Why Assistants to CEOs Seem Irritated with Speakers

Joe, the CEO, has told you to contact someone in his office named Sue. Your notes from your conversation with the CEO say that “Mike” is their “O.D. guy.”  You are really pleased that Joe has expressed interest in bringing you in to provide a speech for their managers, but are you really ready to contact Sue?

Think about the possible scenarios.  Your being passed to Sue could mean that you definitely will be working with that company.  Sue is kept busy implementing projects that Joe wants put into action. Sue doesn’t need to have any budget authority. If Joe says “do it,” somehow the project will be funded.

Your being passed to Sue could mean that Joe has some interest in bringing you in to address their managers, but there is no urgency at all. So Sue has a base level of annoyance with Joe for his tendency to leave so many vendor conversations incomplete and then expect her to deal with all of these strangers when she has “real work” to do.

Sue could be the person with the final decision.  No speakers, trainers, consultants, or coaches ever come into this corporation until they demonstrate to Sue that they have a full understanding of this company’s strategic plan, corporate culture, and the context and ROI of the proposed project. When Sue is satisfied, she’ll walk the members of the executive committee (including Joe) through the process of what will be done.

Unfortunately, the job titles used these days won’t help you assess which “Sue” you will be contacting, and who is Mike?

Those of you who have had extensive training in sales might not identify with this dilemma because you would know that your conversation with the CEO needed to include a discussion about the larger context of your speech, the CEO’s logic about the timing, some basic information about their organizational structure and decision making, and the anticipated results or goals. Before you would leave the CEO’s office, you would have spoken up to suggest that Joe should introduce you to Sue and have asked Joe to tell you more about her role.  You would have heard a great deal about the culture of their organization by hearing the specific words Joe said to Sue when introducing you to her. And you would not have left Joe’s office without setting a date for a followup conversation with him.  If we don’t have the nerve to guide Joe during this stage of the process, why should Joe believe we would be strong enough to have an impact on their company later?

The reality is that most speakers and trainers haven’t invested in much sales training so we find ourselves guessing about people like Sue and insulting them. The “Sues” of the world have become a bit weary of us.  As a result of wishful thinking, most speakers in this situation jump to the conclusion that their speech will be scheduled very soon and that Sue’s role is just logistics. Think about how different your questions would be just based on your assumptions about her role. To not step on our own tongues, we need to know who “owns” the content, who “owns” the process, and who owns the logistics in their organization even if you have to go back to the CEO to get clarification and regain control of the referral process.

Why do we speakers seem to know how to guide a referral when it’s between a few companies but then forget to guide the referral process to keep expectations clear when the referral is within one company? Everyone involved needs to know the logic behind why Joe is sending you to Sue.



Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP helps rapidly growing midsized companies (typically $20 – 200 million/year) realize their goal of Achieving Accelerated Growth With Sustained Profitability® through opportunity/resource analysis, executive coaching, strategic working sessions, and her intermediary role regarding growth financing. Her clients are among the brightest, most ambitious business leaders whose names now appear on published lists of the fastest growing privately held corporations. The recipient of 23 prestigious awards for her success as an entrepreneur and industry leader, Ambler hosts a peer-to-peer Internet radio program, aptly called The Growth Strategist®, which features lively interviews with CEOs of midmarket companies who have successfully executed the growth strategy of the week.  She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna (253-6662), by e-mail at Aldonna@AMBLER.com or online at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com.


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