Identifying Key Influencers: Who Does the C-Suite Listen to?

The C-Suite decides a company's direction and strategy for change management. They have a huge say in what eventually occurs. Therefore, every Tom, Dick, and Harry is pushing and shoving, trying to vie for their attention and plant the seed of their idea. Is that the best way to do it? Probably not. What's important to know who really influences the big players in a company. 

There are multiple groups who influence the C-Suite and, ultimately, the company's future. Four key groups in particular—customers; employees; other C-Suite members; and outside, knowledgeable individuals—heavily impact the decisions of the C-Suite. Why? Because these four groups are well-versed in industry trends, growing markets, and innovative products. They're closer to the problem and are in a better place to identify solutions.

Key Influencers of the C-Suite

Customers: Customers are a huge influencer of future company decisions. They have opinions on basically everything a company does including, but not limited to, the products, how they're made, how they're advertised, and the company's corporate social responsibility initiatives. The customer voice much stronger than what is was a decade or two ago. Because of our online world, it's never been easier to discover how the customer feels and why. The C-Suite no longer has to guess or assume. Customer influence is growing due to our online behaviour and can potentially be detrimental. It's not uncommon to now see bad reviews of products going viral. Once the customer finds something they love, though, they'll rave about it far and wide. That's why 76% of CEOs want to understand their customers better and exceed their expectations when preparing an online marketing strategy. This group of influencers is so important that CEOs will soon be looking to them directly for input into almost every facet of their company. 

Employees: Employees also act as big influencers on the C-Suite, particularly mid-management staff. These employees are in the position to approach the C-Suite with solutions and recommendations. However, they sometimes lack the courage to pitch ideas and other organizations. If you can gain their trust and confidence, they're more likely to recommend your company to top executives. To get the pitch, though, your product needs to perform. Middle management should also use case studies and real life examples to support your pitch. While the C-Suite still has an active voice in determining outcomes, so do almost a quarter of non-C-suite employees. They also have more influence in purchase decisions at 81%. According to a study conducted by IBM, "employee influence on buying decisions will increase by nearly 40% in the next three to five years." As much as you may not believe it, what your employees say does matter. 

Other C-Suite Members: Who is more influential than the people you work side by side with? Other C-Suite members have a large impact on the decisions made in the boardroom. If an individual is sitting on the fence, they can easily turn to another executive for advice that may be out of their realm of expertise. The C-Suite can be comprised of many high-level executives from all aspects of the organization. Gathered in one room, these individuals have a wealth of knowledge at their disposal, and can effortlessly influence others who haven't yet formed an opinion. Reaching other C-Suite members though can be just as hard as getting the attention of your ideal executive.

Outside Parties: With the internet always a tap away, it's never been easier for the C-Suite to research problems, find solutions, and consult outside sources. These outside sources can include individuals from the academic world, industry publications, or even industry bloggers with a large social reach. All of these outside parties share resources and content they find interesting, innovative, and helpful. They play a large role in influencing the C-Suite because they conduct research, highlight new processes and procedures, and speak to possible pain points of high-level executives. The content they share is good stuff. According to a study conducted by Forbes magazine, "executives find [the internet] more valuable for locating business related information than references from colleagues, personal networks, newspapers, TV and radio, and conferences and trade shows." With this great content only a tap away, the C-Suite has easy access to a multitude of business strategies. Because content is readily available, executives can make faster and more informed business decisions.

Related:Business as Natural Evolution: Adapting to the New Digital Tools  

While it may seem like the C-Suite knows how to make up their own minds, you now know there are four key groups who influence their decisions. Customers influence them because they hold current and future purchasing power. Employees influence the C-Suite through helpful recommendations of other beneficial organizations and solutions. Other top level executives impact their decisions through their large knowledge base and proximity. The last group of influencers are outside parties, and they influence the C-Suite by sharing highly sought after content relating to business strategies and innovation.