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12 min read

Becoming a translator for the C-suite

Leadership | Membership content

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As professionals working with products day in and day out, it’s easy to fall in love with our technology, but how do you connect that to the C-suite? In my experience, it all comes down to communications and changing the message to suit the audience.

In this article, I’ll talk about why communications are the link, the three key areas of focus when connecting to the C-suite, and show examples of how you can adapt and adjust to become a translator for the C-suite.

As engineers and people designing products, we fall in love with our technology. But there are instances where you fall in love with the technology, but you're not connecting with the C-suite.

You need to connect with the C suite, you need to sell the product, it has to do something.

I'll talk a little bit about that in this article.

I wonder how many of you reading have heard of Oracle communications? This is the number one complaint I get from my sales team - nobody knows about us. When you're in a large company, $40 billion, 140,000 employees, keep in mind pennies on the balance sheet, which is good, a very good thing, but my marketing dollars are not great.

I'm similar to a smaller company, having to be very innovative in my approach, and how to connect our product set and make sure it's adding value in the marketplace.

We have three acquisitions that we did in our business unit:

  • Acme packet,
  • Tekelec, and
  • Talari Networks.

Ever heard of those three companies? This is my problem.

I'm a vertical within a large company but communications are horizontal. We're playing into the fact that trends are happening in the marketplace, and I'll talk about the core trends and why communications is the link for the C-suite to be able to do that.

How did I do that? I focused on three key areas.

Areas of focus when connecting to the C-suite

The message

We had to redefine the message, really focus on what is the C suite thinking about? And how can we connect to that? Because we were doing a very transactional sell to a low-level technology buyer. We had to uplevel our game and create an association.

The assets

Two, what kind of assets do we need to create and develop as a vehicle for this message?

The outlets

Lastly, what are the vessels and the outlets to take these assets and the message and deliver it out and get more traction in the marketplace?

Those are the three things that I'm going to talk about.

Message - create a structure to elevate message

The message itself seems simple. It seems simple. But everybody wants to live here. What's happening in the C-suite is my product is not solving their problems.

It's a multi-product coming together to create a solution to help deliver value to them.

The thing that we focus on is creating a vision at the top level, keywords - defining these keywords, tracking down into solutions, and then being supported by the products.

My technology folks cringe because I use this slide as I talk about the vision, it's 10-15 slides on high-level value.

We talked about solutions, we narrowed it down into four solutions. It's all supported by an architecture which they call the meat - this is where my engineers know we need more meat, my SEs.

The selling process in our organization was typically sales rep comes in > shakes a hand > introduces everybody > and then hands it over to the SE. Just hands it right over to the technology person.

Not even speaking - we have to give our salespeople the ability to talk higher. One of my reps in Minnesota just the other day says, "Brian, what you're giving me is phenomenal because now I'm supporting my message at the C-suite. So when I go down into this transactional selling mode, it's already approved, they're already paying attention, and now I can expand the deal.”

Creating a vision is critical. Connecting it with solutions that involve multiple products becomes critical, and then finally, can you demonstrate it?

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Tug of war between technical and business

Here's my path from vision, step one, this is C-suite, VP, vision and solution, director level, solution and product, demo, any one of them.

With the demonstrations, we have three types of demonstrations.

  1. We focus on PowerPoint demonstrations, very simple, very clean.
  2. A recorded demonstration, you'll start to see product marketing or SEs just being recorded, very informally doing a demonstration - keep it clean, keep it simple.
  3. And then a live demo, which gets pretty complex and costs a lot more resources.

These are the three, this is actually what we produced, everything over there in my products that's Oracle shorthand for all the products that I own. I won't bore you with that.

But the solutions you should start to recognize:

  • Unified communications,
  • Contact center,
  • Security, communication security in particular, and
  • SD-WAN.

Changing the message to address the C-suite

What do we have to do to change our message?

Creating storytelling moments

We wanted to create storytelling moments, I talked about our reps coming in and handing the conversation over to the SEs. These guys are great storytellers, we had to create those moments, and give them the slide work through which they could tell the story.

What's the number one thing a C-level wants to hear about?

  • Other customers.
  • Where's the money?
  • Where are other customers?
  • Who else is doing it?
  • Somebody that looks like me.

It's what our sales reps do. If we can do it three times, here's three different stories, here's where you get the KPIs, marry them together, tell the story. That's what we're doing.

If you've seen Oracle presented before you might notice our new Redwood template in my images. This is a pretty big step for a Silicon Valley technology company. It's pretty modern. It used to be all red. This is a little more artsy and modern. So we're coming into the 20th century here.

Words that elicit feeling

We're also now looking to use words that elicit feeling, fear, jealousy, anger, security, things of that nature. We want to associate with that.

Create focus on the business value, and drive home with KPIs, and I mentioned customer success.

We've gone more to simple taglines. I try to ride off of the greater Oracle I mentioned, I have a smaller budget, there are some things I can get from the greater Oracle, I try to leverage those into our organization.

But greater Oracle doesn't focus on the communications aspect. My communications can make those applications that we sell in the cloud or on-premise run better. It's creating the tie from vision to solution, all the way down through.

How did this play out?

Technical representation vs. C-suite representation

Example #1

Who do you think created this slide? What's the audience?

Sales engineering.

This is one of the slides great for a certain conversation, but not for the C-suite. A buddy I went to university with in Illinois, an engineering school, he ended up doing much better than me, he was the CTO over at Sprint.

We got a meeting with him and I said, "Hey, what are you gonna say to him? Before I get you in this meeting, what are you gonna say to him?". The reply, "Well, we're going to talk about our technology".

No, that's not what we're going to say to him. You're going to talk about the business value and what you can bring. If you put this kind of slide in a C-suite, what's their reaction? "Oh, go talk to so and so who runs my network". They drive you down, their job is to deflect and get you in a different position. Not the approach.

How do we look at it?

We started breaking this down, we started talking about distributed IT. Everything you saw on the previous slide is what's on this slide and the next sequence because it's:

  • Distributed IT,
  • The fact that you have headquarters, but not just one headquarters, you have global headquarters,
  • The fact that you have retail stores and branch banks.

It's causing enterprise applications not to just be within your four walls.

You have what we used to be very fearful of - people that bring their device to work - that was feared. Then we had worked from home, how could we ever manage that? And now we have something much more millennial, which is the plugin workforce.

To make that happen, how do you make that happen as a company - in your contact centers, and then a shift to cloud? Where is your data? And are you still providing your customers with the best experience? What ties all of that together? A network.

It's an enterprise network.

That's how we up-level that message.

Use KPIs to establish C-suite credibility

Give them the numbers. It costs you money, security is costing you money, global fraud, PBX hacking, so on and so forth, the downtime of your network, your ability to deliver a quality of experience.

This is just a difference and then bringing in words of feeling.

Creating focus across four primary solutions

We have four primary solutions, we've completed one, and we're on our way to delivering others.

This is how we created a storytelling moment, this slide.

Any sales rep can put it up - I just showed you four primary solutions, instead of showing those, you show this.

This is my work desk. This is how we work today. That's how we communicate.

Who's ever been on a Teams call or Zoom? How many have ever heard an echo? Perhaps the video has gone down? All the normal problems. Have you ever thought about why that is?

It's your network, it's usually not the application. It's because of the plugin workforce, it's because it's in the cloud, it's because it's distributed. These are things that we solve for - we connect to that.

How we work matters now.

Applications run better with Oracle SD-WAN

Here's an ERP system.

I talked about connecting to the rest of Oracle, whether it's NetSuite, Oracle ERP cloud, or whatever you have, how do you work?

You're plugging in at the Starbucks before you go into your customer account, or you're a CSR that's looking for customer information. You need to be able to connect to that and deliver that experience to the customers.

Now to the most technical slide I present and it's about SD-WANs and what happens in that network as you're delivering applications.

UC&C solution to product level

When you go down to a product level, this is a hugely important step, you have to connect, don't feel like you can just stay in the clouds in the C-suite.

You have to be able to draw the connection. If you don't you fail.

This is Oracle and Microsoft teaming up and you can see how it gets a little bit more detailed on the solution side. We are going to be talking now to a more director-level position and driving down in there.

Customer success

The last one on this set, this is now what we do for customer successes. This particular customer success centers around us providing communications to one of the most secure and important air vessels in the world. That's all I can tell you.


Adjusting the assets and outlets

What have we done now from an asset perspective? So that's the vision, the solution, and the product level - clean it up, make it simple, do KPIs, adjust the assets.

Aligning assets to the buyer’s journey

In my situation, we had 80% of our assets in evaluation and selection - what I call selfies. It was all about us, it was selfies, my product, my features, my functionality, and what I'm driving to deliver.

Thought leadership, not so much. Education, not so much.

There was a point in time five years ago, one of my field marketing folks said, "Well, they're never going to search it on the internet". That was the mentality.

What's the first thing you do, whether it's a million-dollar deal or buying a pair of shoes? You Google it, and you research it. We needed to create much more of a presence, in zero through to one, zero, one, and two, quite honestly.

Adjusting assets and demand generation outlets

So we adjusted, this shows the types of assets that we started to create an association with.

These are just some of them that we started with.

The outlets

Short videos, infographics, & topical videos shorts

The short videos and infographics, get it related to the numbers, I had a three-minute video of my executives, too long for the C-suite, I cut it down into 30-second chunks, topical quick-hitting chunks, and even from there down to 15.

They can't pump it out on LinkedIn. How many of you look at LinkedIn? I don't press on the video, I just look at it. If it looks interesting, I might press it. But I certainly wouldn't look at something for 30 seconds.


We stepped up the number of bylines that we do and now we're taking advantage of bigger stories.

Larger news stories

Microsoft just won a $10 billion deal with the government. Oracle, we're big with the government. I have huge certifications with the FIPS and Jetix and the government. So I bring those together - take advantage of the bigger story.

Larry Ellison gets on stage at Oracle OpenWorld and announces a partnership. Think, Microsoft's 125 billion were 40 billion, that's a big deal. We used to go at each other's throats. Our technology is here to help Microsoft move Teams to the cloud, move customers to Teams, which is in the cloud. Our software is what helps do it.

So tie to the bigger stories.

Target business publications

This is where I leverage the greater Oracle, I do get the benefit of Forbes, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and siphon off the bigger corporate budget.


Finally, I'm going to go to social media. We found these are the best resource; we create our case studies and we create our surveys and we drive our content that provides insight. It's about $42,000, per exercise, but we're getting good results.

This is what's resonating in the C-suite.

Here are some of the videos, we talked about cutting into chunks.

Now I'm going to go into social snippets.

Increased social programs: planned and instantaneous

Social snippets is my team pulling together relevant content and assets we just made, creating one line of a quick little quip to say, 'Hey, look at so and so' and then putting an infographic link, or doing a press release.

Some of the most valuable real estate we have because it's our sales teams with relationships, is right here on my email and now we're leveraging that space. So leverage that space.

They're being sent to your most important customers and prospects, why let it go dead?

Keep it fresh, keep it simple.

We have a formalized program as well, at Oracle, our biggest problem is trying to make it not too corporate, keep it personal, social is personal.

We want to make sure that we throw in and have what I call instantaneous social, so there's planned and then there's instantaneous.

WSJ article for subscription service

A small sample from the Wall Street Journal.

One of the things that we brought in here, just bringing it full circle, we had the vision from a smart city perspective, this one's actually on the city of Chicago and what we're doing in the city of Chicago to make it a smart city and how you move it to a subscription-based economy.

We incorporated a demonstration here too, one of those three types of demonstrations to keep it at a high level.

Two years’ worth of work. It's a technology company. So don't fall in love with your technology.

Focus on the message. Get it to a higher level. Focus on your asset mix.

I took mine from 80-20 to more distributed across the selling cycle, and finally, make sure you work on your distribution channels.

Thank you.

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Written by:

Brian Kracik

Brian Kracik

Senior Director of Product Marketing for Enterprise Communications and Cloud Services at Oracle. We help people and companies collect, organize, and visualize data to deliver competitive advantage.

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Becoming a translator for the C-suite