The five fees for selling the top 4

“not now.”

Vic’s heart sank when he heard Tanya, the deputy head of his department, utter the words. He thought he had done everything right; Ensure that his facts are correct, clearly articulate the problem, and get Tanya to acknowledge the problem and his proposed solution. He thought it was a done deal. After the meeting, Vic went to Brenda’s office to vent. Brenda and Vic have been supervising each other since Vic joined the organization, so he felt safe trusting her.

“I just don’t get it!” nag at you. “The problem is as obvious as the nose on my face, and the solution is a no-brainer.”

“What did Tanya say?” Brenda asked.

“not now.”

Brenda leaned back in her chair. “Not now, eh?”

“Right, not now.”

Brenda said, “Let me ask you something.”


“Look behind me? These are Tanya’s priorities for this year.”

“Yeah, I know, I found that on my wall, too,” said Vic.

“How does what I just showed Tanya fit into her priorities?”

Vic searched through each item on the list. “Well, it really isn’t, but that’s still a big problem that we need to fix!”

“And did she say it’s not a problem?”

“Okay, no.”

Was she supportive of your solution?

“Yes, but …”

She said, ‘Not now,’ implying that there are more important priorities that she wants to address. You know, as I do, we have finite resources to tackle problems; she chooses which ones to solve with the resources available. She’s just a good leader by not haphazardly distributing her organization With today’s problem. Does that make sense?”

Smile at you. “Yes, I see your point.”

“Good, now what about lunch, shall you?” Brenda asked.

“Sure, I meet you in the elevators at ten?”

“Yeah, but if I’m paying, we’ll have sushi,” Vic smiled, knowing Brenda wasn’t a fan of raw fish.

“Cooked crab rolls for me, sticky stuff for you.”

Tolgate4: I see how this aligns with my priorities

Getting this far through the fee gates means the CEO acknowledges there is a problem and understands your course of action. Now it comes down to how the course of action you want to take aligns with the other issues of concern your exec is facing. Executives live in a world of competing priorities, all vying to share brains, people, and money. Your job here is to make sure you understand the exec’s priorities and anticipate how your course of action will align with the priorities. Many executives clearly document their priorities and make it easier for the organization to understand what they want to do. However, some may contain other items that are not on a published list. This could be due to recent events causing priorities to change or it could just be a lazy executive who doesn’t take the time to communicate those things that are top of mind. Whatever the scenario, your job is to understand the CEO’s priorities and clearly define how to align your course of action.

This is where the concept of the absolute versus the relative comes into play; Something that many less experienced professionals find difficult to understand. On an absolute basis, your course of action could be the right thing to do, but on a relative basis there may be higher competing priorities that need to be addressed before taking your course of action. This is where an answer like, “Great idea, not now” can be given. This does not mean that your course of action is a bad idea, that you did something wrong, or that the CEO is a fool for not jumping on your course of action; It just means that there is more fish to fry. Embrace it as a fact of your career.


You may have a great idea that solves some business problems or takes advantage of an opportunity. It’s not just a matter of convincing an executive of your solution; It’s also understanding how your idea aligns with the CEO’s priorities. Take the time to understand the priorities and be prepared to articulate how your solution addresses what executives care about.

We have gone through four gates so far:

  • Tolgit 1: I think you are credible
  • Tolgit 2: I acknowledge the problem
  • Tolgit 3kisa: I understand what you want to do with it
  • Tolgate4: I see how this aligns with my priorities

Next is Part 5 of The five fees are for sale.

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