When salespeople are pitching to the CEO, they need a thoughtful, deliberate approach if they expect to get a response. While you can often try different strategies with lower-level prospects and fine-tune as necessary, you typically only have one shot to engage a CEO.

Sales executive and entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman has pinpointed nine ways to get a CEO’s attention and ensure you don’t bungle the opportunity. We highlight his tips in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

1. Use a gentle ask. Respect that CEOs are busy, so don’t deploy an overly strong ask in the initial email or call. When you first reach out, all you should strive for is a response – not a signed contract. Hoffman encourages salespeople to consider what CEOs are willing and able to give, such as references or information.

2. Write emails on your phone. With their busy schedules, CEOs often read emails on a tablet or smartphone. By writing your emails on a smartphone, you can see exactly how they will appear when CEOs read them.

3. Don’t dismiss the executive assistant. Consider the executive assistant the CEO by proxy. Instead of trying to bypass the EA, work with him or her to get the information you need and indirectly engage the CEO. This can sometimes be more beneficial than accessing the CEO directly.

4. Draw on the college connection. College is often the most powerful connection you can use with a CEO. Many tend to be extremely involved with their alma maters.

5. Call late in the day. While salespeople might think it’s better to call executives early before they get busy, Hoffman advises calling later in the day, ideally from 5-8 pm. If your call comes at a bad time, they won’t pick up. And if you have a good message, they’ll want to hear what you have to say, no matter the time.

6. Use a 45-day cadence. CEOs often think about quarters, not months. Depending on what they’re doing, some CEOs disappear for weeks at a time. That’s why Hoffman advises five touches in 45 days.

7. Ask for a sneak peek of an upcoming presentation. Look for events where the CEO is speaking and explain that you can’t attend but you’d love a sneak peek of their remarks. This allows you to get ahead of many people who will follow up with questions and pitches after the presentation.

8. Take advantage of the economy. With low unemployment, it’s hard to meet employee growth targets. Position your product or service as easing this issue. When you can speak to big picture benefits that resonate with CEOs, you stand a better chance of getting a meeting with the decision maker.

9. Ask for their data. Hoffman admits this is a bold strategy, but it works well if you’re already engaged with a decision maker not in the C-suite. It allows you to engage with and understand how the company develops RFPs and ROIs, which gives you an advantage when creating a pitch down the road.

Before you contact a CEO, use the tips above to ensure your outreach is successful.

Source: Jeff Hoffman is a sales executive and entrepreneur who consults with industry leaders on the topics of sales, sales management and sales operations. The author of Your SalesMBA, “Why You? Why You Now?,” and The Seven Basho Strategies sales training programs, Hoffman presents to sold-out audiences around the globe.