What is Executive Interviewing? Surveying Hard-to-Find B2B Leaders

Business to business B2B. Business model on Virtual Screen.

Generally, market research surveys aim to reach decision-makers, whether this is household consumers or corporate professionals. When comparing the differences between B2B and B2C audiences, corporate B2B professionals and customers can be much harder to reach.

Executive interviewing is based on the notion of surveying high-level business professionals.

However because this audience works in a business environment, high response rates can be much harder to achieve. This is perhaps the biggest challenge when conducting in-depth interviews (IDIs) with B2B leaders and decision-makers. 

In this blog post, our market research company discusses the basics of executive interviewing, how best to recruit these hard-to-reach executives, and what the process of an executive interviewing study looks like. 

What is Executive Interviewing?

Executive interviewing involves an interviewer speaking with business professionals or experts within a particular industry. 

Corporate decision-makers often include titles such as Owners, Presidents, Vice Presidents, CEO, and CFOs – all titles who have the power to decide where their budget dollars will be spent and what direction they’d like their organization to grow in.

For this reason, many B2B businesses are hoping to speak to these c-level executives to better understand their goals, budgets, and needs for the coming month, quarter, and year.

So much so, organizations with this objective hire market research firms to either recruit business professionals to respond to a survey, take part in an interview, or administer the entire executive interview process. 

Learn more about what makes B2B market research different

How are Executive Interviews Conducted?

An executive interview typically involves a professional interviewer asking corporate decision-makers a series of questions by phone or in person.

If done in person, the interview can take place at a market research facility, the participant’s office, or a common meeting ground. 

Pros of IDIs

The advantage of conducting executive market research in-person or over the phone instead of online channels is that it allows for more in-depth and detailed feedback.

A professional interview can follow a discussion guide set forth by either the sponsor of the research or the market research firm.

If a c-level professional answer the questions do not offer a lengthy response, the interviewer can simply ask the participant to elaborate on their answer. This is a luxury that cannot be had through email or online surveys.

Pros of online surveys

With that being said, qualitative research such as IDIs or online focus groups can be more costly than common forms of quantitative research. Additionally, online surveys can be completed in half the time while still offering measurable, high-quality feedback. 

Depending on your budget and objectives for the B2B market research, online surveys may be a better option for you. 

Talking with a full-service market research firm, like Drive Research can help you narrow down your choice. 

How to Find B2B Professionals for Research

The biggest challenge of conducting executive interviews or online surveys is achieving a high response rate. That's because finding B2B professionals and decision-makers are harder to reach than general consumers.

For instance, we often use social media to find research participants. But when comparing B2C and B2B audiences, it is much harder for our ads to attract quality B2B participants, regardless of Facebook offering target capabilities such as "Job Title" and "Industry."

Therefore, a great resource for recruiting B2B professionals is a market research firm that has access to an in-house panel or partnerships with panel companies across the U.S.

A B2B market research company like Drive Research can handle as little or as much of the executive interview project as you need.

Option #1: You are just looking for help with the recruitment of c-level executives

Drive Research can implement our proven recruitment approach with our in-house panel and panel partners. Drive Research will screen all potential participants to ensure they are qualified for the study and schedule the time of the interview at the facility of your choosing.

Our team uses a mix of phone calls, email, calendar invitations, and text messages on the day of the interview to verify they will be in attendance. This process has proven to combat the usual low-show rates seen in executive interviewing recruitment.

Option #2: You are just looking for help with end-to-end project management

There is also the option of a market research firm administering the project from recruitment, to interviewing, to a detailed report of the findings.

This is beneficial in blinding the study so that participants are unbiased and objective. If the research is branded with your company’s logo or a member of your team is conducting the interviews, participants are less likely to give their most genuine feedback.

It is better to interview executives when they are clueless to the point of the study to ensure their commentary is most closely aligned with their true opinions.

step-by-step recruitment process with drive research

Pro Tip: Offer Higher Rewards

Because business professionals likely have busy work and home lives, it can be difficult for them to set aside an hour of their time to answer interview questions.

Therefore, you need to make participating in the marketing research study as enticing as possible.

Our qualitative recruiting company often recommends offering this type of audience a reward or incentive for participating in the market research study. If the stipend is high enough, recruiting B2B professionals will become a lot easier.

The prize offered for participating in an executive interview can vary as it is dependent on a number of different factors.

  • Is the interview in-person or over the phone?
  • If it is in-person, does the B2B participant have to travel to participate?
  • How long is the executive interview?
  • Is the interview during business hours or after business hours?

The answers to these questions can either lower or increase the amount offered. But keep in mind, higher rewards can equal lower market research costs.

Process of B2B Market Research

The process of an executive interview research study with our market research firm follows an organized and structured timeline.

It will vary based on the type of market research: in-depth interviews, focus groups, online surveys, etc.

For the sake of this blog post, we'll share our process for executive interviews, whether that be in-person or over the phone. If you're interested in a quantitative approach, read How Does an Online Survey Project Work?

Our process of interviewing B2B professionals for market research includes:

  1. Contacting a market research company with the details of your project or sending a market research RFP
  2. Selecting a market research partner - in this case, let's say you choose Drive Research
  3. Drive Research will schedule a kickoff meeting to discuss objectives, project timelines, recommendations for incentives, and more
  4. We draft a copy of the executive interview script or survey and share it with your team for approval
  5. We finalize the discussion guide and review content for initial outreach to participants
  6. Our team writes a recruitment screener survey for potential B2B participants to complete and qualify
  7. Qualified participants receive a follow-up, re-screening phone call to confirm their credentials
  8. If qualified for the executive interview, B2B decision-makers are scheduled for an interview  
  9. We conduct the interviews by phone or in-person
  10. Your dedicated project team explores the findings of the executive interviews and drafts a research report
  11. Lastly, we meet with your team to discuss findings from the study, key takeaways, offer actionable recommendations and answer any questions

The report that your team receives for the executive interview study can be as detailed or as summarized as you wish -- whether it be a topline or comprehensive market research report.

Many of our reports include an executive summary, background and methodology, infographic or dashboard, recommendations with action items, and an appendix with question by questions results.

topline vs. comprehensive reporting packages by drive research

Survey B2B Professionals with Drive Research

Drive Research is a market research company located in Syracuse, NY. Our team specializes in recruiting and administering interviews for executive and B2B professionals. 

A successful executive interviewing study relies on feedback from B2B professionals who are notoriously hard to find. Learn how our B2B market research firm can help.

Reach out through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

emily carroll about the author

Emily Rodgers

A SUNY Cortland graduate, Emily has taken her passion for social and content marketing to Drive Research as the Marketing Manager. She has earned certificates for both Google Analytics and Google AdWords.

Learn more about Emily, here.


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