You’re still managing customer deals with Excel files, email communication and approval meetings. The information you need is tied up on someone’s PC. You can’t recall if Mrs. Sales got back to you about the latest Sysco deduction policy. You sat in a three-hour meeting to discuss rolling over GPO pricing for the next fiscal year. You know there’s a more efficient way to monitor and respond to trade spend activity.
There IS a better way to manage trade spend. Implementing a trade promotion management (TPM) system impacts the bottom line, while managing the end-to-end trade spend process. A TPM system will automate workflows and act as a repository for all transactions and documentation. Better yet, TPM systems offer analytical capabilities and data visualization. Plus, it’s user-friendly and the software supplier’s staff is comprised of folks who spent time in their career doing the exact job you’re doing right now. They get it. You’ll have control, you’ll be able to evaluate deals effectively, and you can easily search for specific activities.
Now that you’re ready to ditch the lengthy Excel sheets, never-ending email chains and long meetings, you need a thoughtful plan as you seek to drive change and garner executive support in your organization. How do you do that exactly? Let’s look at the critical steps required to establish an executive sponsor for trade spend and promotion management software application. Get ready to lead tactical changes, it’s in your power!
What is an Executive Sponsor?
To create conditions for successful software implementation, you’ll need a C-level sponsor. This person is key to success, as he/she ensures a project’s goals are aligned with the business strategy. He/she will help overcome resistance and garner cross-functional support. They will continue to champion the initiative and engage with others to pursue change.
Why Do I Need an Executive Sponsor?
Should you go it alone? Probably not. Most enterprise software solutions aren’t implemented based upon a solo recommendation. Therefore, executive sponsorship is critical. When a C-level employee becomes a champion for the effort, he/she will become an “executive recruiter” of sorts, working to establish the interest of others and achieve consensus to move forward.
The Game Plan
1. Identify your desired executive sponsor
- Decide who the sponsor should be. Consider the key pain points in your trade management process. Who feels the most angst? Is it the Director of Finance? Maybe it’s the VP of Sales? Perhaps someone in Brand Management? Consider the individual’s receptivity to new technology, openness to change and their ability to influence their executive peers. Outline this person’s points of interest and areas of concern in painstaking detail. You’ll need to map your trade management solution to their profile to demonstrate value.
2. Connect the dots
- Consider your relationship with the individual you identified as the executive sponsor. Create associations and intentionally build out your team of influencers.
3. Assemble relevant business intelligence
- What other business priorities may be competing with your sponsor’s attention? What does the budget planning cycle look like? Do opportunities exist to address a pressing business concern? Review the landscape holistically and evaluate those insights when you outline your business case (step four, below).
4. Outline the business case
- Outline the key benefits and potential obstacles of the trade management software integration and map these with focused intention to your organizational intelligence. Map the value points of your initiative compared to competing initiatives.
- Did you learn that IT is triple booked on projects for the next few months? Use that time to pursue your executive sponsor and build the case for change.
- How much time will be saved once the application is implemented? What are the fiscal benefits associated with implementation? What’s the ROI? How long will it take to train the necessary individuals to use the application?
- NOTE: the TPM provider should be able to help you answer these questions.
- Extra Credit! Include links to testimonials and case studies from the TPM provider. Note any direct conversations you’ve had with individuals and companies using the software.
- Blacksmith Applications Research Insight: Research indicates that decision makers are mostly interested in time savings, ease of use, software functionality and capabilities in alignment with the organization’s needs, and of course – cost. [Research by Pentallect Partners, Inc.: Software Purchase Drivers]
5. Solicit feedback on your business case
- When you share the business case with others, you can confirm that you haven’t constructed the plan with personal blinders. Reach out to those folks who are part of your influencer circle. Work with this team to build a unified approach (strength in numbers). Think about what will be received well, what hasn’t been thought through, are you articulating the application’s value in a way that will resonate with your sponsor?
6. Ask for a meeting with your target executive
- It’s time to meet with your target executive! Send him/her your business case in advance. Clearly explain that you’ve identified a solution to address trade spend process and analytical opportunities and that you’d like to walk them through your findings and recommendation. It may make sense to include your influencers in the meeting.
7. Take the stage
- As the project leader, you’ve initiated internal support and will focus on the day-to-day execution of the project. Be clear with the executive sponsor about your goals and expectations and their responsibility given their involvement with the project.
- “Today, I want to share information about a trade spend software solution that addresses [specific pain point]. I’m interested in hearing what questions you have about the solution and what obstacles you believe exist. I would also like to discuss potential next steps.”
8. Continue to support your sponsor
- If you get your target to embrace his/her role as the executive sponsor, don’t stop providing them with value. Be the Robin to their Batman. Get answers. Schedule meetings. Request demos. Help your sponsor move closer toward the goal line. Make sure your sponsor always has what is needed to continue advocating for the solution.
What if I Fail?
Ideally, if you do your research, this won’t be the case. But, if your efforts fall flat, find out why. Was there a lack of alignment in needing a trade spend solution? Bad organization timing? Disbelief in the proposed solution – if yes, why? Does your sponsor think the application is too expensive? When you recognize the reasons your project change wasn’t supported, you will be able to A) address his/her concerns with an appropriate follow-up, or B) seek a new executive sponsor who may have better alignment to the initiative.
Now, you know exactly what to do to secure an executive sponsor. So, what are you waiting for? Get started!
- If you want to start a movement in your organization, watch this TED talk. It’s just the right amount of silly and brilliant. And remember, you’re the first crazy dancer in this situation, so it’s important that your executive sponsor be the second crazy dancer. Watch the video. It will make sense, I promise.
- If you want to “sell” your ideas inside and outside of your organization, read this book.