Tracking Executive Changes at Your Most Important Accounts

May 25, 2018

Here’s a fact that should get your attention: The number of CEOs who left their jobs at U.S.-based companies hit 132 in January 2018 alone, the highest monthly total since February 2010, according to global outplacement consultancy and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. In 2017, they noted, there were 1,160 CEO exits.

“But I don’t sell to CEOs,” you might say. “Why should I care about CEO exits?” Well, consider this. CEO exits often spark other executive moves within your customer organizations, as well as changes in strategy and priorities. A change in leadership can cause ripples of change throughout the organization for years—and these ripples can impact your customer relationships in a big way.

So yes, you should be tracking executive moves, even at the highest levels.

While an executive change can derail a deal, it also is an opportunity to broaden your network. You can learn all about your account’s new leader and create a strategy to engage and impress them. And, you can follow your departing contact to wherever she lands next and cultivate what could be a new customer based on that previous relationship.

There are a few ways to you can stay on top of executive changes:

  1. Follow executive leaders of your key accounts on social media. LinkedIn and Twitter are the best places you are likely to notice a change, but always keep in mind that not all executives are reliable about updating their profiles – especially when they leave quietly.
  1. Subscribe to industry publications and alerts. Keep an eye out for “Executive Moves” announcements. For CIOs and CFOs, watch the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal and CFO Journal. For healthcare executives, you’ll find notices in Modern Healthcare and Becker’s Hospital Review. For technology providers, look at CRN.
  1. Do a cursory Google search before making a call. Before you take any action on an organization–even one that’s a current customer of yours–do a quick search of your contact to make sure he or she is still in their role.
  1. Subscribe to a service like Boardroom Insiders. We are constantly tracking executive moves by doing all of the above and more. We uncover even those executives who leave quietly by using software agents to track changes to the corporate executive pages for all the Fortune 500 companies. When someone’s title changes or they drop off the page, we know about it. And we offer email alerts our customers can be notified of these changes at the earliest possible moment.

When one of your most important customers brings on a new CEO, it’s time to do some homework. Your goal is to keep this customer, understanding that he will, of course, come into his position with his own set of vendor contacts and even a different sense of the projects on which you are collaborating–and how they should proceed.

Try to answer these questions: What have they done in their previous companies and roles? Is he known as a cost cutter, a growth enabler or both? Is she an advocate for outsourcing or insourcing? Is he a change agent who likes to shake things up? What are the board’s expectations for the new CEO? Don’t forget to seek insight into hobbies, charitable activities, and boards; these “extracurriculars” can often provide engagement opportunities and points of connection that your company can leverage.

Assuming the departing CEO makes a soft landing, you can also approach him based on your established relationship. But first you need to learn about his new company – its priorities, its strategy and where the board wants the new CEO to focus. It’s typical for the new company to issue a press release stating some of these expectations. Also, look for interviews or statements from the new CEO about why he took on the new role and what his plan is for his first year in the role. His first earnings call as CEO is also likely to be rich with insight into his priorities in his new role.

If you play your cards right and do all of the above, you’ll maximize your opportunity to keep your existing customer – and you just might acquire a new one.

Executive changes are a constant. Because deals are often forged based on relationships, staying on top of these changes is crucial. There’s no reason to be caught off guard when it’s so easy to be in the loop.

Sharon Gillenwater

Principal and Founder

Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.