Who knows your customers the best? Those within middle management tend to have frequent direct contact with suppliers and customers. Consequently, they are most likely in a position to see when the market is ripe for a particular offering, or they are better able to detect early signs of a rocky partnership. The trick is in moving essential information up the corporate ladder.  The probability of negative consequences – or in the effort to comply with a top-down culture – make many managers fearful of voicing their concerns.

To be heard and recognized for your contributions to both your company and your clients, and to confidently and skillfully convey critical information, you need to be adept at selling to upper management. How do you gain buy-in?

Issue Selling

Middle managers may not be included in important meetings and are often not consulted on matters that can have unintended consequences on their firms’ clients. Therefore, their important insight and knowledge is not shared. Impacting the strategic level early in the decision-making process requires middle managers to become skilled at persuasion.  The right time, location, and interpersonal connections are crucial.  This concept has become commonly referred to as “issue selling,” and those who bring ideas, concerns, solutions, and opportunities together in ways that focus others’ attention and invite action are the most successful at this strategy.

HBR offers unique insights into some useful tactics that may enable success in your organization:

  1. Tailor your pitch – Who is your audience? Understanding the unique blend of goals, values, and knowledge of the decision makers in your organization will shape the messaging for your presentation.
  1. Focus on the strategic benefitHow does it support your corporation’s strategic goals? You may need to create a sense of urgency. You may have a great idea that demands attention but be prepared to answer the question: Why now? Articulate why the change you would like to implement is important at this moment: What does the organization stand to gain? Emphasizing the positive can inspire optimism and buy-in.
  1. Regulate your emotionsWhy are you passionate about the issue? Passion can increase your chances of being heard but be careful that your passion isn’t misconstrued as frustration. Strong negative emotions are less likely to be taken seriously, compared to a controlled passion that is perceived as confidence.
  1. Find the right momentIs the timing right for a pitch? Sensitivity to timing is directly related to the successful sell of an issue.  Perhaps your company is amid a pivotal priority shift or management change. This, then, may not be the best time to approach upper management with information that demands additional immediate attention.  The best sellers notice when more people are paying attention to a topic or trend related to their issue and then add their voice to the discussion.
  1. Know your audienceWhat are the norms within your organization? Develop an understanding of how senior management prefers to receive information and what data is used to make decisions. Studies show that successful sellers used more formal tactics than those whose pitches failed. The best sellers adapt their behaviors to the conventions of their businesses.

Understanding how to approach senior management when you know you have information about your customers that will impact their decisions can help you learn to speak up when the time is right. Every leader in your organization – including your middle managers – should have the communication skills necessary to bring up important concerns and ideas when needed.


Franchetti Communications delivers accelerated results by designing power-packed media interview and presentation training sessions around your unique goals, in person and via teleconference. Follow Franchetti Communications on LinkedIn, and be sure to download our special report: 6 Ways to Guarantee Your Message Cuts Through the Clutter.

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