Communicating with Senior Executives: Do You Know Their “Hot Buttons”?

In a previous post, we discussed the need to understand the “language” that your senior executives use so you can properly communicate the value that your function brings to the organization.  As an example, we explored whether you should be talking about retail numbers or cost numbers when making corporate presentations.

I had a couple of readers weigh in with additional examples. One executive wrote, “In my company, we use units lost compared to units sold. My CEO always talks about shrink in terms of units lost being missed sales.” Another executive responded, “My CEO and CFO don’t talk in terms of percentage at all. They only talk in terms of cost dollars. Right or wrong, they don’t really care too much about high shrink percentage/low impact items. They figure the buyers will figure out whether those items continue to make sense from a margin perspective.” These are additional examples of the different languages and dialects that senior executives might speak.

In this post, we will examine a closely related issue – hot buttons. What is it that really gets your senior management team fired up? What do they stay up at night worrying about? What gets their attention? What should you be incorporating into your program proposals?

Let’s look at some possibilities…

  • Actual theft cases – There is no doubt about it, you can get the attention of some executives (loss prevention executives included) by showing them a dramatic example of what happens when people steal from your organization. Shoplifting or employee theft are both attention grabbers. It may not seem sophisticated to some of you, but it is real.
  • Financial ROI – The “holy grail” of building a business case, return on investment is the quickest way to get to the hearts (and checkbooks) of most CFOs and like-minded CEOs. Are decisions in your organization usually made in rational, analytical ways? If so, you will need to focus here.
  • Risk avoidance – Is your CEO most concerned about potential negatives? Does the CEO constantly ask about worst-case scenario or downsides of potential projects? For instance, if looking at a return policy change, is he or she most concerned about possible negative impacts on customers or sales? We make many proposals that can address potential risks and you may want to highlight those aspects. For instance, Payment Card Industry compliance, Sarbanes-Oxley issues, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act liabilities, , premises liability and many other potential risks can be avoided by prudent loss prevention programs.
  • Sales risks – Do you find repeated “roadblocks” to your programs due to concern over their negative impact on sales? If so, why are you not using those same concerns to support your proposals? For instance, what is the cost of lost sales due to lack of in-stock, on the shelf availability of hot products? Have you shown how your proposals might actually increase sales?

What are some “hot buttons” to which your senior management team pays attention to? Do you have some examples of successes you have had in presenting your business case in a way that resonated with your audience? If so, please share them and we can generate further ideas and dialogue.


Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – October 2008

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