How should senior executives and the sales team be involved in an advisory board?

Senior Executives

Senior executives from your organization can—and must—play a role at every stage. Their input helps you convene the right people on the right topics and offer valuable content and conversations to your advisors.

Their critical role is to:

  • provide overall stewardship
  • demonstrate consistent commitment to the board and customers
  • ask the right questions
  • listen openly and intently
  • act on the advice

Secure an executive sponsor.

At least one executive—preferably the most senior in the business unit or division whose strategy the board advises—serves as a board chair and the formal sponsor of its activities.

When additional executives devote time and effort to the board, it may signal your organization’s sincerity and commitment. That said, bringing too many to the meeting table can drown out the customer voice, and unnecessarily complicate in-meeting facilitation. To get the right combination of your executive team involved, consider a select group of internal leaders who:

  • are seen as peers, experts, or industry leaders by your advisors
  • have a direct stake in the board’s topics and outcomes
  • have the vision, mandate, and clout to influence others and make change
  • see and understand enterprise and ecosystem-wide implications
  • reinforce a long-term, company-wide commitment to customer experience and market orientation

The Sales Team

The best advisory boards exist to foster strategic dialogue and advice, not sales. Straying from that purpose—even in small ways—can put a crimp in your advisors’ willingness to participate and give their deepest, most candid input. Without that engagement and candor, your advisory board efforts will quickly stall out.

Keep your board confidential and “pitch free.”

To stay true to that no-sales principle, and the board’s confidentiality, your sales executives’ ideal role is to:

  • Identify potential advisors: help to assess both the customer’s strategic relevance and the individual’s characteristics and credentials
  • Apply the lessons learned—incorporate the advisory board’s insight into ongoing sales strategies and operations, as well as relationships and conversations with customers and prospects

Typically, sales representatives only participate in board meetings if and when it serves a specific, advisor-requested purpose. The sales team will still gain the benefit of the board’s perspective—through the high-level summaries and debriefs that should be a core step in the board management process.

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