Have an Executive Sponsor Change? Your 5 Next Steps

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist

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An executive sponsor, usually holds a VP+ title and is a critical component in keeping a strong customer relationship. He or she typically has a deep understanding of your solution and its benefits.

Over the course of the last several years, you’ve spent a significant amount of time and energy building a relationship with your executive sponsor at your account. You’ve spent hours (if not days) of time on the phone, in their office, helping them fully realize the value of your solution. You’ve spent time navigating the landscape of their company and team structure. You’ve helped them achieve their objectives, goals, and of course, you’ve helped solve a problem or two.

But Your Executive Sponsor is Leaving… Now What?

You receive the news that your executive sponsor is leaving for another company, now what? While that may be great news for him or her, it can be a major setback for you and your company if you don’t proactively work to ensure a smooth path forward.

When an executive sponsor leaves his or her company, it means a replacement will be made (hopefully before your sponsor leaves). That replacement has different preferences, processes, goals, KPIs or KBOs, and has maybe even used one of your competitors in the past.

Without a proper plan and quick execution, your account may be at risk and you may lose footholds on current conversations about product or service upsells or even the renewal itself.

So when the inevitable happens (and it will happen at some point), how should you prepare and take action when you receive the news?

5 Strategic Next Steps Once You Find Out Your Executive Sponsor is Leaving

Here are 5 strategic next steps to stay ahead of the change, and maybe event benefit from it:

1. Ask for an Introduction

If your executive sponsor’s replacement is announced before he or she leaves, then ask your executive sponsor for a direct introduction to your new contact (if you don’t personally know the replacement already). This helps to establish trust and ensures that contact is made first and foremost.

If the relationship with your executive sponsor is strong, you may ask him or her to brief their replacement with documents, credentials, and best practices they have gathered to ensure their replacement has what he or she needs to get started on the right foot with your product or service.

2. Conduct a Knowledge Transfer

Your previous executive sponsor has a lot of valuable information about your company. Ask your current executive sponsor if he or she is willing to have a “knowledge transfer” call with you and the new executive. This knowledge transfer will ensure you have all of the information you need to move the new relationship forward. It also shows the new executive that you are a valuable resource for them.

Which brings us to another point.

Seize the Opportunity for New Pipeline

This is also a great time to ask your previous executive sponsor if he or she would consider bringing you along to their next company. While this is the same risk you are protecting your company against, the opportunity for your company to replace the current vendor at your executive sponsor’s next company is possible. If your executive sponsor is pleased with your company’s relationship and results, then explore the possibility of expanding to their new company.

3. Make Contact or Schedule a Visit

As soon as possible, make contact with your executive sponsor’s replacement and begin to establish a cadence of communication. This means understanding how they prefer to work with you, whether via a call, video conference, in-person, email, and etc.

If the account is strategic, consider jumping on a plane as soon as possible and meeting your new contact in a face-to-face setting. It’s important to begin the relationship strong and to mitigate the risk of your competitors noticing the change via a LinkedIn update or another method, and beating you to the punch.

4. Learn KPIs/KBOs & Vision

While we have this listed as #4 in order of sequence of events, it’s quite possibly the most important step. Understanding your new sponsor’s personal goals, department goals, or company goals is mission critical. It’s not safe to assume that his or her goals are the same as the previous executive sponsor. Likely they’ve had different experiences, have worked with different vendors, and have altogether different experiences from which they are pulling.

Because of the shift in goals, that means there may be a change in the new executive sponsor’s KPIs and KBOs, as well. Even if these don’t change, ensure you review them one by one with your new sponsor, asking questions and engaging with each point to ensure you have the complete story. Ask how they see your product, solution, or service aligning with the goals.

5. Create an Action Plan

Over the last several days or weeks of engaging with your new executive sponsor, you’ve likely learned a lot. You’ve conducted the knowledge transfer with the new executive. You’ve talked on the phone or met in person with your new sponsor, you’ve learned your new sponsor’s goals, KPIs, and KBOs, and maybe a few red flags signaled in your mind.

Now that you’ve gained a clearer picture of the path forward (or at least have identified the gaps), it’s time to create a revised action plan for the customer account. Be sure to think through how the learnings will impact events like upsells, processes, the renewal, and other customer milestones.

Ready to Handle an Executive Sponsor Change?

It’s never too early to start preparing for an executive sponsor change. Have you thought about how to develop relationships across the organization, both high & wide, to mitigate risk of a sponsor leaving? How will you handle a new executive point of contact, and how will you begin to understand his or her new goals and KPIs? Ensuring you and your team have a plan in place and can take action quickly is key to continued success.

Check out our resources below for more customer success best practices and insights for how your organization can approach customer success with the customer at the center:

eBooks:

5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Blog Posts:

3 Keys to Restoring Customer Confidence

6 Listening Techniques of Great Customer Success Leaders

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong Customer Success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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