6 Surefire Ways to Turn Off a CMO

March 25, 2021

As we’ve discussed before, CMOs are some of the busiest executives in the C-Suite. In today’s digital-first world, CMOs have had to not only educate themselves on constantly evolving communications channels, but train their marketing team, and lead the entire company to financial success. Already pressed for time (CMOs stay in office for 4.1 years on average, while CEOs average 8 years, according to Korn Ferry), these leaders face a ton of noise in the market. Sales professionals reach out to them via social media, their inboxes, voicemail, and in-person. Remember trade shows and live events?

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However, today’s CMOs are more proactive about finding solutions. They’re not sitting around waiting for a salesperson to call and solve their problems. Instead, they’re asking their networks, looking to industry experts, reading online reviews, and researching products. 

Bad sales reps have made it harder. Lazy reps give their colleagues a bad rap when they don’t do their research or copy the same “Insert company name here” email template. Inundated with generic and/or irrelevant sales messages, it’s no surprise many CMOs immediately hit delete. Unfortunately, the bad ones make it that much harder to stand out.

Time is a precious asset. There’s not enough of it in a day, and CMOs can’t waste it on a half-baked sales pitch. Below are six surefire ways to turn off a CMO. But, don’t worry, keep ready for details on how to connect with them the right way.

1) You spam them.

As a salesperson, it’s hard enough to reach a CMO — don’t be part of the problem. Yes, it can take a lot of outreach to finally connect with a prospect. However, check your email engagement stats. Are they being opened? Are recipients taking the time to read your message, clicking on links, engaging with shared resources, or filling out forms? If no one is drawn in by your content, it’s time to reevaluate your approach. Experiment with copy length, tone, and subject line (but do so one at a time to see which change caused the shift). Also, always tailor the message to the recipient, not to your own preferences.

2)  Or worse, you spam their whole company.

Sending the same message to a ton of people at the organization is a huge red flag. Even remotely, colleagues talk. It will be obvious that your message is generic and designed to appeal to a wide-swath of prospects (or that everyone was BCC’d). Find the right contact to engage by using a sales intelligence platform (hello, Winmo) to research names, titles, agency relationships, and more.

3)  You’re too focused on fads.

Remember “Is it cake?” from last summer? After 48 hours what started as a cute Twitter joke became annoying and redundant. It felt like every brand jumped on board and attempted to keep it going for weeks (because that’s how long it took the legal department to approve a meme). Be just as discerning when it comes to sales fads and drop them when they get too popular. Take video sales emails, for example. While it might catch your prospect’s eye the first time they receive one, by the time thought leaders are espousing the trend on LinkedIn, CMOs are likely being inundated with a million of the same email format.

4)  You’re using shady tactics.

Start the relationship off on the right foot by being open and candid. Spoofing a local dial number, for example, or leaving a vague-but-urgent “call me back right away” voicemail is guaranteed to irritate the prospect. Not what you want. Explain exactly who you are and how your product or service will make the CMOs life easier. No one cares about your features, they care about your solutions.

5)  You’re cold calling them.

Just skip the cold call when reaching out to executives. Some 90% of C-level execs ignore them anyway and will never be able to have a non-scheduled, same-day call. Instead, put the effort into tailoring your email pitch to capture the CMOs attention and get them to schedule for a later date. And please, please don’t reach out with a calendar invite. It’s pushy and invasive.

6)  You gave ’em the ole bait and switch.

Executives hate it when networking turns into a thinly disguised sales pitch. No one wants to feel like they just got worked over. You want the prospect to feel good at the end of the sales process and like they’re entering into a partnership. Be upfront and honest about your intentions, while still leaving room to have human-to-human conversations. It’s fine to sprinkle in personal questions and connections and remember it’s all about balance.


  • Put in the work: Do your research, build a relationship, and help them solve their problems.
  • Remember that they’re researching, too: CMOs, like all leads, are likely already reading articles and talking to their networks about their challenges. Figure out where they hang out online (Slack, LinkedIn, Twitter) and be a part of the conversation. How can you add value?
  • Look at your brand: are they likely to come across your solution when they’re out there researching? A strong brand, appearing in searches, peer recommendations — these make a huge difference in speeding up the sales cycle.

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If you liked this blog post, check out:

  1. Why Marketing Decision Makers Aren’t Returning Your Calls
  2. Thanks In Advance: The Do’s and Don’ts of Sales Email Etiquette
  3. Why Are There So Many CMO Shifts Right Now?

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