Selling to Internal Decision Makers: Whys that Matter
Last week, we reviewed the basics for effectively pitching ideas to internal decision makers. To get a Yes, we recommended that every request include two sets of arguments: the “Why we should do this” and a plan for “How.”
Today we’ll take a closer look at making the case for Why your manager should approve your request.
Recall that the Why argument is basically to illustrate why your idea matters. In theory, this part sounds easy, right? You probably have a long, compelling list justifying why you want to make a change (or add headcount, or purchase a new technology product, or take a training course, or…). Unfortunately, your list of reasons may not successfully persuade your boss.
Framing your proposal in terms of your manager’s interests and priorities is a necessary part of any request. [Tip: Remember that your manager’s interests will often reflect her/his manager’s interests and priorities.]
Here are some additional tips for addressing what matters to decision makers:
Always include three key message points:
- Solving relevant problems (or seizing opportunities!)
Problems that directly relate to your manager’s responsibilities and goals will matter to your boss. Even more important or relevant are issues that tie directly to metrics that appear on your manager’s quarterly objectives and goals.
For example, let’s imagine that you’re seeking approval to hire a resource to manage your team’s social media presence. Your reasons for adding headcount may seem obvious: social media is HUGE and growing! It takes time to ‘socialize’ your marketing efforts effectively. Plus your own To Do list is beyond long. Social is important and you need help.
Case closed? Not quite. That line of thinking is unlikely to move your boss, let alone your boss’ boss.
If you positioned the new hire as a manager responsible for optimizing social media activity that directly impacts revenue, and revenue goals are stated departmental objectives, you are giving the request context and relevancy to the executive giving approval.
Frame your request as an action item or part of a plan designed to achieve departmental objectives. Align the benefits of your request with quarterly (or annual) goals – and associate your request with the same types of metrics as appear on your executive’s performance plans.
Before you submit a request, consider the impact of a delayed decision, which is often the equivalent of getting an outright “No.” If a slow or non-implementation is costing you money—you’ll need to show your manager why later is too late.
Ask and answer the following questions:
- What does the opportunity cost?
- What is the added expense of maintaining the status quo?
- What IF you waited another month, quarter or even year?
Let’s consider a different example than the social media request. This scenario involves requesting for additional trade show budget.
To best demonstrate “optimal timing” you’ll want to contrast implementing your idea now vs. delayed vs. not at all. Again, the most impactful influences on most decision-makers are facts and metrics. Showing data not only reinforces the reason(s) the decision matters, it also creates a sense of urgency.
You could create a graph showing the current trajectory of leads being generated without additional shows compared to the lift with attendance in the current quarter and finally doing another show, but waiting until next quarter. A visual representation of the numbers will help a VP move to the next step in his/her review process.
An important prerequisite for internal selling is to run-the-numbers. You should not risk presenting a half-baked idea. Nor should you pursue an initiative that isn’t likely to benefit organizational priorities. The best way to gain the confidence of a decision-maker is to be well prepared and to project ROI.
Why is the language of ROI so critical to the sales process?
Nearly all budget allocations in business are tied to growth, revenue, or other key results. Organizational leadership determines success on whether or not its past decisions yielded positive outcomes. And new decisions that require a change in resources or priorities will eventually boil down to subsequent returns.
In other words: “How much is this gonna cost me?” and “What will it get me?”
It’s often easier to back into the ROI equation by starting with your best-guess-estimate of what you will achieve. Then calculate the expense (not just hard costs but other resources, too) your idea will realistically take to implement. Your goal is to ensure you’re proposing a plan that requires the least effort for the greatest reward.
Next up: Structuring a solid plan that will add credibility to your Why arguments.
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