Have you ever walked out of a meeting with a CEO, CFO or CIO, hit the button on the elevator and thought ‘I heard what s/he said but I still don’t quite know what makes this person tick’

Imagine if you could hypnotise them or put truth serum in their Short Macchiato to learn what they really think.

Well, after years of research and real world examples, I’m going to tell you. It may not be what you think and you need to know to win serious business.

‘I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m a corporate executive.’

Most C Suite execs are not Richard Branson.

I have chosen a life of power, status, politics and constant career advancement.

Think Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Nathan R Jessep from ‘A Few Good Men’ when he says to his direct report ‘I’ve been promoted up through the chain of command with greater speed and success than you have. Now if that’s a source of tension or embarrassment for you, well, I don’t give a sh*t.’


Decisions are made more readily on how it makes me look more than how it directly benefits the company. Obviously I’m very adept at juggling both but if push comes to shove….


‘I’m inherently sceptical because I’ve been seriously burnt before’

As I’ve risen through the ranks from Finance, Operations, Engineering, IT or Sales in the past 10 or 20 years I’ve formed very strong opinions on what methods work and what approaches don’t.

Like a jilted lover who never forgets getting dumped by their first love, I remember being let down by suppliers, vendors, engineers and sales people who promised the world and delivered Somalia.

While we’re in Africa I also recall the almost Nigerian scam like deals that offered cost savings that never materialised and maintenance contracts I was stuck with for years.

After the smell of my burning flesh dissipated I vowed to never again believe in shiny presentation packs, vague promises or people who wear nice suits regardless of the brand on their business card.

I greatly value proof. empirical, financial, demonstrable, referenceable proof and like Honey & Soy Chicken Chips I don’t want one, I want lots.

‘I don’t always trust my direct reports’

I have some in my team whose opinions I trust and equally there are a couple of self serving weasels who just want their favourite suppliers or worse…my job!

My ego is bigger than theirs and I’m conscious of their agendas when they propose different solutions to our business challenges.

If you are aligned in your bid to the wrong person, you may find yourself in more discomfort than the cast of ‘Embarrassing Bodies’

I value my peer network – other C level people, fellow professional association members, MBA alumni and people who have delivered for me before.

Get referrals. Don’t cold call me with your BS wanting to ‘catch up’ or share your new widget.

Tell me you’ve done this in my industry before and I still read letters with proof. Emails and Voicemails are handled by my assistant DEL.

‘I don’t like your Sales 101 behaviour’

I’ve had people sucking up to me for years, trying to build rapport, asking me leading questions to get me to see their value proposition, crapping on too long about how good their stuff is and inviting me to a lab, site visit, lunch.

I’ve seen this hundreds of times and have mastered 100 ways to politely dismiss you or at best shunt you down the food chain.

Talk to me like an equal, not like you just came out of a Sales Academy for Sheep Dipping Sales People.

It’s a conversation, not the beginning of your sales cycle, It’s not about you, it’s about me. Did I mention ego yet?

Share real insights, not product pitches. Don’t spend 10 minutes asking me your canned qualification questions or nauseating’ What keeps you up at night’

The answer is Viagra if you must know.

Spend 50 minutes asking questions in a conversational way with proof points along the way. If you don’t know how to do this well yet, email elliote@salientcommunication.com.au. He’ll help you.


‘I’m looking for my next role now’

 This place is dysfunctional and I’ve got a corporate career, two kids in private school, a holiday house and an expensive Harley Davidson collection to support.

In addition two of my MBA buddies have just got plum jobs and I’m smarter than them.

So, when you talk about long term relationship, I laugh to myself because I know 6-12 months here will see me out.

Give me quick wins, entrees into a new network, immediate cost savings so I can milk my bonus, good publicity or a feather in my cap that I can wave around executive recruiters like a World Cup Football Fan at a Brazilian After Party.

That’s what I think most of the time. The rest of the time I think about my kids, my health and enjoying life.

I’m just like you really.

More from Salient Sales Training Courses

If you’d like to learn more about how you can win business selling to C Level join me in the Salient Executive Level Selling Program HERE.

As CEO of Salient Communication, Elliot is a sought after keynote speaker and corporate trainer who has coached and trained over 4000 people including CEOs, senior management and successful sales teams throughout Australasia and Asia including Hong Kong and Singapore.

Elliot is a specialist sales speaker for high profile corporates having spoken at over 1500 conferences, workshops and break-out sessions on presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching for leading companies such as HP, SEEK, Avaya, Hitachi , Computershare and CUB.

He is renowned for ensuring sessions are engaging, interactive and relevant to winning business in competitive markets.

Elliot is based in Melbourne where he lives with his wife and two expensive children.