Getting the Next Innovation Project Approved: Tips on How to Get C-Level Buy-in

June 1, 2021

One of the challenges of bringing a project to light is getting approval from the C-suite. You cannot move forward with your idea until you get C-level buy-in, which increases the risk of your competitors rolling out comparable projects before your organisation.

Consider using the following recommendations to get your next innovation project approved and help create additional tangible value for your organisation.

Understand What C-Level Executives Care About

Selling a product requires you to understand the needs and interests of your target customer. You should use the same approach to successfully pitch your project to decision-makers. Determine what matters most to C-level executives and use that information to sell your project.

C-level titles are the top executives in a company. Each executive has different goals based on their role. Some of the most common C-level titles include:

1.     Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

2.     Chief Operating Officer (COO)

3.     Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

4.     Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

5.     Chief Information Officer (CIO)

6.     Chief Security Officer (CSO)

7.     Chief Compliance Officer (CCO)

Think about how your project may impact each of the executives in the C-suite. For example, the CSO is more concerned about the security implications of the project, the CCO wants to ensure that the project complies with regulations and the CFO is focused on the cost.

Connect the Benefits of the Project to Company Objectives

If you want C-level approval, your project needs to align with your organisation’s goals. This is the most important step for getting the top executives on board with your idea. C-level executives are unlikely to listen to a proposal that does not match their ambitions. No matter the direction of the project, tie it to company objectives to make it more appealing to theC-suite.

For example, if your company is looking to expand to anew market, consider the ways that your project may assist those goals. You can also probe C-level executives for more information before presenting your proposal. Ask questions during meetings to explore their interest in topics that your project may address, such as sharing big data or implementing new technology.

Use Multiple Case Studies to Support the Value of Your Project

Executives want examples of the value that your project can bring to the organisation. Use case studies to uphold your ideas. If your project is innovative and original, it may be difficult to find direct examples in your industry.

However, you can search for instances where companies have implemented projects with some of the same features as your proposal. For example, you may compile case studies based on the use of the same technologies, such as other projects that relied on artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML).

Illustrate How Your Competition Is Pursuing Similar Projects

There is a good chance that your company’s competitors are exploring projects with comparable features to your proposals. Perform in-depth competitive analysis of your industry. Look for projects using similar technologies or practices.

If your competition is pursuing comparable projects, your C-level executives may not want to get left behind. Use this information to sway decision-makers.

Evaluate the Impact of Your Project on Key Performance Indicators

C-level executives tend to care more about numbers compared to words. If you do not share statistics and estimates, they may lose interest in your pitch.

Determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) your project may influence. You should then review the history of those KPIs and estimate the results your company can expect after implementing your solution.

Analyse the Potential Return on Investment

Along with KPIs, your research and planning should include the potential return on investment (ROI) for your project. Most projects should provide an ROI based on one of the following outcomes:

1.     Cost reductions

2.     Cost avoidance

3.     Revenue gains

Cost reductions occur when your project allows your company to complete existing processes for less money or with fewer resources. For example, implementing certain technologies may limit the need for manpower, thus reducing the cost of labour.

Cost avoidance occurs when a project makes it easier to accomplish more with existing resources. For example, your project may increase the output of a manufacturing facility without requiring more staff. Most projects should result in some type of revenue gains, either directly or indirectly. Reducing labour or increasing output helps improve gross profit margins. Your project may also generate new revenue by increasing sales.

Pitch Your Project to the Right C-Level Executive

You do not need to present your idea to the entireC-suite team during a meeting. You can start by exploring C-suite interest with a single executive. Choose a candidate who is more likely to be receptive to your ideas.

For example, you may choose to go to the executive who you have the best understanding or most direct relationship with. You could also present the idea to the executive who is most likely to acknowledge the value of your project.

If your project involves the use of information technology, you may have better luck pitching your project to the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) instead of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). However, if your project is designed to save money, the CFO may be more willing to hear the idea. Start by testing the waters with a single executive and gauge their interest before taking it to the rest of the decision-makers.

Get C-Level Approval Before Devoting Too Much Time

One of the most important tips is to get C-level approval before you devote too much time, money, or resources to your project. You need to gather information, compile case studies, and estimate the potential return.

However, you should not go beyond the initial development stage until you receive approval. If a decisionmaker steps in and vetoes your project, you risk wasting time that could have been spent on other projects.


Getting a project approved is rarely easy. You need to convince the upper-level executives that your ideas can deliver real value to the organisation. Align your project with the company’s objectives, use case studies, and perform competitive analysis.

Keep in mind that not every project is going to receive approval. If your proposal gets turned down, go back to the drawing board. Take the time to rebuild your case and make it more compelling.

Feel free to also check out our other posts:

Vertical Innovation in Manufacturing: Bringing Stakeholders Together for Common Gain

Smart Data Collection on the Production Line: Sensors

Why Deploy a Human-Centred AI Approach in Manufacturing