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Selling to Internal Decision Makers – Part 3 of 3

In our previous Selling Internally posts, we’ve listed two key components to a request: The Why and The How of your proposal. Both are equally important to getting approval.  This post focuses on “How” you intend to implement and achieve your objectives.

There’s a well-known formula for effective goal setting that I first learned about in college – and have heard repeated often in professional training sessions. The technique is to establish SMART goals. Each letter in SMART stands for an important attribute for the goal itself:

S – specific
M – measurable
A – achievable
R – realistic
T – timely

You can use a similar formula for presenting effective and persuasive proposals: SMARTER plans. In this formula, each letter stands for a key element of your plan.

S – summary
M – metrics
A – action items
R – resources
T – timeline
E – evaluation
R – results

In this section of your plan, you will provide a brief analysis of the situation today, the changes you would like to make, and what you expect to achieve as a result. The summary is positioned at the beginning of your proposal—giving your boss the option to scan the remaining details before making a decision.

Any key data points that illustrate the positive impact of your idea should be included in your plan. As discussed in an earlier post, you always want to present metrics that clearly align your project or request with the decision-maker’s interests. Using the right metrics will often help illustrate the strategic position.

Most likely your plan will require a budget. Include all money-related items in this section of your proposal.

Metrics should also be used to identify trends or conditions that exist in your department or the organization. You may want to forecast how you will reverse a negative trend or trigger a positive shift.

Action Items
You should outline the major tasks required to execute your plans. Essentially you’re describing the tactical implementation of your idea.

Prior to getting approval, it is typically not necessary to produce a detailed project plan.  An exception to the rule might be proposals involving major organizational changes that require significant resource allocation. For example, if you’re proposing a new mobile initiative, you might need a comprehensive  project plan with thorough research and analysis.

You should list all the resources required for achieving a successful outcome. In particular, pay close attention to other departments and stakeholders with a vested interest in your plans. For example—how does your idea impact IT or Sales?

Similar to your Action Items section, you don’t need to get too granular prior to approval.  Just note any dependencies that may affect your timeline. Another good tip for bigger concepts and ideas is to show a phased approach in the timeline.  This makes the plan easier to comprehend.

This is the ‘opinion’ section where you present the merits and significance of your request. Get comments and feedback (good and bad) from others, especially key stakeholders, and present them within your evaluation. Will your changes be popular? Will your idea meet resistance? Communicate your best evaluation of the idea and the plan; do the ‘analysis’ for your boss.

If approved, what will be the outcome of your changes? It’s important to repeat the forecasts from the metrics section as well as include the qualitative effects of a yes decision. Back to the example of a mobile initiative — if your organization is focused on adapting to the changes in consumer behavior and looking to engage in more channels, key results might include better positioning for your brand over the competition.

Including all of the items on the SMARTER list demonstrates that you have a well-prepared and thorough strategy behind your request, increasing the likelihood that you’ll garnish a resounding “Yes!”

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