Clarify the purpose of the program
Executive Sponsors should:
- Build sustaining relationships with prospects & customers
- Help buyers and customers solve problems
- Represent the buyer’s perspective in strategic planning
Executive Sponsors should NOT:
- Lean on executive sponsors to hit quota or bonus numbers
- Burn relationships for short-term results (i.e. hard sell)
- Swoop in as a hero to “rescue a deal” by undermining pricing or terms
Establish customer candidate criteria
Which accounts and executives should you invest in? Sales, Marketing and Customer Success teams can recommend an account and individual for executive sponsorship. Each candidate should be assessed using a known, objective criteria.
Create and continuously improve a sponsee brief about the individual and the account. The brief should include:
- Why sponsor this person and account,
- Unique interests,
- Potential things in common,
- Account business conditions and strategic considerations
- ideal outcome of the executive relationship.
Briefs should be updated quarterly by the account team to ensure the executive is always current and insightful on their sponsee.
Establish criteria such as:
- Potential lifetime account value
- Account influence or impact on market
- Individual influence or impact on market
- Interest or commitment to you
- Near term capacity for growth
Create a weighted scoring system to assess candidates
- Create bands of “hard data” to inform scores for consistent scoring
- Marketing program manager can score candidates and existing sponsorees – some sponsorees may need to transitioned out of the program
- Every quarter, the GTM Leadership team should assess candidates, score and outcomes
- Evaluate the list – is the weighting of the criteria generating a list of candidates that matches intuitive priority? Don’t be afraid to re-weight the criteria and re-score if not. It’s an iterative process.
- Eliminate candidates that do not qualify at this time – your executive cannot only serve a few executive sponsorees
Understand who makes a good executive sponsor
Executive sponsors should be:
- Comfortable building relationships with strangers
- Willing to work hard, both internally (going to bat for customers) and externally (through difficult customer conversations)
- Willing to spend 20% of their time on buyer enablement and sponsee engagement – at least 8 hours per week.
Create a executive sponsorship capacity plan
- Number of sponsee (individuals) per executive
- Number of executives who would be good sponsors
- Multiply the two and that’s the maximum number of customer sponsee
Match sponsees to executives
- Cut off at the number of candidates that equal the capacity number
- Review the score of the candidates
- Try to match personalities and interests
Not only do templates make engaging as an executive sponsor much easier for your busy executives, but using templates provides better data to improve upon your program and sponsorship communications. Additionally, templates allow marketing to provide very high-quality, polished communications and events to create an on-brand executive experience.
Create templates for:
- Introducing the executive to the sponsee
- Creating interest in meeting or talking
- Sharing thought leadership materials such as slides or videos
- Establishing a regular opportunity to talk about their business and challenges
- Inviting the sponsee to a private event
Create a cadence and playbook
- Create a playbook for the cadence of executive sponsor relationships and events (dinners, luncheons, meetings at major industry events) to create consistency
- Consider using a sales cadence management system such as Salesloft or Outreach.io to ensure regular contact, visibility into contact, metrics for the program
- Assign a sales or business development representative to partner with the executive on starting, stopping and improving the sequence through personalization
- The executive can and should engage outside of the sequence as needed but ensure that such communications are noted in the CRM so that the account and customer success teams are informed.
Report and Review – generate monthly and quarterly reports on the executive sponsorship program – filtered by executive, region, account team, industry, customer size or other segmentation criteria in use.
- Number of executives and sponsees
- Number of engagements
- Duration of sponsee relationships
- Growth or change in accounts during relationship
- NPS for sponsees and their accounts
- Direct or influenced revenue from executive sponsorship program
Enable executives to be excellent sponsors
The Account Executive is the quarterback of the account. Working with Marketing (see Templetize), the AE can either using an automated outreach system or create a cadence of ticklers for the executive to touch base. Make it easy for them to do so:
- Provide detailed updates on the state of the sale/account prior to executive outreach
- Shortcut executives from having to remember key actions – keep it on your calendar, don’t expect it on theirs.
- Facilitate executives’ action with draft emails and personal touches for the relationship
- Correlate directly to activity on an account – make the timing make sense and not be self-serving.
- Measure and monitor so you can iterate from experience to improve your future processes