Leadership Management

The Buy-In: The Most Important Part of Getting Stakeholders On Board

The buy-in
Written by Therese Padilla

One of the most important parts of a game of poker is called the buy-in. Simply put, you don’t get to play unless you’re prepared to make an up-front payment. The thing that makes this so interesting is that you have no idea whether that payment will actually be worth it. If you have a good game, you could go home with a very big prize. If you don’t, that money is going home with someone else.

In many ways, getting stakeholders on board requires the same type of buy-in process. You’re asking people to take a leap of faith in many ways – you’re asking them to take a blind risk with the promise of a potentially hefty reward down the road. You’re asking for a decision under the conditions of that risk, which will have significant ramifications for everything that follows.

Why the Buy-In is So Important

When you’re dealing with managers and executive leadership, how much they “buy-in” (meaning how much support they give you) determines just about every aspect of your daily life from that point on. How much money they give you, how much support from other departments you have, how mad they’ll be if you have an error or misstep – it’s all dictated by how much they “buy-in” in exchange for what you promise them up front.

Something that many people miss, however, is that you don’t just need the initial buy-in. While senior leadership’s up-front bet is important, you essentially need to keep them engaged on a continuing basis. This requires a deeper understanding of both the leaders you’re working with AND the type of benefits that they require to consider that initial risk worth it.

Is what you’re proposing good for the end customer? Is it good for a manager? Is it good for senior leadership? Is it good for the long-term plans of the company?

By designing your pitch to check off as many of these boxes as possible, you’re much more likely to get that heavy initial buy-in you need. Remember: if there’s one thing that upper management likes, it’s recognition. Packing your pitch with a lot of perks in this direction will go a long way towards unlocking the results you’re after in the first place.

The Secrets of the Buy-In: Learning How to Think Like a Stakeholder

In an upcoming AIPMM product management and product marketing webinar called “Generating Ownership and Alignment in Your Stakeholders,” you’ll learn what you need to not only master that initial buy-in but also to make sure you don’t have to let conflicting visions, prioritization of features and even marketing concerns get you down ever again.

To really utilize the buy-in concept to its maximum effect, identify how the initiative that you’re proposing aligns with a stakeholder’s personal values. Then, funnel EVERYTHING you say through that prism moving forward.

You’ll also want to identify outside organizations that executives would respect, which puts you in an ideal position to connect these with what you’re proposing for your own organization. This not only helps make your own vision clearer, but it can also help get people excited.

Finally, one of the most important parts of your buy-in pitch involves identifying business outcomes. These are the rewards that make the leap of faith you’re asking someone to take more than worth it. However, don’t forget – they need to be worth it, or you’ll quickly find yourself right back where you started.

In the End

None of this to say that the buy-in is going to be easy. However, the most important thing you can realize is that it IS entirely possible – provided that you have a keen sense of observation and are prepared to follow one simple truth. Buy-in dictates everything that will follow from the top down – from how much peer support you’ll enjoy to how much wiggle room you have with missteps and everything in between.

Thankfully, buy-in also brings with it something equally as important: it dictates the size of the pot you get to enjoy at the end of the rainbow, proverbially speaking. Putting in the right amount of work now will pay the types of dividends that most people would kill for down the road, making your own personal reward more than worth it.

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About the author

Therese Padilla

Therese is President of the Association of International Product Marketing & Management. She is a product management professional with broad experience in all areas of product development and management, including consumer products, enterprise software in startups and large corporate environments. Therese created the first product management certification program at the AIPMM which she co-founded in 1998.