…you’re always selling, from the first meeting to the last meeting to the next meeting… 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me an email (ozisco at gmail.com) or a tweet @ozisco

Happy Selling!

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