The 12 biggest mistakes people make when approaching a CEO

Taryn Williams / Facebook

Approaching a CEO can be a daunting task.

Whether you’re preparing to pitch an idea, trying to organise a meeting or striking up a conversation, reaching out to a CEO comes with its own set of etiquette to increase your chances of receiving a promising response.

We reached out to a number of Australian executives and CEOs to see what they believed were the biggest faux pas that people made when it came to approaching a CEO, whether it be in person or through email.

The results were diverse, from long-winded pitches, not being prepared with a solid value proposition through to the basics and spelling their name wrong.

Here’s what they had to say.

Gen George, CEO, OneShift

'I think some times people forget we are all human at the end of the day. When approaching a CEO, don't forget they enjoy having a social conversation and not just about the business they work in. But if you are going to ask for something, be clear and upfront. (Because) if you don't ask, you don't get and you need to maximise the time you have with them.'

Levi Aron, Country Manager, Deliveroo

'Trying too hard to impress. We love a good conversation, we hate a measuring competition.'

John Winning, CEO, Winning Group

'Not getting to the point is one of the biggest mistakes. If you are writing an email to a CEO you must be upfront and write something that will grab their attention, because they simply do not have the time to read through each and every email they receive. I know I make an effort to read all of my emails, however I look to the subject line and first few lines of an email to make me aware of the reason for the correspondence.'

Nick Bell, Founder and CEO, WME Australia

'When approaching via email, the biggest mistake is to send a long-winded email. I personally just delete! Get to the point in 1-2 lines, nothing more. We’re all time-poor, so cater for that.

When approaching via phone, have your value proposition ready to go. I’m generally time-poor, so 5-10 minutes on the phone with a stranger is rarely going to happen. Be prepared prior to the call.'

Taryn Williams, CEO, Wink Models and TheRight.Fit.

'For me, personally, spelling my name wrong! It may be uncommon, but it does show a real lack of respect if its misspelt or not even my name (I get Karen a lot!).'

Shira Raber, Managing Director, Helpling

'Writing a generic email that is clearly copied and pasted and sent to a large number of other companies. I get a lot of spam so to keep things under control I don’t even open these generic emails. Make sure when approaching a CEO that it is personal as not to waste their time.'

Martin Hosking, CEO, Redbubble

'Biggest mistake you can make - assuming you want something (a job, introduction, attendance) - is not to have done your basic research into the company. Nothing will make a CEO more grumpy than someone who fundamentally does not get the company and what it does. CEOs spend a lot of time explaining what their companies are about but don’t expect to have to do it to people who are wanting something from them.'

Jason Wyatt, Co-founder, Marketplacer

'People over-complicate things. Most CEOs are successful because they can simplify complicated situations and work on the big ticket items that deliver maximum return from minimal effort. Remember to be simple in your approach.'

Alex Louey, Co-founder and CEO, Appscore

'Biggest mistake is not getting to the point quickly. CEOs are inherently time-poor. A lot of people try to sell me and pitch me ideas and I love it, but I also want them to get to the point. If you can't articulate the benefits to me in two sentences you need to rework your pitch.'

Alan Sparks, CEO, Cellnet Group

'Usually the biggest mistake people make when approaching a CEO is trying to sell the CEO a product or service from get go rather than showing an understanding of the problems or challenges faced by the CEO.

'Business people need to do some research into the company they are engaging with, understand its objectives, the hurdles they are facing and its culture.

'Armed with this, an informed conversation will be of value to the CEO as it highlights a true the value proposition as well as being time efficient.'

Pana Chocolate, Founder and CEO, Pana Barbounis

'Portraying someone they are not. It’s important in all aspects of business to be real and genuine. If you have an agenda, be forthcoming with it. Times have changed and people want humans behind brands and products, so whether you’re the intern or the COO, your story needs to be real and fitting to your brand.'

Dean Ramler, Co-founder and CEO, Milan Direct

'Biggest mistake I find are people who spam you. Often I will see the same person send the same email 7-10 times and it always amazes me. If a cold approach catches my eye, I will reply. If I am not interested, sending 7+ times won’t change that.'

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