What role should the Founder of a boutique professional service firm play in the process of acquiring new clients? That of an Executive Sponsor. And how can a Founder perform in this role with excellence? By using executive language. Attend this session and learn about executive sponsor programs and executive language.
Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Hi, everyone. This is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serve podcast. Brought to you by collective 54, the first community dedicated to the boutique professional services industry. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about executive sponsor programs, what they are. Why you should care. Why you should deploy them. Who should own it, how to do it, etc., etc.. And I’m joined today by a member of Collective 54. Her name is Cara Jane Moore, and she’s an expert in this area and she’s got a lot to offer on this topic. So, Karajan, it’s great to see you. Please introduce yourself and your firm to the audience.
Carajane Moore [00:00:52] Well, thanks, Greg. It’s great to be here. I’m CaraJane Moore, president Hunt Big Sales, co-owner and Hunt Big Sales is a boutique professional services firm, and we work with the small and mid-sized businesses to help them grow very rapidly by landing large accounts.
Greg Alexander [00:01:07] Okay, Very good. All right. Well, let me let me start at the top. So what is an executive sponsor program?
Carajane Moore [00:01:14] Well, actually, an executive sponsor program is more of an approach to how you go about sales. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to increase that reality in your pipeline. We’re trying to add some assurances in your forecasting and to increase the close rates of of sales. And so an executive sponsorship is about an approach that’s going to allow us to do those things. So an executive sponsor then is somebody that is at the highest level of the organization you’re going after to secure new services. Right? And so they’re at the highest level that have the business problem that you solve. And that’s really important because oftentimes we end up trying to sell us sell benefits and services instead of solving business problems. And really all biotech firms do is solve business problems. And so they’re at the highest level who have the problem that you solve and then also have urgency to solve it. So what we’re talking about is an approach that allows us to secure those types of people so that they can help us through the sales process to close.
Greg Alexander [00:02:23] Okay. So why do you think this approach and I like that word is the right approach for our community, which is made up of founder led boutique process firms?
Carajane Moore [00:02:38] Sure. So as a smaller firm, as a founder led, oftentimes founders are involved in the sales. So one, it’s easier for them to get to the owners of the prospect companies they’re going after because sales, when you’re solving business problems happens at a higher level in the organizations you’re hunting than the managerial levels that maybe sales reps are only able to get to. So first and foremost, we have to get to that higher level and an executive is the easiest way to do that. But you can’t teach your salespeople how to do that as well. So one, that’s true. Two, we’re trying to solve business problems. And so you need the executive sponsor inside that organization because if it’s a larger opportunity, they’re going to be the ones that are going to be making the decision to buy. But even if it’s not a big opportunity, it’s a regular sales opportunity. If you’ve got the person who has the problem, the chances are you’re going to get more information and better information than your competitors on landing that piece of business, because you’re going to understand the nuances of the problem versus working with procurement who has no problem. And we oftentimes get lost in the idea of procurement h.r. Training some of these departments who actually don’t have problems. They’re hired to execute someone else’s problems.
Greg Alexander [00:03:57] Very good. So if you think about a boutique and the lifecycle stages of grow, scale and exit, in your opinion, is there a good time to start this, a bad time to start this? Like where in a lifecycle should a small services firm think about an executive sponsor approach?
Carajane Moore [00:04:19] Actually, I think that executive sponsor should start the minute you start if you’re selling, which there’s no way we could be in business if we aren’t selling right. If you’re selling the best way to get efficiency and effectiveness and clarity in your sales approach is only speak to the people that have the problems you solve, not their proxies. Mm hmm.
Greg Alexander [00:04:41] So some of our founders, actually quite a few, are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. And when you talk to them about their domain, I mean, you literally go back on your heels and you say, oh, my goodness, this person really is an expert. It’s one of the reasons why I love the professional services industry. However, they’re not great salespeople, not because they can’t be. It’s just they were never trained. They don’t want to be you know, they really love kind of the content of their job. So how do you get them? To be the executive sponsor and sell, Empower. Sell the power.
Carajane Moore [00:05:19] Yeah. So power to power selling is really important. And although they’re the executive for their own organization, we’re trying to secure the executive at their prospects organization, right? Yep. And because they’re a subject matter expert and they are an owner, right. Or he as a founder, they have some gravitas that allows them to get in that door to begin with, which is why most professional services firms grow based on their network of the founders. Right. And we’ve talked about that and seen the founders bottleneck. And then at that particular point in time, as you’re having conversations, all you’re doing is adding clarity to the rules of the process that both you and your prospect are going to go through to determine if you’re the right solution. So we’re not doing anything unethical or behind the doors. This is all clean up, but we’re just making it clear. So even though they don’t have sales backgrounds or they don’t even want to sell, it’s about having an easy conversation. It’s just as simple as me saying, Hey, Greg, we’ve been talking and it sounds like what we’re talking about, I can solve the problem that you’ve got. And in your end, you want us to continue to look at that. But you and I both know there’s some nuances and we’re going to need to get our teams together. So I have to bring my team together. You have to bring your team together. They have to spend some time kind of working through the details. And I just want to make sure before we get started that you’re willing to be a part of that process, that you’re willing to stay engaged, that you’re willing to give me access to your team and data as necessary to go through the sales process. You’re willing to make it a priority. You’re willing to add clarity when maybe some of the people in your team have conflicting ideas or the urgency overcomes the importance and we get into a logjam and getting data and access. Would you be willing to do that for us so that we can work through this process to determine if we can solve this problem the way you need it in the timeframe you’re asking? It’s a that’s all it takes.
Greg Alexander [00:07:21] Yeah. I mean, that was such a beautiful summary of it. STEM to stern. I marvel at your ability to take the complex and make it simple. Let’s, let’s consider a use case here. So let’s say I’m the founder of a 50 person consulting firm and I’m trying to scale my firm, which means I’m trying to solve for the founder bottleneck and replicate myself and others and be a great delegator and build a team. So because of that, I have a business development function of some kind of sales function, and they’re out there trying to win new clients. Where how is the labor separated? Like who does what and when does the founder parachuted?
Carajane Moore [00:08:07] Sure, absolutely. So generally, if you’re on the earlier aid of that lifecycle, right, as a founder, you’re going to be more involved at the beginning of the sales process and then again at the end when you’re closing, as you’re scaling to your point, you should be able to turn over some of those, what we would call traditional prospecting activities to somebody in the business development department who is able to then sell the services. And as a founder, depending on the size of the transaction, whether you should be involved or not really is played at that point. So if you’ve already got somebody in business development and we’re trying to get to the highest person within that organization, you should be able to turn that over because they have to be a seasoned salesperson. If they’re trying to get to an owner. If we’re selling power to power, owner to owner, then they have to have enough. Business acumen and be able to do executive language speak to get in. And there’s three secrets to landing large deals you get sent to whom you sound like. So if you don’t sound like the executive, you’re going to get deferred down to a manager or director. You stay with whom you impress, which means you have to be able to continue conversation and an engagement at that executive level, and you close and grow with those who believe, which means you also have to be convincing. And so that’s part of where maybe a founder comes back in because they’ve got the resources they’re committing to. Yeah. So you should be able to transfer that to a salesperson, but they have to have that executive language, that executive presence and that business acumen to be able to be at that level, to have those conversations.
Greg Alexander [00:09:47] So let’s talk about the executive language. And I know that your firm has an executive language program and how critical it is. And I think it’s so relevant to our community because our founders, they speak in jargon. They speak in like their domain expertise. And if you’re going to be power to power selling to an executive, the person inside to they don’t even understand all the three letter acronyms. So So how can one of our members get themselves trained on executive speak?
Carajane Moore [00:10:24] Yeah, absolutely. Well, like you said, we’ve we’re launching a new program, Big Sale Secrets, and it’s really about mastering that executive language to close more deals. And that’s that language is more it’s less about the details. And this is one of the things that I think is really important. Executives buy to solve a problem of the future. They’re buying a better future. So they don’t need to know the details of how what we’re doing to solve that problem is going to happen. That’s what their team is for, to evaluate. So executive language is talking about the bigger concept, the bigger idea. We’re talking about money, not price. Right. We’re talking about leading through influence, persuasion and executive through some of the data. And especially if we’re talking about our founders speaking jargon, we’re going to back it up. We’re going to lead them through data and the analysis of that data to implications. And as executives themselves, they’d rather make a decision off of an option. So you have to be able to place the options that don’t include you as a part of the decision making framework for your executive buyer, then provide the recommendation for that choice. And so by putting in some of these conversational arcs and tools, how do you use napkin math so that we’re not into the precision, but we’re giving the big picture idea bullet points, bite sized, but a full arc of concept for executives to make a decision now. So our video program does exactly that. And then we’ve added C suite fluency because it’s a new language, right? So we have to become fluent in it. And what we’re learning is in today’s world, we want to consume information so rapidly, but we don’t take the time to practice and perfected. And so when you’re learning a new language, you have to practice that language. I don’t know about you. I try to do Spanish on a Rosetta Stone, and I could read it and I could I could understand it when they said it, but when I tried to say it back to them. Error. Yeah, error because I couldn’t get the role of the hours and all. I mean, it was, it was really fun and my daughter’s just fluent and I can’t write. Well, that’s the same thing when we’re talking about salespeople or founders trying to learn how to speak at an executive language, which is not their day to day language because they work with their own peers. And if your founders are those very, very smart people, but they’re the subject matter experts in their business, they’re going to be jargon based. Yeah. So we have to elevate them into business based conversation.
Greg Alexander [00:12:59] Yeah. You know, I’ll share a story with the membership. I made this mistake that Cara Jane is talking about. When we first hit the market with collective 54, we would talk about helping a services firm grow, scale and exit. And I thought everybody understood what that meant. And I had several people say, What are you talking about? And finally someone said, So Greg, what you’re really talking about is going to help me make more money. You can help me work smarter, not harder, and you can help me get to an exit bigger and faster. And I almost kiss the person. I’m like, Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. So we have since taken that language, which is their language, not my language. I was using industry jargon and it wasn’t, it wasn’t landing. So using their language is what really happened. And that’s what this executive language program is about. All right. One more question for you. So let’s say I’m a member and I’m listening to this and I’ve now been inspired, you know, to go implement an executive sponsor approach. What obstacles should I anticipate?
Carajane Moore [00:13:55] Well. So first and foremost, the first obstacle and I know this seems really obvious, but everybody misses it if you’re going to go ask for an executive sponsorship. Oftentimes people are afraid and it’s our side that’s afraid. So we kind of say it. We don’t really lay it out or. And so the biggest obstacle that we find is we work with companies to get them to do that is their own teams fear to actually go have that conversation. What I will tell you is when you’re actually speaking to executive, they are absolutely thrilled that when you have a problem, you’ve got a process, you’ve got a plan, and you know exactly how to execute it. And they know where they’re supposed to step in. They are grateful for the conversation. They’re not resentful. And so first we have to get over the fear. That’s the first piece. The other piece is if the answer is no, that tells you a whole lot of information. One, if they say, no, I don’t want to be your executive sponsor, it might be because they’re not the right person. Right? Might be because they’re just kicking tires and they’re not interested. Right? Answer Stop wasting our time. Right. So there’s nothing to be afraid of. This is just an easy conversation. Right? So those are some of the key obstacles. The last thing is, it depends on who you’re selling to. If you are in big situations in which you can’t speak to anybody, you can’t ask for an executive sponsor at that particular time, even though you might be able to gather more information. Right. If you’re speaking to municipalities, we have to be careful about the language we use. We don’t say executive sponsor because that sounds like we’re for you to win versus others. And that’s not what we’re asking for. We’re asking for to guide us through the sales process like they would anybody else. Right? So government, military contracting, some of those types of things, the language has to be tweaked just a little bit. And we’re not asking them to sign an agreement and we’re not even asking them to favor us. We just have to be careful. That’s an obstacle in some of those organizations that you have to be aware of.
Greg Alexander [00:15:58] All right. Very good. Well, listen, we’re out of our time here, but this was really intriguing. And I’m so looking forward to the private Q&A session we’re going to have with the members where members can ask you questions directly. And I’m sure there’s going to be a ton of them. But, Caroline, you’ve been a wonderful addition to our community. You’re always a giving member. You’re actively participating. So on behalf of the entire membership, I just wanted to thank you for all that you do for us.
Carajane Moore [00:16:22] Oh, well, thank you. I love being a part of C 54, and I keep referring everybody I can because I think it’s a great organization and a great structure for professional service firms like mine and yours. So yeah.
Greg Alexander [00:16:35] Okay, so audience members, three calls to action. So if you’re a member, keep an eye out for the invitation that’s going to come for Carajane’s Q&A session. If you’re a candidate for membership, go to collective 54 dot com and submit an application and we’ll get in contact with you. And if you’re not ready for that, just want to learn more. Go to Amazon and find my book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Professional services firm. And we talk about lots of topics that hopefully resonate with you. But thanks for listening. And until next time, I wish you the best of luck as you try to grow, scale and exit your firm.