Quick Quiz: Five Questions to Assess an Executive’s Clout

By Eric Beckman

April 28, 2017

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With so many different ‘executive-level’-sounding titles in use today, it’s not always clear how much decision-making authority the contacts you’re targeting may have. Use this simple, five question test to gain an objective perspective.

Score 1 point for each “Yes” answer. If the contact you’re targeting scores 4 or higher, you can expect they wield meaningful influence.

  • Does your target report to the CEO or Managing Director?
    If yes, this shows your customer truly values the importance of this role. Individuals reporting to the CEO or Managing Director have a significantly higher chance of sitting on the executive committee. Of course, you need to consider the size of your customer, but when your target nests under someone else their clout may be lower than you think.
  • Does your target’s budget focus on new initiatives over maintenance?
    When spending favors innovation over maintenance, it indicates your target plays a meaningful role in your customer’s growth strategy. Their budget and clout is likely growing. In contrast, when budget favors improving traditional tasks or refreshing existing infrastructure, that signals a relatively less important role.
  • Are your target’s subordinates focused on delivering business value?
    Does your target’s staff seem disconnected, or confused, about their role in supporting company-wide business strategies? That could point to a broader stumbling block: Many executives struggle to act as partners with their peers. Research shows such individuals may think they’re more influential and effective than do their colleagues.
  • Has your target been in their current role for at least five years?
    It takes time to earn respect and effectively promote a business unit’s contribution within an organization. On average, executive tenures run less than 5 years – even shorter when reporting to the CEO or Managing Director. A target who has held their post for at least five years is more likely to have created and established authority as a decision-maker.
  • Does your target generate new ideas?
    Influential executives continually brainstorm how to improve performance. How do you know if your target is an idea person? When new ideas appear, the first person he or she may validate with is you, a trusted partner. Be ready when your target asks if you’ve done something similar for another customer, or if you feel the idea has business merit. These are opportunities to strengthen your relationship.

How did your target do? Here’s hoping they scored a perfect five on this test! What other attributes have you found helpful in assessing a decision-maker’s true clout?

Once you’ve identified an executive with decision-making influence, you then need to have the confidence and competence to engage them. Learn what it takes to do that here.

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