How do you approach stakeholder management differently based on the team you're talking to?
Never underestimate the importance of understanding different perspectives. For any given topic, Leadership, the Board, Sales, Customer Success, Marketing, Professional Services, Product Marketing, and/or Finance bring unique views, based on their experience, biases, and needs (i.e. “what’s in it for them?”). Depending on the topic and the audience, catering messaging, format, and the level of detail is key to getting a point across, communicating an update, reaching a decision, or asking for an action to be taken.
- Make meetings and updates effective: Time is valuable - make the best use of it when the time comes to work across stakeholder teams. Setting expectations before meetings and providing an agenda with advanced content to review are two of the best ways to earn stakeholder trust and show that you value their time and participation. When a meeting starts, be purposeful, take a moment to outline what the goal of the meeting is, what the desired outcome is, and what is needed from whom. Attending meetings isn’t a hobby (at least for most …?), so if someone does not need to provide input or leverage the information being shared, there is no need to invite them. The more people in a meeting, the less productive it usually is and stakeholders will check out, being less engaged when you truly need them in the future.
- What’s in it for them: Holding meetings across multiple stakeholder teams takes time, especially when communicating updates or asking for input. While it seems efficient, avoid the urge to hold large, cross-team meetings across all stakeholders. It might save time, but the goal is to gain buy-in, support, or initiate an action from your stakeholders, and sticking to large meetings will dilute those results. Instead, vary the meeting cadence, holding a mix of large, cross functional sessions between smaller, catered meetings with individual stakeholder teams or leaders. This mix keeps stakeholders engaged and, most importantly, enables you to focus on just what Finance needs from you (and vice versa), what Marketing needs, and so on.
- Check in first: Ask stakeholders what’s important to them and spend time to understand why. Does certain content need to be delivered in a specific format? Is there an existing meeting schedule in place? Has one team already been through enablement on the latest operational dashboard but not another? It’s quick, easy, and a mistake to assume what different stakeholder teams need. While it feels like it takes more energy, taking time to ask questions up front is an investment to save everyone’s time down the road, avoiding the need for follow up “clarification” meetings and calls, and always pays off.
- Big points and details: Old adages like “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them” weren’t written by accident. Somebody, somewhere, at some point in time needed to get someone else to make a decision, take an action, remember something, stop doing something and who knows what else. Different stakeholders have different needs and that means one size rarely fits all. To meet the needs of most stakeholders, use a common format every single time; start with what they’re about to see (a table of contents of sorts), what the action being requested is, then present the content as succinctly as possible to arm the stakeholder(s) with the information they need to act. Is that enough? Don’t some teams need more information than that? Absolutely, and that’s where the detail section comes into play (this may or may not be an appendix in all cases) – add the details below as needed, specific to, for example, what Finance might need but the leadership team may not. While headers like “TL;DR” work, they don’t always go over well in professional settings (i.e. know your audience). Help each stakeholder team help you by providing just what each needs, in a format they can consume and move on.
- Summarize and anticipate: Just delivered a project update? Rolled out compensation plans? Updated Customer KPIs? After changes are rolled out, invest time to build and communicate a summary of what just changed and why each stakeholder audience should care (i.e. how it will impact them). As experts, When teams are busiest, important “after action” communications can fall by the wayside as people rush to the next to-do. Arguably, when teams are busiest, keeping stakeholders informed is more critical than ever, with those stakeholders often needing to update others on their respective teams.
It’s important to understand the goals and challenges of the teams you’re working with. I’ve found that by considering their priorities and their communication styles you can improve your partnership tremendously. I am going to give some examples, however this is not meant to overgeneralize because teams differ at different companies. Here is how it works for me now:
Go to Marketing Leadership (Sales, Marketing, CS): It’s important to communicate how your work aids in achieving these team’s goals. Focus on outcomes like by increasing sales efficiency at this stage in our funnel, we’ll increase rep capacity and revenue by X. With this group, I also aim to provide frequent updates. These are busy, fast-paced teams, so it’s important to be proactive in asking for what you need from them and keeping them informed on project progress.
Executives: For executives, I try to differentiate projects as “scale projects” / “foundational work” versus “revenue-driving” / "more iterative, immediate impact work". Then I try to focus on communicating the expected outcomes from RevOps project. With executives, it’s also important to simply listen and ask the right questions to get the context and strategic input that’s enables RevOps to effectively prioritize and execute on the organizations vision.
Data / Product / Engineering: With these teams, they often want to be involved early when there are RevOps dependencies on them. Involving them in shaping solutions has helped transform my relationships with these teams. I also like to position RevOps as a team that can help translate go-to-market strategies for our technical counterparts so that they develop the ability to naturally consider the implications of their work on go-to-market as a whole in the future.