Product Management

4 Tips for Creating a Successful Executive Engagement Strategy

4 Tips for Creating a Successful Executive Engagement Strategy
By Tomas Prochazka
Contents
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The product manager has to wear many hats. And getting buy-in from senior execs can be a heavy responsibility to bear. They’ll look to you as the voice of authority for all things product, sure — but they can still be a difficult audience to persuade!

In this post, we’re going to look at how to influence and communicate with important executives from a product manager perspective… especially if you want to implement a new product management tool across your company.

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1. Identify the most important executives for you to work with — and what they want most

Key stakeholders are frequently broken down into four main categories:

  • The marketing team

  • The sales team

  • The engineering team (namely developers and designers)

  • And executives like leadership and management

… and within these four categories, you’ll find a huge range of objectives.

Each stakeholder will have made it to this place in their career because they are great at what they do. That means they will be goal-oriented and will want to continue having a positive impact on the company’s direction. 

How can you bridge the gap between product, and product management, and what your stakeholders want to achieve?

By fully understanding their motives, you’ll be able to empathize with them. Every demand and feature request they make is based on the assumption that it will somehow help them achieve their goals, so how can you use that to your advantage?

Once you’ve found out what their roles are, you should then ask yourself what they care about and then tailor your communication to what they are most invested in so that they will be more engaged in the process. 

When in doubt if a stakeholder is a key one, ask yourself the following:

  • “Does this person have veto power to prevent us from launching a product or introducing new product management tooling?”

  • “Is this person directly impacted by the product and its success?”

  • “Has my boss stated that this person is an important stakeholder?”

2. Establish trust with senior execs and stakeholders

Once you’ve identified stakeholders and started to empathize with their needs, you then need to prove that you are reliable — how can they trust you to help them achieve their goals?

Trust can be established by organizing either in-person or remote meetings to build an ongoing collaborative relationship.

The end goal of these meetings should be to better understand their concerns and constraints and openly ask questions in order to foster trust on both sides of the table.

We’d recommend no fewer than 10 people in each meeting, to keep the feedback direct and relatively private.

3. Set up regular two-way communication

We mentioned flexing your communication approach from one executive group to another — and that’s a point worth fleshing out in a little more detail. 

Firstly, it’s important to establish a frequent dialogue between you, the product team and your stakeholders. A hastily-typed email or Slack message every two weeks won’t cut it here! Instead, you should aim for meaningful two-way communication, where both sides can ask questions and get relevant updates.

For C-Suite executives, this might look like:

  • High-level, vs focusing on the pragmatic day-to-day details

  • Enthusiastic and positive

  • When trying to get buy-in for new product management tools, emphasize how those tools will make the business more profitable, efficient and customer-centric.

For the marketing team, it might be:

  • Collaborative and creative 

  • Using overviews of the product’s target user persona, how this product fits into the market, and potential stories that can be built around the product

  • When trying to get buy-in for new product management tools, you can highlight the tool’s ability to gather customer feedback (if applicable) and measure the product’s performace.

When speaking to the sales team, keep your communication focused on:

  • How existing processes and roadmaps are focused on solving customer needs

  • What suggestions they have for bumping the team’s sales numbers

  • When trying to get buy-in for new product management tools, the sales team will also be interested in gathering user insights and how you’ll better prioritize which features to build next.

Last but certainly not least, be sure to touch on the following for the engineering team:

  • What the product needs to do (and why it needs to do it)

  • How the features are intended to benefit the target audience

  • When trying to get buy-in for new product management tools, this stakeholder group will be most interested in the day-to-day value a new toolset will bring to development.

When in doubt, your important stakeholders will be more inclined to listen to you when you back your reasoning and decisions with real data. When disagreeing with a stakeholder’s opinion or suggestion, it’s recommended to bring up customer feedback or market research in order to steer them in the right direction.

4. Use a tool like airfocus

airfocus is the first modular project management platform that centralizes feedback from various channels and teams to uncover actionable insights. Cut down on the noise and organize inputs as they come in, whether they be from external or internal stakeholders.

But airfocus doesn’t just help gather information from stakeholders, it can help keep them in the loop with product development as well. An airfocus roadmap is easily shared with anyone who wants or needs to see it — and that makes important executives feel included and engaged on key decisions… without the usual back-and-forth that that usually entails.

Executive engagement is hard. It varies from company to company, and product to product.

That's why everything in airfocus is designed with flexibility in mind so that you can put together the tools that work for you.

Check out how we’ve helped tons of other businesses to manage and communicate product strategy, prioritize work, build roadmaps, and connect feedback to solve the right problems — so that you can do the same.

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