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  • Writer's pictureMark Slatin

Executive Buy-In and "The Decision Sandwich"

What was the number #1 challenge of CX leaders according to a poll I conducted just prior to speaking at the CXPA Leaders Advance Conference this year?

If you guessed getting executive buy-in, you were right!

78% of respondents said this is their biggest challenge.

The group of CX leaders I spoke to used words like frustrated, deflated, and irrelevant to describe how this made them feel.

Some say getting buy-in is as simple as proving the ROI of CX.  While it’s critical to speak the language of the C-Suite and demonstrate value, the answer is not that simple.

In fact, the truth is that the C-Suite members are human just like everyone else…and that means they make decisions based largely on emotion and then justify them with rationale.

According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman, “95% of purchase decisions are made in the subconscious mind.” 

Trust expert and author of The Trusted Advisor, Charles H. Green, equates executive decision-making akin to a sandwich:

  • The top piece of bread represents some element of logic that’s quantifiable - such as an increase in referrals

  • The meat in the middle is emotional - it first asks, “do I know, like, and trust” the messenger?” And then moves on to some emotional reason for agreeing or disagreeing with their proposal

  • The second slice of bread - is the rationale or logic that they reframe to justify their decision.  

But it's the meat in the middle that's driving their decision.

Consider this example:

  • Top piece of bread - CX leader “if we make this change in the experience, we can get a X% lift in referrals”

  • Meat - CX leader “our best customers love when we include Y at this critical touchpoint because it made them feel like we "know them."  Joanne Smith says she loved Y so much that she can’t wait to tell her colleagues in other firms about it...”

  • Bottom piece of bread - Executive A says, “I think we should move forward with this change because it aligns with our goal to increase top line revenues through referral business.”

If you notice in this illustration, the executive uses rationale (increase in referrals).  But the CX leader brought the customer’s voice into the room sparked the emotional trigger that moved them to the desired decision. Ultimately they reframed it into a rational argument.

Not only to people make buying decisions based on emotion, as Gerald Zaltman's work proves, they make business decisions based on emotion too.

The decision sandwich is a subtle yet critical way to understand how people make decisions.  

Because the decision process is largely based on emotion, your success as a CX leader is directly correlated to how trustworthy you are perceived.  

How can you increase your trustworthiness with the C-Suite?

If you’re interested in taking your CX leadership to go beyond CX fundamentals, see the special offer for The Trusted Guide Roadmap™ Master Class which begins on June 5.  The Early Bird Special includes a $100 discount. 


Mark Slatin, CCXP is the CEO of EmpoweredCX,  Professor of Practice in the Masters of Science of CXM at Michigan State University, former CXPA Board Member, Creator of The Trusted Guide Roadmap™ Master Class, and host of The Delighted Customers Podcast.

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