Critical Success Factors in Launching & Sustaining an Executive Sponsor Program

In my last blog I shared the two elements of any successful Executive Sponsor Program (ESP), which are:

· Center of Excellence
· Engagement

It's now time to discuss the Critical Success Factors for launching and sustaining an Executive Sponsor Program.   ESP should focus on your top 20-25% of your customers that represent over 70% of your revenue.  If you think about why previous programs such as the Top 100 or Top 200 fail and do a post-mortem, my experience and research has show at least one of these three Critical Success Factors (CSF's) were at the root of the failure.

CSF #1 – President or CEO endorsement and involvement.
I have seen numerous Executive Sponsor Programs fail because the CEO/President delegates this important program to the VP of Sales or even VP of Customer Experience (depending on size of the organization). The flaw in this thinking is that whether we like it or not, as great and influential as these executives may be in your organization, they don’t have the “juice” to ensure that a peer executive truly gets engaged in this program and takes his/her role seriously.

If you are “that” executive who has just been tasked to “own” this important program for your organization, there are some key things you need to negotiate with the President/CEO to ensure your success:
· You need the CEO/President to endorse the program.  You need their commitment to be the overall Executive Sponsor for the Program, you can be the champion. Having the CEO/President be the overall Executive Sponsor means that you will need very little of their time, but there three key things he/she must do:

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – You will give the CEO/President the things to say, but the messages must come from them to set the appropriate tone to the organization that this is a program not an event and it’s your new way of life and how ESP plays a key part in the company’s overall strategy. If it’s not, then why are you doing it?

2. Drive Accountability & Executive Alignment – You need the CEO/President to be an escalation point and enforcer to hold people accountable once the objectives and expectations have been set. You also need them to ensure that everyone is on board. You can’t afford passive acceptance or defectors.

3. Lead by Example – The CEO/President needs to be an Executive Sponsor for at least one account
· Objectives & Priorities for the Program. Once you have the commitment from the CEO/President, you need to work with them on establishing the Objectives and Priorities for the program. This is something the CEO/President cannot delegate. If they are going to support you, you need to be in tight alignment here. Look at your top 20-25% of your accounts. What type of relationship do you have with them today and what type of relationship do you want?

I will discuss Executive Sponsor Program Critical Success Factor #2 in my next blog.

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