How to Get Leadership Buy-In

Ben was sick of having his partner cancel last minute on client meetings. He knew that his clients were annoyed with the practice too and it needed to change. Ben tried subtle suggestions, cc-ing others on "we missed you at the meeting" emails, and proposing firm-wide cancellation policies, but nothing seemed to work. Ben needed buy-in, and he wasn't sure how to get it.

This type of scenario came up during my Integrating Client Service Culture webinar and I wanted to give some tactical ideas here on the topic of buy-in. The tips below are for those of you who dream of a service culture where deadlines are met, emails are returned promptly and systems are crashing due to extremely high call volumes from client referrals.

Getting buy-in, the kind you have to "get" because someone is not just giving it to you, is all about persuasion. And you're not going to persuade anyone to change a culture overnight or in a single meeting that involves listing out the 18 reasons your way is the best way of doing things. Here's how to take some steps in the right direction:

Start Small

  1. Pick a specific action that you would like to see changed.
  2. Determine the underlying causes of the related issues or roadblocks as best you can.
  3. Figure out who the other supporters are who can lend influence to your cause and get their input.

Have a Genuine Conversation

  1. Ask for time to talk about this particular area of client service you'd like to change. Getting the OK on the concept of the conversation keeps your leaders from feeling trapped into accepting a meeting they don't want to be a part of.
  2. Ask great questions in the conversation. What if we could serve our clients even better than we currently are? What are your priorities in serving our clients?
  3. Be genuine in sharing your concerns about the current practices you see and any resulting financial, operational, or personnel problems.
  4. Highlight the benefits for those you're seeking buy-in from, and for the organization as a whole. Check and see if they agree on the benefits or see things differently. Drawing a line from client service to billable dollars or cash flow can generate interest in your topic quickly.
  5. Listen genuinely to the responses you hear. This will be the hardest part. Set aside your agenda and see if you can hear more reasons why buy-in isn't as easy as you think it should be. Then step back and address these with care and concern. Treating your leader's interests as your own will help you see the issue from their perspective and be able to make modifications to get the committed buy-in you're after.

Do you have a success story or struggle in convincing leadership to make a significant change? If so, share it below.

About the author:

Kristen Rampe, CPA, loves helping CPAs and professional service providers get a better understanding what their internal and external clients need and want. They use this information to develop an exceptional client experiences driving higher client retention and increased margins. Check out her blog for great ideas on how to improve your practice!

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