The ultimate cadence for CEOs
Prospecting to CEOs - it’s a tricky business.
Typically, they have little time at their disposal and they have needs and wants that are very different from their management colleagues. The sort of tactics that work for Sales Directors or CMOs just won’t work for Chief Execs.
That doesn’t mean that prospecting to them is impossible. At Cognism, we’ve perfected a method for engaging with CEOs using an epic 75-day cadence.
And guess what? We’re going to give you this cadence for free!
Scroll 👇 to get it.
Cadence mission statement
Before you start out with our CEO cadence, forget everything you’ve learned about prospecting to managers, team leaders, department heads and the like.
Prospecting to CEOs requires a very different mindset. Don’t go charging in asking for a meeting right off the bat; you haven’t earned it yet! You’ll have to engage for months before you get to that point.
So what’s the purpose behind the CEO cadence?
It isn’t designed to get a quick win; quite the opposite, in fact! It’s about building a relationship, establishing a meaningful dialogue and nurturing the prospect over an extended period of time. The usual sales patter won’t work with a CEO.
Instead, you’ll have to show that you’re…
- Fully prepared by researching them and their industry thoroughly.
- Ready and able to share relevant, insightful content.
- Focused on the challenges and pain points that affect them.
If you can do all that, then - and only then - you will get your meeting. As always in B2B sales, but especially so in this case, persistence really will pay off.
Cognism’s SDRs have seen the following impressive results from using this cadence:
- Email response rates of up to 15%.
- LinkedIn engagement rates of up to 52%.
- Asset download rates of up to 24%.
Advice from a CEO
We asked James Isilay, Cognism’s founder and CEO, how he likes to be prospected. He gave us the following tips:
- Focus on the pain points. They’re likely to be the only things that a CEO will respond to.
- Keep your messages short and simple. Don’t waste a single word. A CEO’s calendar is full enough without having to read email essays! If your email is too long, it will just get deleted.
- Be persistent. It will take some time for a CEO to reply. But if you can convince them that your product can remove their pain, you will get a positive response.
That’s enough theory - now let’s delve into the cadence itself 👇
Day 1 - Connect with the CEO on LinkedIn
Hi (first name),
I want to make sure I have the right information when I call (company name) about your lead gen. Where can I find out more about this, or is there anyone you can point me towards?
For a lot of salespeople, this first touch may seem counterintuitive. It doesn’t mention anything about the rep’s business or product. It’s not providing any useful information or memorable statistics.
What it is doing, however, is starting a relationship. By asking the CEO to provide you with information, instead of the other way around, you’re increasing your chances of getting a response.
Think about it this way:
CEOs are generally outgoing and they love to share knowledge and talk about their companies. They’re used to being the public face of a business and being asked questions about it.
Play on that and you’ll find that the CEO will be more than willing to engage.
LinkedIn legend Daniel Disney was a guest on Cognism’s Revenue Champions podcast. Press ▶️ to hear his social selling tips.
Day 5 - Conduct company/product research
Take some time to complete detailed research of the CEO’s company, product or service.
Here are some tips:
- Browse their company website and take notes on their offering and USP.
- Read any blogs or articles on the website; get an idea of the company’s tone and voice.
- Watch any videos or listen to any webinars/podcasts - especially if the CEO is involved.
- If the company offers a free demo of the product, make sure you book yourself in for one. This way, you’ll be fully prepared for future interaction with the CEO.
Day 10 - Share content on LinkedIn
Ask your marketing team (if you have one!) if they have any content you can share on your LinkedIn feed.
It can be anything - a blog, a video, a webinar - but it must be focused on the CEO and their business or industry.
If the content you require doesn’t exist, work with marketing to see if they can produce something for you. Alternatively, create your own content based on your product research.
A good piece of advice - and this is something that has helped at Cognism - is to hold a weekly meeting between your senior salespeople and marketers. Use that time to identify the content pieces that sales reps need for their cadences.
SDRs from Cognism, Varicent and Salesloft discuss how to build a cadence that converts. Press ▶️ to watch the webinar recording.
Day 15 - Tag the CEO on LinkedIn
Find a relevant article (preferably one published by your own company) and tag the CEO in it.
There are three reasons for doing this:
- It furthers engagement with the CEO - look out if they reply or like!
- It shows that you’re keen to share knowledge, not sell a product.
- It keeps you and your business in the CEO’s busy mind.
Day 25 - Share content on LinkedIn
On Day 10, you shared content about your company. On Day 25, you have to do something different.
This time, you have to get personal. Share some thoughts about your industry. Focus on the pain points that might be affecting the CEO.
End your post with a CTA - a question asking for people to respond. If the cadence has been working well, then you may get a reply from the CEO!
Day 30 - LinkedIn like and comment
Scroll through the CEO’s Recent Activity tab. Have they shared an article, or better yet, written one themselves?
If so, like and comment on it - especially if it’s relevant to your product or service.
Day 40 - Send the CEO a LinkedIn message
Now that you’ve seeded some good, valuable content, it’s time to ramp up engagement.
Send the CEO a LinkedIn message including an offer.
Going back to Day 1 - if the CEO recommended that you talk to a colleague of theirs, make sure you mention them! Leveraging internal champions will give you even more of a buy-in with the CEO.
It doesn’t matter hugely if you don’t receive a reply at this stage - this is just the first step in building a deeper relationship.
Here’s an example from Cognism Sales:
Hi (first name),
Thanks for pointing me in the direction of (colleague name). I really think there’s a good opportunity for Cognism to help (company name) find new customers.
Would you be open to a quick phone call to explore the possibilities?
To succeed at outbound, you need to have more meaningful conversations. Cognism Brand Ambassador Ryan Reisert explains the theory 👇
Day 45 - Send a follow-up LinkedIn message
If you don’t receive a positive response on Day 40, follow up on Day 45 with another LinkedIn message.
Try one of these tactics:
- Drop in a referral from an internal/external contact.
- Boost the CEO’s ego by mentioning a recent occurrence in their career - things like an award win, good quarterly financials or the completion of an important project - anything that will get their attention!
- Keep the student-teacher relationship going by asking them for something. A good idea is to look at their LinkedIn feed. Have they announced that they’re going to be speaking at an event in the future? Most CEOs are active participants in the F2F/virtual events circuit. Use that intel to your advantage!
Hi (first name),
I saw you’re going to be speaking about (topic) at (event).
I can’t attend the event unfortunately, but I’d love to see a sneak peek of your speech. It sounds really useful!
Would you mind sending me your notes?
Thanks in advance,
Day 50 - Share content on LinkedIn
At this point in the cadence, the content you share must be super-relevant and hyper-focused on the CEO’s business or industry.
Your best bet is to look at your own list of clients. Choose one based on the following criteria:
- They must be in the same sector as the CEO’s company.
- They must be based in the same geography (or nearest to) as the CEO’s company.
- They must be the same size as the CEO’s company (e.g., a startup, SMB or enterprise).
Then, ask your marketing team to produce a case study for the client (if one doesn’t exist already). Share the case study on your company’s LinkedIn page and your own LinkedIn page.
If the CEO sees it, they’ll have a better understanding of how your business has helped another exactly like theirs. This is a powerful message which you can return to later in the cadence.
Discover how content can help you close deals - press ▶️ to watch Cognism’s training video.
Day 55 - Send the CEO a LinkedIn message
Continue the mutual knowledge sharing by sending the CEO a recent article or industry report.
Keep your eyes peeled for any developments in the CEO’s sector. They will be watching the business news channels and websites like a hawk, so you should do the same.
Include a CTA asking them to respond. As always, remember that CEOs love to share their insight and comment on events!
Hi (first name),
I saw this article on (website) about (topic).
What are your thoughts about it?
Day 60 - Tag the CEO on LinkedIn
By now, you should’ve built up a good rapport with the CEO. You’ll know the sort of approaches they like and the kinds of messages they respond well to.
Find another good article or news story that matches their business and tag them in it.
Day 63 - Call the CEO
The time has come - time to pick up the phone!
Call the CEO and give them your best 30-second pitch about why your product matters and which pain points it can solve.
The best times to call CEOs are different from other workers. See below for Cognism’s advice 👇
- Mornings aren’t usually a good time as the CEO will be distracted, planning and working through their daily tasks.
- Lunchtime is better. CEOs often work through their lunch break. If the CEO is working in an office, it’s also a good time to reach them without having to speak to a gatekeeper. Chances are, their PA or secretary will be out on lunch, meaning you can bypass them and get straight to the decision-maker.
- Later in the day/after working hours (5-8pm) are also good times to call a Chief Exec. Their colleagues may have already left for the day, meaning that there will be less activity in the office. The CEO may be more relaxed and more open to receiving a call.
Get the best cold calling insights from Ryan Reisert and Josh Braun! Press ▶️ to hear their takeover of Revenue Champions.
Day 65 - Send the CEO an email
For this touchpoint, you’ll have to provide the CEO with a proof of value (POV) document.
What should this document look like?
It should be maximum 2 pages, setting out on a practical level how your product or service will help the CEO’s business. The clue's in the name - you have to prove the value of your offering.
Here’s how to format a POV document 👇
- Start with a short introduction about the end goals. What results can the CEO expect from using your product?
- Then progress to a list of benefits your product or service can provide. What are the 3 most important things you can deliver for them?
- Then give a POV timescale. List in detail the steps you’ll need to take to get the CEO’s company onboarded and using your product. Include the resources required from each company.
- Set some customer success parameters. What will the CEO and their company be required to do in order to maximise their chances of success?
- Don’t forget to include any legal considerations (if relevant and/or necessary).
- End the document with some bullet points detailing the immediate next steps. These can be anything from promising to provide more information by a certain date to setting a time for a follow-up call/F2F meeting.
Day 68 - Call the CEO
Use this call to check in with the CEO, if they haven’t already replied.
Try to schedule a meeting with them, as per the next steps from your POV document.
Day 70 - Send the CEO an email
Follow up on your POV document by sending the CEO something of benefit.
Some good ideas are:
- A case study/report detailing the difference that your product or service has made to a similar business.
- A comparison between your company and your biggest competitors.
This is the last touchpoint before break-up, so don’t waste it!
Hi (first name),
I thought I’d send you our latest battlecards, comparing Cognism to our main competitors.
What are your thoughts? I’d be happy to jump on a quick call to discuss this further.
Day 73 - Call the CEO
You’ve done your best, but it hasn’t worked. It’s time to break up.
Give the CEO a call and tell them that you’ll close their file...for now. Don’t completely end it, though. Say that you’ll check up in 6 months’ time, just in case.
Day 75 - Send the CEO an email
This is the very last touchpoint in the cadence. Follow up your phone call with an email, repeating the same break-up message.
Hi (first name),
Although I know Cognism could hugely benefit (company name), I recognise that now isn’t the right time for me to pursue this any further.
I’ll stop reaching out, but in case finding new clients becomes a pressing issue in the future, please feel free to contact me at any time.
All the best,
Increase your email response rates with these tips from Cognism Sales! Press ▶️ to watch our training video.
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