How many times…
Have you lost an account because the contacts you interact with changed and you were left blindsided? Only to find out (too late) the client’s Executive Sponsor had a different long term strategic direction to fulfill their business objectives...And you tried to save it by shooting “Hi” and only got crickets?
Or see if this scenario sounds familiar…
You are trying to have a broader understanding of the account and be more strategic in your interactions, but your normal contacts don't have that visibility into the business...When you try to go higher in the totem pole to the Executive Sponsor, you just hit barriers and are left in the dark?
These are very common situations and unfortunately, not having those Executive ties established, can hurt the relationship pretty bad. And as you may have noticed from experience, they can't be built overnight. This is where a well thought executive sponsor program can pay huge dividends.
We invited Alejandro Sanchez to share his experience on successfully rolling out ‘Executive Sponsor’ programs that drove tangible value.
Here’s what he had to say:
From experience rolling this out a couple of times in the past, these are the things I would consider critical to a successful Executive Sponsor program within B2B SaaS organizations...
First and foremost, have executive level, ideally CEO (and maybe board) buy-in - you will demand executive time for this and commitment so they need to be convinced this adds value. So top-down buy-in.
If your company is anything other than customer-centric at their core (product, sales, engineering-focused or other) and therefore customer success is not a strategy and part of the vision but rather a department that handles customers post-sales, your first battle is to bring leaders from other departments to the table. Understand the customer journey, and permeate the philosophy that customer success needs to be tied to every moment of truth at pre-purchase, purchase, launch, adoption, renewal, referral. As others buy into this, executives will then see the value of spending time with customers versus spending it elsewhere. So bottom-up buy-in.
Step 1: Define the goals of this program really well. And hopefully, you have very concrete, specific, and measurable goals. That way you can clearly communicate and track the impact of this program on the health of your customers within the program.
Step 2: To keep track of the progress towards this goal, consider these 5 concrete actions so that your Executive Sponsor can be set up for success with the client’s Executive:
Step 3: The CSM has to do much of the heavy lifting to make sure your Executive comes prepared, ready, and actionable. That means you have to coordinate on the Preparation and the Follow Up:
*Important note: Following up doesn't mean saying yes (and this also needs to be something you and your team are aligned on). Not following up kills a relationship, but breaking promises, can do the same (sometimes more) damage.
Executive sponsor programs are often overlooked as a ‘strategic’ engagement along the customer journey. And many times, they are implemented reactively once a strategic account is at risk. Then it’s too late for that account.
So think about this proactively and across the journey and not as single-threaded. Those executive-level relationships are very important to the health, depth, and breadth of your relationship so work hard to embed their importance in your organization’s client outreach plans.
Your executive team members have the gravitas to connect with key executives and entertain the right conversations that are forward-thinking - don’t get lost in missing the point.
Alejandro Sanchez is the Chief Experience Officer and founder of Jounyfy, a coaching service that helps individuals, early-stage tech startups, and small social enterprises, clearly define their journey towards sustained success. Alejandro has more than 16 years of experience working in social enterprises and tech and has a passion both helping individuals find their ideal professional path and making organizations become much more customer-centric. He has lived in North Carolina since 2017 when he started and later graduated from an MBA from Duke University.
You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org