Resources > Articles

View from the Top

Post Author
  • Kent Petzold is the CEO of GFS Technology Inc., an Arizona State University spin out, developing enterprise-class security for mobile devices. Previously, he led three software companies to international dominance in their fields and subsequent successful exits via initial public offering or strategic acquisition. He was a partner in a venture capital fund, a managing director of an investment bank specializing in mergers and acquisitions for technology companies and has launched more than 25 successful products. He serves on the boards of public, private, charitable and faith-based organizations. He can be reached at kpetzold@cox.net.

View from the Top

When I was running a public company, a salesperson told me how another software firm had implemented his solution and, as a result, improved productivity. It was a pretty standard presentation about saving time and money, so there was nothing surprising there. But then he really got my attention by applying the expected productivity improvements to my earnings per share and the anticipated uptick in stock price. What did that salesperson do right? He connected with me at a meaningful level (earnings), prepared well for the call (used real data about my company) and gave me hope for a better future.

CEOs are almost always pressed for time, and we need people—both internal and external—to communicate efficiently with us. In the salesperson example, he kept the conversation at a high level. He presented an effective elevator pitch about his company and products and quickly got to the punch line. In other words, he valued my time and his, and kept the conversation at a cadence and level that was effective in light of the limited time we had together.

Here are a few additional suggestions on how to effectively communicate with CEOs:

Talk net. CEOs are accustomed to operating at a strategic level. We understand that there are numerous implications and nuances to any decision—some are apparent, some are not. Talking net is part of a bigger theme of “don’t waste my time.” Avoid going through every little detail when presenting to a CEO. Keep the conversation at a high level, unless you’re invited to take it into the weeds. Give us the opportunity to probe into the areas we really want to know more about. Your ability and choice to talk net will be appreciated.

Align the conversation with corporate strategy. Link your discussion to the goals, objectives and benefits that are strategically important to my company. This isn’t hard to do, even if you’re an outsider. That’s because many company objectives are almost universally true, and they’re not highly guarded state secrets. For example, nearly all organizations have plans to acquire and retain more customers, increase profits, gain manufacturing or distribution advantages or achieve a more defensible market position. You don’t need access to the business plan to know that those are key areas of importance to most CEOs. And with a little research, you can be even more knowledgeable and better prepared for a targeted and meaningful discussion.

Know that being “delegated down” is a good thing. I don’t want to waste my people’s time any more than I care to waste my own. Their time is an important corporate resource. I’ll only refer you to a vice president or a director if I think your offering might be useful to our organization. If I think your product really affects distribution, finance or another department, I’m not going to roll my sleeves up to dig deep into what you’re saying. Instead, I’m going to send you to the person that I’ve handpicked and trust to do those evaluations and make those recommendations. This is a good outcome.

Give me bad news early on. I prefer to hear bad news quickly and clearly. The focus isn’t about attributing blame or excessive posturing; it’s about how to organize our efforts toward the best outcome. Everybody knows the old adage that “nobody likes surprises.” But if problems fester, valuable time is lost and corrective options become limited. More lead time means more options about what can be done. Don’t procrastinate in bringing bad news forward.

Present solutions, not just problems.To grow an organization, you really have to rely on the judgment of your people. I try to surround myself with smart, thinking and capable people. When an issue arises, I expect them to explore well-thought-out courses of action. In fact, if an employee routinely reported problems without possible solutions, I would wonder whether we’ve hired the right person.

To summarize, bring me strategically important information that gives me hope for a competitive advantage. That will remind me why we’re meeting in the first place. Combine that with talking net and you’ve got a good chance of keeping a CEO’s attention.

Author

  • Kent Petzold is the CEO of GFS Technology Inc., an Arizona State University spin out, developing enterprise-class security for mobile devices. Previously, he led three software companies to international dominance in their fields and subsequent successful exits via initial public offering or strategic acquisition. He was a partner in a venture capital fund, a managing director of an investment bank specializing in mergers and acquisitions for technology companies and has launched more than 25 successful products. He serves on the boards of public, private, charitable and faith-based organizations. He can be reached at kpetzold@cox.net.

Author:

Other Resources in this Series

Most Recent

A dashboard on a website showcasing product management measurement
Article

Measurement-Driven Product Management

If you are a vice president, director or team leader for a product management function, one of the biggest challenges you face today is how to demonstrate the team is making a significant contribution to top line or bottom line targets. If you can’t measure your team’s effectiveness, or if you are focused on the wrong metrics, your headcount and budget allocation could be at risk.

Product life cycle: Introduction, Growth, Maturity, Decline
Article

23 Metrics Mapped to the Product Life Cycle

Learn what to measure and how to avoid vanity metrics during each stage of the product life cycle: development, launch, growth, maturity and decline. Also learn the difference between a mission and objective and how to identify which stage your product is in.
ROI of being market driven. An image with illustration dollar signs
Article

The ROI of Being Market-Driven

Market-driven companies are more profitable, twice as fast in getting new products to market, and have higher customer satisfaction levels.
Article

23 Metrics Mapped to Each Stage of the User Journey

23 metrics for the user journey, which is the path a user takes while interacting with your product (sometimes called a flow funnel).
A person holding up a sign that say who is responsible
Article

Product Marketing or Product Management

Roles Before Titles The job titles of product marketing manager and product manager are confusing enough to start raging debates about who does what. Organizations often transpose the job titles, adding to the confusion. This article

OTHER ArticleS

A dashboard on a website showcasing product management measurement
Article

Measurement-Driven Product Management

If you are a vice president, director or team leader for a product management function, one of the biggest challenges you face today is how to demonstrate the team is making a significant contribution to top line or bottom line targets. If you can’t measure your team’s effectiveness, or if you are focused on the wrong metrics, your headcount and budget allocation could be at risk.

Product life cycle: Introduction, Growth, Maturity, Decline
Article

23 Metrics Mapped to the Product Life Cycle

Learn what to measure and how to avoid vanity metrics during each stage of the product life cycle: development, launch, growth, maturity and decline. Also learn the difference between a mission and objective and how to identify which stage your product is in.

Sign up to stay up to date on the latest industry best practices.

Sign up to received invites to upcoming webinars, updates on our recent podcast episodes and the latest on industry best practices.

Training on Your Schedule

Fill out the form today and our sales team will help you schedule your private Pragmatic training today.

Subscribe

Subscribe

Training on Your Schedule

Fill out the form today and our sales team will help you schedule your private Pragmatic training today.