Learning & Development

How to Sell Your L&D Programs to the C-Suite (Part 1)

Members of the C-suite (CIOs, CEOs, CTOs, CMOs, CFOs, etc.) are involved in a variety of decision-making activities in any given year. And they have a lot of responsibilities placed on their shoulders. Everyone internal and external to your organization is trying to get a bite-sized amount of the C-suite’s time, hoping to get the green light to springboard their next program or initiative. So, what should you do as a learning and development (L&D) professional to gain their attention and approval for your programs? Continue reading to learn more.

Identify and Understand Who Needs to Buy-In

Remember that members of the C-suite are accountable to others too—their board (if they have one) and their external partners and customers. However, you should also remember that you’ll need buy-in from other department heads and upper-level management if you want your L&D programs to get support from the C-suite. If you’re attempting to launch a training program for the customer support team, for instance, you’ll want to contact everyone who manages that team first and get their support for your program.
And you’ll want to know who in the C-suite you should approach first, and really understand who is responsible for what, and who they are accountable to. For example, if you’re developing a training program for the Marketing department, go to the CMO first, and not the CEO. Tailor who you approach according to who is responsible for what, and make sure all upper-level management backs you first so you have a strong support system from the outset.

Align L&D Programs with Company Objectives

When researching how you’ll pitch an L&D program to the C-suite, remember their perspective, and deliver relevant information to them accordingly. If you aren’t able to connect the L&D program’s initiatives to the company’s high-level business goals, it’s justifiable to ask why it should even be considered. To gain the attention of the C-suite, you must be able to frame your L&D proposal in terms that maintain that alignment. Typically, that means aligning with at least one of these critical organization goals:

  • Profit Generation
  • Business Growth
  • Revenue Advancement
  • Operational Efficiencies
  • Risk Management and Mitigation

When you align your L&D program with company objectives, you’re speaking the C-suite’s language and demonstrating that you know what keeps them up at night. They don’t care about detailed tactics and specifics of your program. That’s your job. They care about improving stockholder value and commitment, increasing sales and reducing costs, profit and margin, business operational performance, and return on investment.
[Part 2 of this article will appear in the next issue.]