From the smallest ecommerce startups to the upper echelons of the corporate world, ambitious business people are constantly seeking some form of executive buy-in to take their companies to the next level.
It may seem like a vague buzzword on the surface, but executive buy-in is extremely practical and necessary to move things forward, whether it’s in product innovation, marketing, sales, or even internal processes like HR.
The concept is simple: find a way to convince the top brass at your company to buy into a new strategy, approach, technology, or investment that you believe will improve some aspect of the business. It’s easier said than done, but totally worth the effort.
Let’s talk about how to attain executive buy-in specifically for goal-setting strategies as we enter the new year and rethink how we take care of business in every way.
Focus On People
People form the foundation of every company, every industry, and every customer base. That’s why it should be your first area of focus as you seek executive buy-in for goal setting.
“As we jump into the new year, it’s a perfect time to take stock of your company’s culture and just gauge how people are feeling throughout the organization,” said Jared Hines, Head of Operations at Acre Gold. “Employees are often looking to make changes in their own lives and approach work from a new perspective. When you have the support of your staff, it always makes things easier when getting the executive buy-in you need for any initiative.”
A key factor here is the link between executive buy-in and company culture at large. When leaders are able to listen, receive feedback, and execute something that reflects the interest of employees, it’s a good sign that the culture is healthy and functioning well.
“Many aspects of organizational culture are closely related,” said Claire Hastwell, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Great Place to Work US. “For example, strong communication practices tend to improve employees’ perceptions of leadership effectiveness. Or when employees feel encouraged to bring their whole selves to work, they feel more psychologically and emotionally safe. By taking a holistic view and understanding the connections like these that exist between different facets of the employee experience, you can package a culture initiative as a way of addressing a business need that leadership has already identified.”
With goal setting in particular, employees should be able to speak their minds and present their viewpoints in a clear way. While executives lead the charge in most situations, a fully aligned workforce is necessary to get the job done right.
Focus On Process
It’s one thing to talk about goals in broad strokes, but executives are notoriously practical and process-focused. That means they’ll want to know how your plan works in a realistic sense, and what it will actually take to make it happen.
“From my perspective as an executive, I need to know what’s happening on the front lines in terms of workflow, efficiency, and practical applications,” said Kashish Gupta, Founder and CEO of Hightouch. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to overhaul the entire sales strategy or just create new goals for your department in the upcoming quarter. Explain to me in real terms how you’re going to do it, what the benefits will be, and I’ll be happy to hear you out. I think most execs would agree on these points.”
Another key takeaway here is being concise, since executives face packed schedules every day. The more precise and compact your presentation, the more responsive they will likely be.
“Everyone knows that time is money, so you’re doing everyone a favor by getting straight to the point with your plan and the process you envision,” said Steven Vigilante, Head of New Business Development at OLIPOP. “Address the real-world implications of your plan right off the bat. Explain what needs to change and why. Cut out all the fluff and frame it in a way that makes executives look good. These will all play to your advantage and get you the buy-in you need.”
If that presentation looks a bit long and convoluted, now is the time to trim it up.
Focus On Technology
Nearly every business process is powered by technology nowadays, and many goals for your company can be achieved through the correct implementations.
With this in mind, be sure to address the tech aspect when looking for buy-in of all kinds, even if it doesn’t seem directly related to software or IT.
“Executives are constantly being pitched on new tech, since it’s so universal in the modern business world,” said Woody Sears, Founder of HearHere. “Even if you’re trying to create a new goal-setting strategy for your team or department, execs will want to know how this relates to technology, because these choices have ripple effects throughout the entire organization. Convey the pros and cons of the new tech you’re proposing, or explain why not upgrading is a better decision. The boardroom will appreciate it.”
For an initiative like goal setting, technology might not play a central role in the same way that a design team or support staff might need new tech. However, reaching those goals could necessitate bigger tech budgets, so don’t overlook that possibility.
“Most executives will be on board when discussing goals and having high hopes for the future,” said Brett Sohns, Founder of LifeGoal Investments. “But if you spring a huge new expense on them out of nowhere – like new databases or information management software – they might get cold feet quickly. Make sure you are upfront about your goals, but also recognize that achieving those goals can get expensive rather fast.”
Luckily, we’re living in a world with plenty of affordable software options for every business, and many goals can be accomplished without huge investments in tech.
Focus On the Big Picture
We all set goals on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Executives do this, too, but they’ll need to know about the big picture and long-term strategy to get the full buy-in you want.
“You look at tech giants, automakers, and other major players, and realize they are planning for years – even decades – in advance, on all fronts,” said Michael Hennessy, Founder and CEO of Diathrive. “Maybe you don’t need that level of planning for a smaller company doing ecommerce or a specialized service, but there’s a lesson to be learned: look at the big picture, and execs will listen.”
When you start thinking in broader terms and vision a trajectory for your company in the years to come, you begin to see things from an executive perspective – very crucial for buy-in.
“Put yourself in the CEO’s shoes and consider the priorities of the executives you’re speaking to,” said Daniel Sathyanesan, CEO and Founder of Winden. “If your new goal-setting game plan can help them look good and move the company forward in some way, you’ll have no issue getting buy-in. Take the focus off yourself for a moment, because it’s not about you. Ultimately, the company’s success (or failure) reflects executive decisions and their vision, so you need to work within their view of reality and be accommodating.”
Focus On The Bottom Line
Here’s a final golden rule for getting executive buy-in no matter what: money matters, so mention it more often.
“You can talk all you want about goals and ambitions and what you want for your team, but unless your plan is beneficial for the bottom line, you won’t get the buy-in you need from the boardroom,” said Chris Bridges, CEO of VITAL. “Talk about what your strategy is going to mean in terms of budgets, earning potential, and ROI. Bring up any costs you anticipate and be transparent about it, rather than shuffling them under the rug. When you’re able to level with executives on the financial side of things, you’re giving yourself a huge leg up.”
Let’s not forget about risk management, either. Executives are highly attuned to risk in all aspects of the business, and their tolerance for risk may differ depending on the department.
“On the risk side, it’s about adding up all the risks with their probability and impacts into an overall number,” said Rob Bogue, Consultant and Writer at Thor Projects. “Here, the key is a risk-adjusted loss. You multiply the probability of the occurrence (or frequency, if you know it’s going to happen more than once) by the cost of the occurrence. If there’s a 1 in 10 chance of a $100 loss, then you count that risk as a $10 risk. The individual estimates of risks aren’t as important as what happens when you can accurately summarize these risks. If you can’t make the financial case for your project, it’s not likely to be approved.”
If you feel like executive buy-in is always just out of reach, it can be frustrating. That’s why we recommend you try out these pro tips and set goals that will bring your company to new heights.