Whether you are an Administrator focussing on one Salesforce Org or a Consultant looking after an entire portfolio, some of your time will be spent advising senior management and making recommendations.
Relationships with C-Suite stakeholders can be extremely beneficial as these individuals are often very influential and have a significant role to play in the success (or otherwise) of your projects. Administrators, Architects, Marketers and Consultants alike should be equipped with adequate tools and be aware of how to manage the relationship with C-Suite stakeholders.
However, many people find it intimidating when talking to senior management, especially if most of their experience has been leading teams or managing others and they are now expected to report on their [large-scale] Salesforce project to the C-Suite.
Here are five ways to make it easier to get your message across to senior management:
1) Start with the big picture
Senior managers are busy people, and they haven’t necessarily got the time to understand the detail of your project.
Start by explaining the big picture. The most important thing you can do when communicating with those in the C-Suite is to understand what is and isn’t important to them. Your message will be more effective when it’s framed with this in mind. Think in terms of what this executive needs to know versus what you want them to know.
The key to successful communication is to keep the message clear and concise, such as focussing on the impact to the company, whether that’s potentially negative (e.g. a hit to reputation or staff members being replaced) or positive (e.g. increased efficiency, higher revenue, or customer satisfaction).
If they want more detail, they will ask for it, so make sure that you are always prepared to answer any follow-up questions. It is imperative to know the detail behind the big picture. For your own development, make a note of the follow-up questions and ask yourself if your initial pitch could have been clearer.
2) Communicate in a meaningful way
The best way to speak to someone in a senior leadership position is to speak their language, so have a firm understanding of the company’s goals and the metrics used to measure progress. Whether it’s a budget request for more licences or additional Salesforce features you’d like green-lighted, speak about it in terms of those goals and metrics.
Paint a picture of the Return on Investment (ROI) by showing the productivity or efficiency gains tied to your request and the risks of taking no action.
3) Stick to the Facts
Keep in mind that facts and evidence are more important to an executive than your personal comments and opinions. If you are making a prediction about how your customer satisfaction metrics will improve if you roll out Service Cloud to your Customer Service team, for example, use as much hard information as you can to support that prediction.
An executive’s decisions are only as good as the information they possess, so make sure you have the data to back up your assertions and justify your requests.
4) Understand that they don’t know it all
We often think of senior managers as the fountains of all wisdom. After all, they have significant authority and influence within a company and they’ve reached the heights of the C-suite due to their experience and expertise.
However, they don’t know everything, and this is especially the case for people who have only recently taken on a senior management job. For these managers, they will be learning on the job and adapting to a new role. On top of that, they are just normal people, subject to the stresses of the workplace like everyone else. So acknowledge that they might not have all the answers and could actually be looking to you for recommendations or guidance.
5) Build good relationships
Good relationships with your senior management team will pay off over the long term. It does require continual communication and an open and honest approach to dealing with their questions, but good relationships are imperative for a project to be considered successful and can help the flow of presentations.
If the senior stakeholders change, you’ll have to start all over again which can be time-consuming and demoralising, but it is important to be persistent. Build up your personal credibility by being trustworthy and demonstrating good leadership skills in your own area. This reputation will also help you when it comes to advising others, regardless of their level in the corporate hierarchy.
Having good people skills is essential to being personally and professionally successful when it comes to completing Salesforce projects, and dealing with people isn’t the easiest part of the job. There is no single way to guarantee engagement from senior management, and while they might be supportive of your project today the situation could quickly change if the business environment does.
However, being able to present effectively to executives and to manage their expectations is crucial for project success, so it really will pay to establish good working relationships and to become a trusted adviser to senior managers.