Selling to CXOs

By Stratrix Staff Writer

Boston, MA | Updated 30 Mar, 2021

Selling to CXOs

For B2B marketers and sales teams selling to CXOs is a tough but essential part of the job. In the enterprise sales field, if selling to CXOs is not your core competence, your company will fall by the wayside.

Senior executives receive a barrage of communications from salespeople and marketers every day. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, reportedly receives up to 400 emails per day. While he responds to some himself, he uses assistants and appropriate people in the organization for the majority of replies.  CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, tells everyone that if you email him, you either get an email back in 10 minutes or never.

The way that CXOs deal with communications creates a unique challenge for salespeople and marketers. When dealing with lower to mid-level executives, there is usually some scope to develop a relationship, tweaking their messages as they learn more. However, as the cases of Branson and Bezos show, senior executives might only give you one shot to engage them.

To deal with C-suite effectively, a marketer needs to understand them and differentiate themselves from other inbox clutter. It also helps to have a well-planned marketing strategy, a strong positioning, an established brand, and an effective salesperson to succeed in selling to the CXOs.

Selling to CXOs – a Few Tips

CXOs are exceedingly busy. A cold request for a meeting or call is unlikely to get a response. That does not mean CXOs are challenging to work with and unfriendly, but more they have limited time. A C-suite executive will usually be open and outgoing, given they are representing a business that needs to relate to different audiences.

A senior business person will want to know what problem you can solve and what’s in it for them. Marketers should plan ahead and understand the business goals before reaching out to the CXO. They do not want to answer basic questions about their company that you could find using Google. It is imperative to listen to their problems rather than trying to shoehorn your product as a solution.

As a rule, CXOs enjoy imparting their wisdom. A concise message that specifies how you solve a problem with a short question that elicits a response is a reliable approach to take. Although they may not answer the first time, a genuine request for knowledge has a higher chance of a reaction than any hard sell attempts.

Marketers can fall into the trap of making messages long and complicated to show their expertise. Simplicity is vital in the case of marketing to executives, especially when they are likely reading on the go from their smartphone.

Understand what makes them tick

Research from the Miller Heiman Group suggests that all C-suite executives fall into one of five decision-making styles. When approaching a CXO, do the research and find out their potential behavior type. A marketer that knows how their prospect likes to make decisions suddenly has much ammunition. The five styles taken from the research are:


A charismatic executive needs to know how a solution will help achieve a big idea. Richard Branson would fall into this category. Review their public profiles and look at their long-term strategies to tailor the communication.


The thinker is more cautious and precise such as Bill Gates. A senior executive in this category will be process-oriented and like to have quantitative proof before making a decision.


A skeptic decision maker will want to have validation from credible sources. When approaching them with an idea, back it up with a company that has substantial brand equity.


Caryl Fiorina, primarily known for her time as CEO of Hewlett Packard, falls into this category. A follower will embrace solutions that are tried and tested, but unlikely to be a guinea pig for innovation. Adding some social proof when talking with them can improve the chances of a conversation.


A controller will be tough to access as they like to have ownership of an idea before proceeding. In this case, frame the communication by digging into their thoughts and how you can augment them.

A marketer or salesperson must customize their communication to be successful in selling to CXOs.

Don’t forget about the executive assistant

Ten or twenty years ago, the executive assistant would mainly be responsible for the calendar of a CXO or taking meeting minutes. In the modern-day business world, they are a lot more than purely administrative.

If you want initial information, the executive assistant will be more than capable of answering on behalf of the CXO. Although they are busy too, marketers can be smart in getting the attention of an executive assistant.

For example, try framing a question this way;

“Hi [Exec Assistant Name], I’ve got a great solution for [Business Problem] and will be reaching out to [CXO Name] soon. I don’t want to come across foolish, can you tell me one thing I shouldn’t say?”

The vulnerability posed by such a question will help build a rapport with the executive assistant and a potential foot in the door.

Leading with insights

Research from taken from over 39,000 sales meetings from C-level executives, shows that the most successful reps ask only four questions on average. CXOs want to understand insights, not educate you on their business. Before messaging or sitting down with an executive, you should have done enough research to know their business and its pain points.


It can be daunting when try communicating and selling to CXOs, but a strategic and well-planned approach will ensure marketers and salespeople get the most out of it. In the same way that a marketer wouldn’t start a SEO campaign without research, neither should they jump in full steam with a CXO having not done the preparation.