Executive Buy-In: Your Key to Success

By Scott Olson August 15, 2018

Congratulations! You’ve attended some or all of the Pragmatic Institute courses, passed the certification tests, and are armed and ready to dramatically impact the way your organization thinks about product.

Getting the most out of the Pragmatic Institute Framework will require a coordinated effort across your organization. So how do you gain support for an implementation that will affect not only you and your team, but your entire company?

I’ve run technology product management and marketing teams for more than 20 years, and there’s no simple answer to that question. That said, it all begins with a fundamental principle of Pragmatic Institute: Understand the problems of your buyers. In this instance, your company’s leaders and executives are the buyers most relevant to your internal success. You must convince them that not only will implementing the framework fundamentally change the way your company approaches the market, it also will lead to dramatically improved results.

Below are three strategies you can use to gain executive buy-in for implementing the framework across your organization.


"It's is important to frame adoption of the principles of Pragmatic Institute as a way to drive organizational change."

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Strategy #1: Approach executives as buyers who will support your initiative.

To craft a strategy that will gain executive support, you should clearly understand your organization’s strategic objectives, what success looks like for individual executives and the challenges each one faces in achieving their goals.

Traditionally, these roles will be the VPs of sales, marketing, product and even the CEO. Here are some questions—right out of the Pragmatic Institute Buyer Persona Template—that you need to ask:

  • What are the top obstacles or problems that interfere with success in your role?
  • What does winning look like for you? How do you measure success? What are your top MBOs?
  • How do you approach the market today? If you haven’t considered implementing the framework across your organization, why not?
  • How do you manage without using the framework today?


Strategy #2: Establish key KPI targets for each part of the organization that the framework implementation will impact.

This effort builds on the work of understanding your executive buyer personas; you should now recognize how the company’s strategic objectives relate to each department’s goals. Although each organization will be unique in the KPIs they track and target, here are a few examples to help get started:

Marketing

  • Marketing qualified accounts: (framework boxes: Buyer Personas and Nurturing)—Account based marketing depends on engaging with multiple buyers in the sales process. In addition to traditional MQLs, consider adding marketing qualified accounts to focus on and track accounts where more than one of the ultimate decision-makers is engaged. This allows you to track the qualification at an account level based on the number of qualified leads that represent key buyer personas. Tracking conversion rates and close rates for these types of accounts will provide insights into the effectiveness of your account-based marketing efforts.
  • Cost per lead (framework boxes: Marketing Plan, Awareness)—One of the biggest challenges for marketing is effective use of the budget in keeping a steadily growing sales pipeline. A target of your buyer persona development is to identify the appropriate information sources your buyers trust and the language they use in describing their problem and priority initiatives. If you deliver a clearer understanding of a profile of your ideal buyer, the problems they have and where to reach them, your marketing should become more cost effective. Cost per lead should be a shared key metric you track with your marketing and executive leadership. Showing how you impact the effectiveness of marketing spend is a great way to gain awareness and support for your efforts.

Sales

  • Competitive win rates (framework boxes: Win/Loss Analysis, Competitive Landscape)—Deliver clear competitive intelligence and an understanding of the drivers of why you win and lose deals to impact your overall competitive win rate. Sign up to move the needle against your toughest competition.
  • Average conversion time (framework boxes: Buying Process, Sales Tools, Programs)—Want to get buy-in from your VP of sales? Put a plan in place that will help them win more deals in a shorter period of time. Use your market visits to clearly understand the overall buyer journey who is influential in making an ultimate decision, and provide your sales team with the tools to be effective with each audience.

Product

  • Customer satisfaction and net promoter score (framework boxes: Product Roadmap, User Personas, Innovation, Use Scenarios)—At the end of the day, the satisfaction of your customers is a direct measure of how effective you are at understanding not only their problems, but the evolving priorities for your products. This is a higher-level goal that involves many parts of your organization, but take ownership and track how major product launches tie to changes in customer satisfaction rates and your overall NPS.
  • Upgrade/adoption rates for product launches (framework boxes: Market Problems, Product Roadmap, User Personas, Launch Plan)—For any product launch, you ought to have concrete goals for the success of the initiative. Migration to a new version of your product and adoption rates of new capabilities are essential to understanding whether you are effectively identifying new, valuable capabilities that address your users’ problems.

The most important thought here is to attach your prioritized efforts for implementing the Pragmatic Institute Framework to KPIs that reflect your organization’s priorities for the next 12 to 18 months. Paint a clear picture of how framework adoption will result in clearly measurable market success, and adopt those same metrics as evidence of success for your team. That will align your results with the broader strategic initiatives of the business, and take your team from tactical execution to strategic influence.

Strategy 3: Become an ongoing part of the conversation with key executive sponsors.

Now that you understand the executive perspective and have homed in on the critical KPIs that allow you to speak their language, it is time to become a continuing part of their process. Tie quarter-over-quarter metrics to key product team milestones like releases, launches and campaigns.

Since the executives report frequently on these KPIs, this will allow them to see how their investment in the Pragmatic Institute Framework should impact the results they care most about. It is important to frame adoption of the principles of Pragmatic Institute as a way to drive organizational change, not just personal development. In the end, these regular interactions will directly impact your relevance and mobility in the business.

CONCLUSION

To gain executive buy-in, you need to view that team as you would your buyers. It starts with understanding the problems they see in the business and focusing your efforts on solving them.

Then, don’t just speak to the high-level benefits of the framework and how it addresses those problems. Chose specific metrics that will show progress toward achieving company goals in those areas.

Finally, engage in quarterly planning, tie your initiatives to goals and track their success over time. The key is to show the impact of your efforts and how a more systematic product process can result in success for the business over time.

Scott Olson

Scott Olson

Scott Olson is a marketing and product strategy professional with 25+ years of experience leading technology companies. Scott is a founding partner in Compete2Win, a competitive market research and win/loss analysis services company. In addition, he led marketing and product teams at multiple technology businesses, and founded one of the first commercially viable IDS companies, WheelGroup, purchased by Cisco Systems in 1998. More recently, he led marketing and product strategy at iovation, a leader in fraud management and authentication solutions. Scott has worked with the Pragmatic Institute Framework for over 18 years. Connect with him at linkedin.com/in/scottdolson1/ or email him at win@compete2.win.

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