I had lunch with a friend who was lamenting the challenges of selling to execs and then selling into the lower-level users of his startup’s SaaS product.
His startup is gaining momentum after some initial hurdles, but the area he sees with the most need of improvement is around lower-level buy-in from the organization. Getting leadership to buy into the vision and benefits is, for the most part, easy. (Rare is it when a startup comes to the table with a “bad” idea.)
Once the message comes down from the execs to the mid-level managers and those under them, that’s where friction builds. This isn’t a surprise as these are the users on-the-ground who are typically working hard to implement all the other initiatives the execs have thrust upon them.
Especially in a product that is iteratively (even if many times) better than an incumbent, the challenge is usurping the established process and the known benefits andrisks. Not knowing the unknown risk is one of the greatest challenges for new users.
My buddy also shared that it’s fascinating how execs continue to believe driving transformation from the top down as “bosses” works. This might have worked in the past, but in today’s millennial-driven workplace, dictatorship rarely works. Instead, environments fostering collaboration and exchange of ideas and feedback excel.
Some thoughts on getting buy-in from lower-levels:
  • Understand the change management aspects of an organization including the culture at each level – don’t fail at these principles
  • Consider the benefits for each consumer of the product (execs, mid-level managers, lower-level users, etc.)
  • Almost more important than benefits, consider the risks. Why would the user not want to use the product? There are jobs at stake, work-life balance, etc.
  • Empower and promote the main users of your product. Provide them with support, and make them feel valued. If they feel valued and love you, they will can be a powerful ally in the company

At the end of the day, to properly sell, ensure customer success, and retain customers, it’s imperative to consider the benefits and risks to each level of consumer and user. Be empathetic to each consumer.