What Do CEOs Care About? Avoid a Common, Pitch-Killing Error when Selling Your Services

Welcome back to the video series! I'm creating this series to help you improve your results as you sell to small business owners. Remember, everything in this video series comes directly from you! 

In Video Number 1 we talked about getting access: how to get yourself in front of the CEO and decision-maker in a small business. We found thousands of small business owners. We found what they buy. We found where we can go to put ourselves in front of them. We've proved all of that out with research and data. So if you haven't seen that video, you can go back and watch it. 

This video covers the Expert's Error. This error directly damages your authority positioning.

Is there a Doctor in the House?  Yes, and it’s you!  You should be seen as the “doctor” in each interaction you have with a prospective client. That means you are the trusted, obvious authority in the room.  

Too often, you feel more like a hustler, begging and pleading for your client's attention. Always having to haggle and negotiate in order to close a sale. 

What is the Expert's Error? You believe that explaining equals selling.  You talk too much, over-explain, over-educate. It breaks your core doctor positioning.  This video will show how deeply this error affects your business and how your decision-making client would prefer to interact with you. You cannot charge more or attract better clients without a perspective shift here. Today's video is about seeing and admitting to one of the most expensive mistakes a consultant can make. 

Please enjoy the video.

Video Transcription

So let's think about this: what if you were to accept the challenge, simplify your business, and only offer premium consulting services. How would that math shake out? Well, let's do the math in this video.

Hey, it's Alzay Calhoun with Coveted Consultant, and in this video we want to do some business model math. I've made the point in some earlier videos that I believe simple is better than complex, and premium is better than standard. So when you think about the core business model of your consulting business, you want things to be simple and to be premium.

How do we fall into the Expert’s Error?

As experts, we take what we know and put it into some form; we develop our service. Then we put that service out every way we know how. We try networking and referrals. We may use email and social media. We may graduate to using content and advertisements. We may start doing proposals and using a proposal process.

And what are we trying to do? We’re trying to get conversations. We want someone to talk to us and have a good dialogue. If it goes well, we get a client. That's good logic, right? 

But here's a moment we can all identify with. 

You finally get this conversation and it just doesn't happen the way you thought it would. 

“I sat down, I talked to the guy, I explained all my services and he just gave me this deadpan face in response.”  

“I sat down, I talked to the lady, I walked her through my entire proposal and she just kind of went, ‘We'll get back to you.’”

I don't understand! What broke? Why wasn't I successful in this conversation? Why didn't they buy? 

The assumption is: If I explain, he will buy. 

We assume, as consultants, that our expertise is easily understood and valued.  We take all of what we know, we put it in some sort of service. We explain it through all of our marketing materials. We explain it in all these different files and formats. But when we get here, we're still explaining.  We explain, and we explain, and we explain, to a person that may or may not fully understand or value it. 

They leave confused, and we leave confused, because we didn't get the client that we thought. Because we assumed: If I explain, he will buy.  Our unfortunate takeaway here, when we don't get this sale, is to think we should explain more or explain better. We've got this wrong. This is the classic Expert Error.

Things to Know about the CEO

I've got some good news here. We’ve got the steps right, we’ve just got the order wrong. We shouldn't be going from top to bottom. We should be going from bottom to top. Shape all of this from what your client expects. 

What does your CEO client, your small business client, expect from the conversation that they're having? What do they expect to read in the marketing material that you send them? What do they expect to see in the service that you're offering? And what part of your expertise is most valuable to them? All of this works when you do it from the right direction.

There are two articles I want to share with you to give you a snapshot of what your small business owner client is thinking about when they engage with you. Both articles come from the Harvard Business Review. The first is titled “Salespeople Need a Strategy for Selling to CEOs.” Let me give you the bullet points here.

  • According to a study, executives consider less than one fifth of the meetings they have with salespeople to be valuable. Less than one in five meetings with the sales person is found valuable by an executive. Salespeople are just not meeting the mark.

  • Let's look at what they're doing wrong. First, when selling this to executives, you want to keep a few things in mind. Your executive level decision maker, your small business owner client is thinking specifically about business outcomes. They're not trying to learn about your services. They're trying to get certain things done.

  • They'll consider the needs and opinions of multiple constituencies. There may be other stakeholders that they have to consider when buying or not buying this service that you offer. You have to respect the fact that they're thinking about multiple stakeholders at the same time.  If you can think with them, you become even more valuable.

  • Senior executives must consider how a decision could affect various parts of their organization. So there could be multiple departments, divisions, software tools, processes that must be linked together to make your recommendations work. Your ability to recognize this greatly increases your value to them.

Now let's add some more pressure to that. The second article is called “How CEOs Manage Their Time” and it tells us:

  • CEOs spend 72% of their total work time in meetings. 70% of their work time is spent meeting with people. They already have a lot of meetings, right?

  • The vast majority of a CEO's time was scheduled in advance. Almost 75% of their time is scheduled in advance and the majority of that time is spent in meetings.

  • You are another meeting on their calendar. They don't have a lot of time scheduled for you, because most of their time is already booked in advance. It’s really important that you appreciate that this is the decision-making environment that your high level client is navigating.

Now in full disclosure, many of the CEOs who are surveyed here have run really, really big companies, even global in scale, but you'll find that the insights here are also relevant to you. People who run small businesses function like this. They are constantly managing their time at the highest level possible. And they work with a lot of salespeople who don't know how to talk to them at their level.

Let's reset ourselves around this new understanding right now. 

What do CEOs care about?

Your prospective client is not a fellow expert and they do not want to become one. So where you may want to share tons of information in an effort to be helpful, that prospective client of yours is trying to solve a problem. And so you need to be oriented around that expectation. In fact, the more you share, the more you confuse, the more you frustrate. 

Your prospect must consider people and process before making a final decision. They can't make their decision without this context.  Where for you it might be simple, buy or not buy. For them, they've got to figure out, "So who's going to use this and how, and when?" They've also got to figure out the process, "What systems should be hooked up to this so that it works the way I need it to work?" So even if they're prepared to decide today, they've got to go through this thinking in order to make that decision comfortably. You should come prepared to hear this conversation and  navigate that with them.

Your prospective client is under a constant time crunch. They have a lot of meetings scheduled and they're scheduled in advance. So for them, meeting fatigue and limited availability is real. They just don't have the mental bandwidth to discuss things philosophically. They need their experts to be sharp, pointed, and direct about how they can help. 

Your prospective client makes decisions quickly, often much earlier in the process than you think.  They look at every email, social posts, piece of content to determine whether or not you are a doctor that understands their situation. The toughest part here is, even though this might be your client's natural intuition, it can be very different from your natural intuition. But if you want doctor level positioning, we got to find a way to merge those two things together and that merger has to sound and feel and look a lot like this.

Well, there you have it. Thank you for watching today's video. Here's your next step. Please post in the comment section below: What is your number one takeaway from this video?

I look forward to seeing you in the next one!  We’ll be talking about packaging your skills into the best offer, one that sells, without burdening you or the client with needless explaining and hustling.  Learn the art of the one, done for you, project-based offering.


  1. Peter Crane on March 23, 2021 at 10:11 pm

    I do like the Doctor analogy as the ‘trusted’ specialist. Asking questions, conducting a diagnosis rather than explaining. Very helpful, thank you.

    • Coveted Consultant on March 24, 2021 at 9:05 am

      I’m happy that this resonates Peter!

  2. Roma on March 18, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    This was great information, very clear and applicable. Love that you showed how we normally do it then turned it around the other direction.

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