You have a big idea – maybe for a customer-facing application that will
drive revenue, an analytics dashboard to help operations reduce quality
issues, or a marketing campaign that may attract new prospects. Right now,
it’s just an idea, but you want to invest a few hours per week researching
and planning a business case. What should you do?
You have three options: (1) Do nothing – and maybe regret it later, (2) Plan
the project on your own (i.e., a skunkworks project), or (3) find one or a
few executives to partner with on the vision and planning.
I prefer and advise
to open door #3. I’d rather get a partner onboard, even though that often
requires stepping out of your comfort zone. If you read or listen to my new
book, Digital Trailblazer, you’ll see that taking on this challenge is critical, even though you
probably would rather jump right into planning and implementing.
No relationship with a key business stakeholder?
Many of us, including me, are introverts. The idea of approaching someone
you don’t know can be super intimidating. So, if you need to connect with an
executive or key business stakeholder and don’t have a preexisting
relationship with them, that can feel like an insurmountable barrier.
Some will give up without trying and go to door #2, but this is often a
mistake. You might invest a lot of time researching and planning a dead-end
program. And if you believe you have a unicorn idea, well, then you’re back
to opening door #3 and needing stakeholders and sponsors. Why not get them
involved from day one?
The real hurdle is approaching a business stakeholder, knowing that you
don’t have all the background knowledge, business context, and a solidified
So let me help you fix this in two steps: first, developing a new
relationship with a business stakeholder and then transitioning it into a
12 steps to create a new relationship with a business stakeholder
I recorded my very simple, 12-step plan in
episode 52 of the
Driving Digital Standup
that you can watch in under ten minutes. Watch it below, and I hope you’ll
subscribe to the channel. Then, please scroll below it for three more steps
on going from a new relationship to a meaningful one.
Transition from new to meaningful business relationship
In the video, I recommend going through the 12-step plan at least three
times before conceptualizing the following ongoing practices. You’ll develop
a solid relationship if you do these three activities consistently.
1. Prepare to give a lot before asking for anything in return
The best salespeople I know give, give some more, and continue giving. They
don’t ask for much and often don’t have to because they prioritize building
relationships with buyers and decision-makers that will most likely
ask them for assistance.
At your business, you’re not selling in the same way as a vendor. You’ll
likely have to ask for sponsorship, investment, and partnership, but if you
play your cards right, it won’t feel like you’re asking. It will feel more
like a discussion and an agreement to work on something together as a
So, give continuously. Provide feedback, data, and insights. Share
2. Break bread whenever possible – travel together if it’s an option
Chapter 6 of
Digital Trailblazer starts with
my flight to India with Eleanor, an executive at my company. We were heading
there to meet technology companies, but part of my objective was to forge a
partnering relationship with her on several objectives. Today, Eleanor is a
mentor and a good friend.
We started working together long before that trip to India, but our
relationship truly developed through our regular breakfast meetings.
Breaking bread is a key step to developing a personal
3. Guide them on options and let them decide
Digital Trailblazers should consider themselves as
innovation and transformation guides. Learn the customer value proposition and market needs. Understand
opportunities and pain points. Recommend solutions.
But want a meaningful relationship with the business stakeholder or key
decision maker? Give them options, and let them decide a course of action.
Are you ready for door #3? I would be glad to
answer your questions.