You finally got your big career break and you are leading a project that requires executive approval. Now what? Intuitively you know that this is a chance to make a first impression on the right people, but you have no idea how to approach this process. There is no set procedure and your leader can be good or bad at this, so going to your boss might not be the first right step. Where do you begin?
Overcommunicate – Know your audience
Begin by scheduling pre-briefings with each individual executive. Do not forget the Chief Counsel or the Chief HR Executive. When it comes to the Exec Crew, every function weighs equally. You never know who might help (or block) your business case. If you are asking for millions of dollars to build CX expertise in the enterprise, or to finally connect underlying systems that yield bad customer experience, you might find that the Chief HR executive is so passionate about customer experience that he/she is the loudest voice in the room.
Your job does not end here. You also need to assess the political capital of each executive. Who has been on the team the longest? Who has the strongest ties to the Board of Directors? The networking power of leaders can be stronger than the hierarchy of power. It is invisible, but it cannot be underestimated.
Nothing is decided in the executive meeting/board room
The moment you realize this you will increase your success of obtaining funding for CX initiatives. You also will realize how much more work you have ahead of you to put the CX roadmap on your organization’s priority list.
The executive meeting is the ink meeting. It is the show. The real approvals and conversations that you need take place before that meeting. If these conversations do not take place, nothing gets approved. Many times, I have peers bring business cases to the executive committee without “pre-socializing” them. In the meeting, they are asked various business and political questions that they are unable to answer and nothing gets accomplished. The best case scenario is to get that approval “pushed” to the next meeting. One thing is for sure: no money or support is gained that day.
Cover all your bases
Never underestimate the power of the VPs and Directors. If you think you only need to sell CX to an executive to introduce the customer as a mindset, you are very wrong. The first thing a good Executive does is turn to his VPs and Directors and say “What do you think about this?” If you have not sold your agenda to them, the conversation is over.
Think of this work as an election campaign. Assess the benefits of each stakeholder or group in your organization. If there are losers in the landscape who, by design, will hurt, you need to acknowledge that every chance you get, in public. And you must thank them for sacrificing themselves for the greater good.
Have the keys to the gate
The Executive Assistants must be your friends. All. of. them. I know it is basic, but somehow, people still fail to follow this principle. Access is everything. Without it you have no voice, no audience. Take care of them every holiday season. Even without an occasion. Just do it.
Getting executive buy-in is not easy, but it is not an impossible task. Remember: think like a CX expert, know your Customer, personalize your message, and express empathy when you deliver your pitch. People want the same things, regardless of the setting – to be heard, considered and respected. Remember this, and design your approach accordingly.