October 12, 2011, 10:59 AM

Mobile Commerce Forum Report: Getting the CEO to say yes on mobile projects

A Choice Hotels executive tells what he’s learned about winning m-commerce buy-in.

Lead Photo

Christopher Brya speaking today at MCF 2011.

Data may be pointing in the direction of a society increasingly going mobile, but executives excited about mobile commerce still have to sell their senior managers on why m-commerce is important. Executives at retailers, travel companies and ticket sellers must build relationships and get answers to myriad questions to successfully sell their m-commerce projects, said Christopher Brya, director of mobile and emerging channels at Choice Hotels, in his featured address today at the Mobile Commerce Forum in Houston.

“Having a great idea and being champion is relatively simple,” Brya said. “Selling it is another story.”

First, an executive selling m-commerce must identify who the buyers are in-house. “Everyone can say no in an organization,” Brya said. “It’s the people who can say yes who you should talk to, and no one else.”

Identifying buyers is achieved by asking a series of questions, Brya said: Whose budget will support this? Whose operation is most affected by the outcome? Who should set the specific objectives? Who will be evaluated for the results? Who will make the final decisions?

Once buyers are identified, an executive with m-commerce to sell should mutually establish m-commerce project objectives with his colleagues. “Engage them in face-to-face conversations. Not e-mail; it rarely works because it doesn't convey what you need and you can’t read the other person,” Brya said. “And don’t be a superhero; just because you are the champion doesn't mean you come in guns-a-blazing.”

When establishing objectives with in-house buyers, Brya said, the executive selling m-commerce should ask a variety of questions, including: How would conditions improve as a result? Ideally what would you like to accomplish? How would your customers be better served? What keeps you up at night regarding mobile? If you had to set mobile priorities now, what three things must be done? What’s the impact you seek on returns on investments, sales and innovation? How will you be evaluated in terms of results of this project?

“You are asking the people you will need to work with what does it mean for them personally,” Brya explained. “It could be good for their career, their balance sheet, for public relations. You need to see what the objectives should be based on all these questions and use the answers as ammunition when selling.”

Then come establishing measurements for success, Brya said. Here, too, asking a variety of questions of colleagues can help set the metrics and subsequently help sell the project. These questions include, Brya said: How will you know this project has been accomplished? When will you know success has been achieved? Who will be accountable for determining progress? How will the business be improved? “Your buyers will tell you what they need,” he added.

But the most important element to selling m-commerce to upper management is establishing the value mobile commerce brings to an organization, Brya said. “Initially they’ll want to know how much it will cost, because they are focused on the price not the value. But this is completely under your control,” he said. “You need to be able to define the value, which should be disproportionate to the cost.”

Value is about what comes out of something, not what is put in, he said. So, for example, the proposition to build a mobile commerce site can be sold with the value proposition being that the organization will collect $1.5 million in sales that would otherwise be lost as customers on smartphones leave the conventional e-commerce site, he said.

“If you can identify buyers, establish objectives, establish success measures and establish value you will bring management onboard and it becomes their project, not your project,” Brya said. “And then you will have success in selling anything you want.”

Choice Hotels is No. 10 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300. The hotel chain launched its mobile commerce platform in 2008 and its first iPhone app in 2009. Monthly mobile sales now exceed $1 million, the company says.

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