Preparing To Meet CEOs

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Preparing to meet CEOs can be a daunting experience.

CEOs in Nigeria have a reputation for always being in a hurry, having very little time for anyone, at times grumpy, arrogant, proud, and easily agitated. In other words they’re usually very difficult people to present to. In fact before you’ve even said a word they’ve told you at least twice (once on the phone when you were begging for the meeting, and the second time the moment you enter their office) that you only have a few minutes. This always tends to put people in a bit of a tiz – not quite knowing where to begin and where to end.

So here’s how to handle CEOs.

  1. Research – do your research on the character of the CEO. The type of character he /she is can determine the words and angles you use to good effect. Just because he is a CEO doesn’t mean he or she isn’t human. There are ways in which you can comfortably enter his / her zone. Remember – the aim is to enter his /her zone without him /her feeling uncomfortable with you inside it.
  2. Research – research his or her likes – the things they like. Remember whatever a person loves is his or her weakness. Everybody has something they love; everybody has a weakness. Whatever it is, try to bring it into the conversation within the first few seconds of your meeting with them. This usually dissuades the air of nervous tension.
  3. Get to the value added points instantly – what you have, and how what you have can add value to their lives/the company. Stick to between two and three main points(not more than three). Once you’ve finished, stop talking, and wait. Do not blabber on.

I remember being at an event many years ago at the Civic centre, Lagos. I had been wanting to meet with the Group Managing Director of GT Bank, the late Tayo Aderinokun to discuss one of our products. And there he was – about fifteen yards ahead of me. I grabbed my chance, and approached him just as he was about to enter the lift. The conversation went thus;

‘Good afternoon sir, my name is Segun Akande. I am the Executive Director of SBA. We are a financial infor….. ‘

Before I could complete my sentence Mr. Aderinokun very politely cut me off, saying with smile, ‘Just get to the point Segun.  In what way can I help you?’

‘We want GT Bank to sponsor the next Nigerian Investment Houses League Awards sir,’ I replied.

‘Okay, give me your card and I’ll have someone call you before the end of the week.’

And that was it. I thanked him for his time. He smiled, shook my hands, and was off. A very  polite man, might I add.

I received a call from GT Bank within the next 24 hours.

The lesson I learnt that day is to get straight to the point when speaking with CEOs. If they are interested, they will tell you so immediately. If they are not interested, they will also tell you so immediately. So get to the point fast so that nobody’s time is wasted – including yours.

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