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Tips, Tricks, & Advice

You’re Doing It Wrong: Referencing Your CEO or Boss in Sales Outreach

You’re Doing It Wrong: Referencing Your CEO or Boss in Sales Outreach

by John Roman

2 weeks ago

You’re Doing It Wrong: Referencing Your CEO or Boss in Sales Outreach

You're Doing It Wrong is a series dedicated to uncovering common mistakes salespeople make and offering insights on how to correct them. In this installment, we explore the practice of referencing a CEO or boss in sales communications. Is it a clever strategy or a critical misstep?

Sales professionals are always on the lookout for tactics that can help them break through the noise and get their message noticed. One such tactic is to mention a higher-up, such as the CEO or boss, in their outreach efforts. At first glance, this might seem like a smart way to leverage authority and add credibility. However, this approach often backfires and can harm the salesperson’s credibility. Let's delve into why this is the case and explore more effective strategies for sales outreach.


The Salesperson's Dilemma: Leveraging Authority

In the competitive world of sales, getting a potential client’s attention is half the battle. To achieve this, some salespeople resort to name-dropping their CEO or boss. They might craft an email that appears to be a forwarded message from their superior or reference a conversation with their boss suggesting they reach out. This technique, intended to imply importance and urgency, can often have the opposite effect.

Why Referencing Your CEO or Boss Doesn't Work

Loss of Authenticity and Trust

When a salesperson references their CEO or boss, it can come across as disingenuous. Authenticity is a crucial element in building trust with potential clients. If a prospect senses that the message is not genuine or suspects manipulation, trust is immediately compromised. Clients are savvy and can quickly recognize when they are being manipulated, leading to a loss of credibility for the salesperson and their company.

Perception of Desperation

Invoking the authority of a CEO or boss can also signal desperation. It suggests that the salesperson’s message alone is not compelling enough and needs external validation. This can diminish the perceived value of the salesperson’s proposition. Rather than inspiring confidence, it may lead prospects to question why the salesperson feels the need to rely on someone else’s authority to make a case.

Undermining Your Own Authority

When a salesperson references their CEO or boss, it can unintentionally undermine their own authority. It sends a message that the salesperson is not empowered or credible enough to speak on behalf of the company. Effective salespeople project confidence and competence. They stand on their own merit and expertise, which is more persuasive to potential clients.

Risk of Being Dismissed

Emails and messages that appear to be forwarded from a CEO or boss can often be flagged as spam or dismissed as gimmicky. Decision-makers are inundated with sales pitches and are adept at filtering out what they perceive as low-effort or insincere attempts to get their attention. Genuine engagement and well-crafted, personalized messages are far more likely to be effective.

Legal and Ethical Concerns

Falsifying communication or pretending a message is from someone it is not can lead to ethical and even legal issues. Misrepresenting communication can damage a company’s reputation and lead to potential legal ramifications. Integrity in sales is non-negotiable, and any tactic that compromises ethical standards should be avoided.

Perception of the Prospect

From the perspective of a CEO or any high-level executive receiving such an outreach, referencing another CEO or boss often gives off a negative impression. It can make the prospect feel like they are being passed down the line, suggesting that their business isn't important enough for direct engagement. This can be off-putting, as it implies that the CEO is too busy to personally reach out, which can come across as disingenuous or dismissive. For a busy executive, this tactic can feel like an attempt to artificially inflate the importance of the communication without providing real substance or value.

Better Strategies for Sales Outreach

Personalization and Research

Instead of relying on authority, invest time in personalizing your outreach. Research your prospects thoroughly and tailor your message to address their specific needs and pain points. Demonstrating that you understand their business and challenges goes a long way in establishing credibility and trust.

Building Genuine Relationships

Focus on building genuine relationships rather than quick wins. Engage with your prospects on social media, attend industry events, and become a valuable resource in your field. Building a rapport and establishing a long-term relationship can lead to more meaningful and productive sales conversations.

Value-Driven Communication

Clearly articulate the value you bring to the table. Instead of referencing your CEO, focus on how your product or service can solve the prospect’s problems. Highlight case studies, success stories, and tangible benefits that resonate with the prospect’s needs.

Leveraging Social Proof

While referencing a CEO might not be effective, leveraging social proof can be powerful. Share testimonials from satisfied clients, industry awards, and positive reviews. Social proof from peers and other customers can be more influential than hierarchical authority.

Effective Follow-Up

Persistence is key in sales, but it must be balanced with respect for the prospect’s time. Develop a follow-up strategy that is persistent but not pushy. Provide valuable insights and updates that keep the conversation going without resorting to manipulation.

Training and Empowerment

Sales teams should be trained and empowered to communicate effectively without relying on hierarchical crutches. Continuous training in communication, negotiation, and industry knowledge can equip salespeople with the skills they need to succeed on their own merits.



Referencing a CEO or boss in sales outreach might seem like a clever tactic, but it often does more harm than good. It can come across as inauthentic, desperate, and undermining of the salesperson’s own authority. From the perspective of the prospect, especially other CEOs, it can feel dismissive and artificial. Instead, focus on personalized, value-driven communication and relationship-building strategies that genuinely engage and resonate with your prospects. By doing so, you’ll not only improve your sales outcomes but also build lasting trust and credibility in your professional relationships.



How can I build trust with potential clients without referencing my CEO or boss?

Building trust with potential clients involves demonstrating genuine interest and understanding of their needs, providing value through personalized communication, and consistently delivering on promises. Authenticity and transparency are key components of trust-building.

What are some effective ways to personalize sales outreach?

Effective personalization involves researching your prospects, understanding their pain points, and tailoring your message to address those specific needs. Using their name, referencing recent achievements or challenges, and providing relevant solutions can significantly enhance personalization.

Why is leveraging social proof more effective than referencing a CEO?

Social proof, such as testimonials and case studies, provides evidence from peers and other customers that your product or service delivers value. This type of proof is often more relatable and credible to prospects than hierarchical endorsements.

What should I do if I have already used the tactic of referencing my CEO in past outreach?

If you have used this tactic before, it’s important to shift your strategy moving forward. Focus on building genuine relationships, personalizing your communication, and providing clear value. Acknowledge any missteps if necessary and re-establish trust through consistent, authentic interactions.

How can continuous training help salespeople avoid ineffective tactics?

Continuous training helps salespeople stay updated on best practices, industry trends, and effective communication techniques. It empowers them to rely on their own expertise and skills rather than resorting to ineffective or manipulative tactics.

What are the ethical considerations in sales outreach?

Ethical considerations in sales outreach include honesty, transparency, and respect for the prospect’s time and needs. Misrepresenting communication or using manipulative tactics can damage your reputation and lead to potential legal issues. Always prioritize integrity in your sales efforts.


Previous Articles:

You're doing it wrong...Part 1
You're doing it wrong...Part 2
You're doing it wrong...Part 3 (Right Edition)
You're doing it wrong...Part 4
You're doing it wrong...Part 5
You're doing it wrong...Part 6
You're doing it right...



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