Why FMs can’t sell ideas to senior management

Satisfying the needs of an organization
Friday, January 22, 2021
By Michel Theriault

Facility managers know what they need, but have a hard time convincing their organizations to provide enough resources to deliver productive, safe facilities with minimal risk and best value.

In order to get approvals for initiatives, resources and funding, managers must often conquer obstacles intrinsic to the profession. Here are the main challenges and how to overcome them.

Facilities tend to be technical

The job has a technical basis, whether managing an entire building and its systems or only leased space. Yet senior management typically doesn’t understand its acronyms or care about technical issues.

Facility managers are passionate about what they do, but if they are overly technical with communications, business cases and presentations, senior management loses interest and won’t understand why the issue is important.

Instead, consider how the technical issue impacts the organization from their perspective and adjust the messaging. Don’t talk about the new HVAC technology; speak to how it reduces cost, reduces environmental impact, improves indoor environment for employees, reduces the risk of building systems failing and has a positive impact on productivity.

Facility managers like to get things done

Most facility managers joined the profession because they get a deep sense of accomplishment from what they do and are able to take on new endeavours, which they often willingly pursue.

Unfortunately, this results in more time performing tasks and less time strategizing and planning how to get senior management to approve needs.

Instead, managers should start to decline or avoid reacting immediately to new tasks. Hiring great staff or contractors and delegating work to them gives facility managers more thinking time to assess everything on their to-do list and prioritize what is relative to the big picture. This will offer more room to focus on strategy and figuring out a plan for convincing senior management of necessary support, resources or money.

The organization doesn’t understand what FMs need to deliver results

Others in the organization, particularly senior management, usually don’t understand what facility management needs.

Facility managers make it look easy: they solve problems and failures quietly and they often do a lot with very little. As a result, facility managers are hiding the true effort, resources, funding and work it takes to ensure that the organization’s assets are well taken care of and the occupants have a safe, productive environment to perform their core business.

Instead, communicate problems and failures and back them up with reasons, examples and what-ifs to demonstrate the impact on the organization. For instance, even if a satisfaction survey results in a low score, use it to show why more funding is needed for those problem areas. A great way to achieve this is to tell a story—making it seem real and concrete as a way to persuade those who are listening. It is not your failure; it is the failure of the organization to provide you with what you need.

Facility management is seen as a cost, not a benefit

Real estate is an investment, but even though it is a critical support service that the organization needs to conduct business and be successful, it is taken for granted and considered a cost centre to the organization.

It is difficult for facility managers to measure the benefits of the services they deliver and the facilities that they manage, based on traditional things senior managers care about most: revenue and profit.

Facility managers can search for case studies and concrete examples from other organizations that demonstrate benefits and link it to what they are doing. Use what-if stories to illustrate the overall or long-term negative impact of senior management decisions.

What happens if the air conditioning that needs replacing fails, or if the unreliable compressor fails and there is no compressed air for the production line? What if the old roof leaks and damages important equipment or forces part of the office to vacate? What happens if the elevator is out of commission because parts are challenging to obtain?

Don’t focus on cost reductions or cost savings. Focus on the value and impact of the facility’s job and what will happen if funding, resources or necessary support are denied.

Facility managers are competing with other departments

Facility managers require resources to accomplish tasks, but other departments within the organization need the same, and often limited, resources. Asking for support and funding often results in a tug-of-war with other departments.

Rather than fight against each other, as in a boxing match, facilities should view the competition as a team sport like football—where every member contributes to the success of the team; each person must have resources to succeed in his or her role or else everyone fails.

This means working first with other departments to persuade them that satisfying facility management needs is also crucial to their role. Make your goals their goals, compromise if necessary and support each other’s requests to senior management.

And if that doesn’t work, figure out how to beat them with a sales pitch that is more compelling than theirs. Identify the risks of not approving an initiative by using lingo senior management understands. Make it clear that they are accepting those risks.

Sometimes this means admitting any close calls and failures, and telling the story about the real impacts of not funding facility management to the level needed to meet the organization’s goals.

We are not trained to sell our needs

Most facility managers don’t have a sales and marketing background. Their job interests revolve around getting the work done rather than selling.

Yet in order to obtain necessary resources, they must market and sell ideas to senior managers. Expertise and knowledge of facility management issues are not enough.

Learn more about selling and marketing. Find compelling templates and approaches for developing business cases. Get better at creating and deliver an effective sales presentation to senior management.

Find out what other successful facility managers are doing by networking with them and asking questions. Taking the time to sell one’s needs is more important for the future of the organization than simply getting things done today.

Michel Theriault is principal of FM Insight Consulting, performing operational assessments, benchmarking, procurement and training to support facility and property managers. For more information, visit


2 thoughts on “Why FMs can’t sell ideas to senior management

  1. Well said and 100% true. All facilities and maintenance are treated as a cost and seen as the enemy. The more money you save a company the less support and respect you get. In fact you will ever be viewed with suspicion by senior management.

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