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What happens when we’re all trying to engage the same customer executives?

Published October 5, 2022

The world has changed in the last few years. Hybrid working, geo-political upheaval and climate challenges are combining to impact business models everywhere, taking the attention of top executives. This means they have even less time to spend with companies like yours, and that they are more selective when making decisions to engage with suppliers. What can you do to cut through?

1. Think about what’s in it for them

‘That’s enough about me, let’s talk about you – now, what do you think of me?’

I see too many companies asking customer executives to give up their time on advisory boards or in briefing meetings without thinking through what’s in it for them. Once you have identified who you want to engage, research what they’re interested in before you shape your programme. When I helped a communications provider set up their executive engagement strategy, we profiled the execs in their top accounts and spent time thinking about the purpose and benefits of the programme as a whole, as well as each component of it – such as the advisory board. The board helped us to scope other activities, such as benchmarking research, that the whole community would value.

2. Tackle the big issues

I’m seeing more executives who want to collaborate with their peers to work on challenges like climate change, diversity and inclusion, sustainability and the cost of living crisis. Think about how these themes could form part of your programme design.

3. Get your own executives involved

At Inflexion Group, our research shows that more than three quarters of B2B companies allocate executive sponsors to their top accounts. These internal sponsors help achieve the ambition in each account, calling on the client at least quarterly.

I worked with a software company who understood the power of this approach as part of a wider executive engagement strategy particularly well. They were clear about the role of the executive sponsor and spent time up front briefing the account directors and execs involved, rolling out the programme across accounts – and execs – in waves – and reporting wins and lessons learned as they went for everyone to raise their game.

4. Mix online and face-to-face meetings

Online communities are more important than ever. Hybrid working is now the norm and we have to adapt to this new model when we are planning our engagement programme. A great example of this comes from the World Economic Forum, which hosts its annual physical meeting in Davos complemented by ongoing regional and topic-led global task forces working in smaller groups, mostly online.

5. Orchestrate the engagement

The last thing I would urge you to consider, especially if you are working in a complex, international company, is exactly how to orchestrate your executive engagement programme. Will it operate at a local, regional, or global level, or across all three? Which clients will you include and which executive roles will you be targeting for each level? And what kind of activities will you incorporate? Who will take the lead on each one? And how will you know if individual activities and the programme as a whole is working?

Bev Burgess

Bev Burgess

Bev Burgess is the author of Executive Engagement Strategies and a co-founder of Inflexion Group, which helps technology, telecoms, and professional services companies drive account-based growth.

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