The Key to Executive Buy-in: Make It Matter to Them

How do you gain executive buy-in? The question is critical. After all, without executive buy-in, you could be left spinning your wheels. With it, however, you can try new and interesting things that could catapult your business to the next level.

But what do you need to do to gain that elusive buy-in?

At the end of the day, it all comes back to everyone’s favorite radio station, WIIFM: What’s in it for me?


Find Out the Problems They Want to Solve—and Solve Them

It sounds simple enough. If you solve the executive team’s problems, you’ll certainly scoot up a notch in their esteem. But what if leadership wants to dictate which products you’re going to develop? Then you’ll need to approach things a little differently. 

Let’s say that one of the company higher-ups tells you, as the product manager, that your team needs to develop a specific item. You can go one of two ways:

  1. Develop the product. That may mean stopping any innovation your team had going and reprioritizing your task list.
  2. Ask about the problem the executive is trying to solve and create a solution that works for their needs while keeping your team energized and thinking.

When you opt for the second option, you create a win-win situation. The executive gets the problem solved, and your team gets to use their considerable brainpower and problem-solving skills to innovate a solution. Yes, it might be the solution that was originally suggested, but you could also come up with a number of viable alternatives. Or even determine that a way to solve that problem already exists within the system.


Create and Nurture Relationships

You’re more likely to secure buy-in if someone believes in what you’re doing, which they will do if they believe in you. And they will believe in you if you have established a relationship based on trust and open communication. 

If you don’t already have a relationship with the executives in your organization, it’s time to lay the foundation.

First, schedule meeting with a key decision maker (or several). Have coffee or lunch and ask pertinent questions about what they’re dealing with and how they measure success. Essentially, you’re creating a relationship and doing a needs analysis.

Armed with your new knowledge, create a report that ties the company’s metrics to your product-development map. Then schedule a lunch and learn where you can share your results—and your team—with the executives. Now you’re making what your team is up to have value to the folks upstairs. Something that previously was ethereal to them is now real. And they can clearly see how it contributes to the bottom line.


As long as you focus on providing value, while tying in to solving problems and building relationships, you’ll be much more likely to secure—and maintain—executive buy-in.

Want to learn more about how to gain executive buy-in? Watch the entire webinar with Paul Young and Mike Belsito, Getting Executive Buy-In.

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Pragmatic Institute

Pragmatic Institute

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