Getting management buy-in for your new ideas and proposals may not be an easy thing to do. After all, they may already have other plans in place and a budget already allocated for. This is why it’s important for professionals to learn the concept of “issue selling.”
According to the Harvard Business Review, issue selling means being able to win support for new ideas. If you’ve been wanting to get the management buy-in for new product proposals to training and seminars, you need to know several tactics that will enable you to sell an issue, communicate its importance, and gain the support of the necessary individuals.
Here are six steps to help you gain management buy-in.
- Identify a problem
Before you can even reach a point where you can debate the merits of your idea to management, you first need to identify an “issue” or a problem to solve.
People are not going to consider your proposal until they are convinced that there’s a problem that truly needs to be addressed. Therefore, you need to identify the nature and extent of the issue at hand, and how important it is for the company to resolve such the problem.
For example, if you’re in the human resources department of an IT firm, you may have recently learned from the development manager that productivity among staff has been low since the company decided to switch the front-end framework being used. You immediately think that a training program could be a solution to this.
This may imply that the staff is struggling with the new framework, and the overall team productivity (and potentially client satisfaction) is being affected. Now that a problem has been identified, you have a solid foundation by which your pitch for training can stand on.
- Do your research
If you’re going to discuss a problem, then you are expected to have well-thought-out fixes. This is a key step towards your success in getting the buy-in. In fact, the most successful issue sellers pointed to specific solutions that addressed a flaw and included funding ideas.
The best way to go about this is to spend some time doing research. Once you’ve fully understood the problem, list down prospective solutions, suppliers, the estimated budget they may require, and the results you expect to have for each solution.
For instance, in the problem identified in the first step, you may try looking for providers of training and seminars in your area, get client references, pricing, and their success rates. You can also leverage statistics that prove the importance of employee training. Statistical proof makes for a solid case.
- Know the decision-makers
Especially for larger organizations, it is in your best interest to find out the people that you’ll need to persuade. Get to know their personality, their job description, and even their schedules, as these can help you determine how, when, and where to make your pitch.
Consider that you are expected to present to your CFO. As someone involved in finance and budget, you may need to prepare detailed information on the funding that you will need, as well as charts and graphs on your estimated ROI.
Identifying the things the decision-maker will want to know will help you present more effectively as he or she will be more receptive to the information you are sharing.
- Create your pitch
Business analyst, Adriana Beal, developed a four-step process to grab the management’s attention and persuade them to follow your recommendation.
- Create your “elevator pitch” or short sales speech that will quickly and simply define the problem, solution, expected results, and what you will need from the management. This enables you to discuss your entire pitch in case of time constraint.
- Summarize the research you performed to evaluate the project and the issue/s you’ve identified.
- Provide your proposed solutions to overcome hurdles and get the resources you need based on your research.
- End with a proposed course of action (your most recommended solution).
If they want you to move ahead, you may want to skip the solution section and go straight to your proposed course of action.
- Gather feedback
This is particularly important when the project you are proposing will involve certain groups of people, as successful issue sellers take the time to share plans and ideas with other people.
By bringing others into their efforts, they build a coalition that helps generate organizational buy-in more quickly as more people can provide input and resources. In addition, getting other people involved can help you reduce barriers and motivate more people to lobby for your ideas.
A study of reactions to issue sellers also suggested that it’s important to include the feedback of individuals the target audience (i.e. the decision-makers) trusts.
In the example of pitching a training program for IT staff, it may make sense to get the feedback of the development manager, as well as the actual developers on what they think about having such a training and development program.
- Consider when to make your pitch
Timing is everything—even when issue selling. Once you’ve completely crafted your pitch, you need to find the right time to raise your ideas. This may be when priorities are shifting, when certain individuals leave or join the organization, or when the manager’s preoccupations are changing. A bad time might be pitching at the end of the year when budgets have already been approved.
For the training and development example, you may want to time your pitch a few weeks before onboarding the newly-hired developers who will also be using the front-end framework or in-between the production of big projects.
Issue sellers recognize that getting management buy-in can be challenging. However, by following expert advice on identifying a problem, doing research, working with the stakeholders, and tailoring the pitch for the decision-makers, any professional can effectively win leadership support for their new ideas.
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