I think it’s super important to read a CEO’s letter to the shareholders. The CEO is ultimately responsible for delivering shareholder value and that letter serves as the contract. You should highlight words that relate to the value you’re offering with our products. Even more importantly, it allows you to speak back to the CEO in his or her own words. That is really a sincere form of flattery.
Also note the words that are not included. For example, I find it interesting the number of CEOs who don’t use “innovation” in their shareholder letter. It will save you and your account team from going in there and blabbing about innovation if it isn’t top of mind for the CEO. Don’t just look at this year’s letter; look back at least four years. You will see what makes up the CEO’s rolling five-year plan and the journey he or she is taking shareholders, customers, employees, and partners on toward their future.
Of course, the CEO’s job is not to deliver everything in that letter without help. It’s to operationally and organizationally parcel out the responsibilities to the executive committee: production, finance, human resources, customer service, operations, and marketing, for example. If you’re meeting with this group, it can be difficult to understand how to map the politics and the relationship for all of these personas, especially when they don’t all agree with each other. The typical reason for tension is the annual budgeting process.
If you get a chance to sit down with this group, have someone on your team watch their faces and body language. Every time one of them writes something down during your presentation, note where it happened and who it was. After the meeting, you can create a chart of this and figure out what your follow-up strategy should be with each individual, based on what sparked his or her interest. It also helps you build a broader set of relationships that ultimately have a vote on whether or not they buy from you.