Propositioning the CEO

February 2, 2007

Chief Executive Officers don’t know diddly about Internet search and “Information Intelligence.” Senior executives also lack these skills, as do their administrative assistants.

CEOs, like almost everyone else, assume they already know everything they need to know about effectively searching the Internet for critical business information. The PEW Internet and American Life Project has reported this phenomenon in their study called “Search Engine Users,” and summarized in this sentence, “Internet searchers are confident, satisfied and trusting – but they are also unaware and naïve.”

What can Sheryl Kay and Michael Benidt do about that? How can we reach these top decision makers and leaders? How can we “sell” them on the need to improve their company’s Internet savvy?

That’s where Anthony Parinello comes in. His specialty is selling to CEOs. He calls them “VITO” – the “Very Important Top Officer.” Parinello teaches sales people how to sell to VITO. We need him.

Mr. Parinello says that we must Think & Sell Like a CEO (the name of his newest book from Entrepreneur Press). He writes that we need to do 7 things if we are going to get our message across to CEOs. After reading his list, we thought we’d test ourselves – and grade ourselves. What kind of VITO power do we have and what kind of VITO power does our topic have.

Ready? Here goes – the Piranello 7 followed by our own self-assessment (the 7 are the ones Selling Power magazine published this January in an article by Heather Baldwin called The Seven Fundamental Assumptions of CEOs):

1. Knowledge is power. CEOs seek knowledge. They understand that the more they know, the better their decisions. Thus your message must expand his or her flow of critical information, not clutter that flow.

We teach how the Internet can be the cure for too much information, not the cause of it. When they learn how to correctly retrieve information, CEOs are able to quickly get to the most critical information, saving time by filtering out the less important stuff. Grade – A.

2. Passion and commitment make the difference. CEOs typically are very passionate about what they do.
Make sure your own enthusiasm for the topic under discussion complements the CEO’s enthusiasm.

This is a mission for us. The lack of Information Intelligence skills at every level, from the highest ranking company officers, to their employees to the students in our schools makes this a challenge for our entire society. That fact “gets us up in early in the morning, keeps us up late at night” – and makes us write warning articles like this one. Grade – A.

3. What’s good for me is good for the company. CEOs self-identify strongly with their organization and “tend to feel very good about both,” says Parinello. Ask yourself whether what you’re doing supports the CEO’s best view of him or herself and his or her company, says Parinello.

The fact is that even a small investment in learning about Information Literacy pays dividends to the learner. Very few people are doing it, so it’s a competitive advantage. It also makes the CEO more creative, more motivated and more confident – and it will do the same for his executive team, his managers and his employees. Grade – A.

4. You can do, get, and be anything you want if you see a big enough picture. CEOs don’t focus on tactics; they focus on strategies. They take “50,000-foot views” of the world, says Parinello, and tend not to get bogged down in details. Are you focusing on the big picture? Or are you stuck in selling features and benefits?

Internet search is most often taught as a series of technical skills. Our approach to Information Literacy takes accessible Internet search skills and combines them with the CEOs own ingenuity, creativity and commitment to create a powerful new way of looking not only at information, but at human potential. Grade – A.

5. Good things happen when you get people to buy into your message. Every successful CEO knows the importance of communicating persuasively and effectively. If what you are doing will help the CEO get the message out and communicate effectively within his organization, you’ll have instant status with him.

Learning how to get to the right information can empower the CEO’s message. But, software engineers and technologists should not be teaching these topics (want proof? – just think PowerPoint). There is nothing more powerful than information that surprises people – delivered clearly, passionately and persuasively. Grade – A.

6. You can never get enough good ideas to support your plan. “CEOs love to consider ideas they can connect directly to the plan or vision that gets them up early in the morning and keeps them going late at night,” says Parinello. Ask yourself whether the ideas you’re presenting directly support the CEO’s plan.

The most amazing thing about Information Intelligence is that it works in every company and for every plan. It isn’t a new strategy or approach – instead, it enhances and supplements the mission and goals already in place, adding to the plan and vision – not changing them. Grade – A.

7. Results are what count. CEOs know they must deliver tangible and intangible results in their own markets and in the markets of their prospects and customers. It is essential that the issues you plan to talk about help the CEO create positive results for shareholders, customers, and prospects.

When leaders are empowered with Information Literacy skills they become better leaders. Employees become more motivated and more committed when given the skills and the trust to use them. The Internet itself gives us as trainers the ability to offer pre-work assignments, follow-up lessons, evaluations and instant assessment. That gets results. Grade – A.

Are we nuts? Do we really think that our target market is CEOs of big companies? Perhaps we are nuts – since 9 out of 10 people aren’t listening, including CEOs. But, you know what? We’re confident that we can “communicate on the same level as the CEO sitting across the table from us.”

Here’s what we’d tell VITO when we walk in: “Information Intelligence is more than just a collection of new tools, tips and resources – it’s the creativity, ingenuity and innovation that goes into it. The power of Information Intelligence is in you, and it’s in your people.”

So, if you are in charge of a big company, we’ll be contacting you soon. Will you be one of the 1 in 10 who takes our call?

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