"We are actively and successfully implementing the procedures you gave us for managing our time and workloads." —Catherine A. Merschel, Executive Director, Eden Housing, Inc.


Selling Ideas to Upper Management

You have a great idea for a project. It will be useful, save money and effort for your department, not to mention solve a nagging problem. This should be an easy sell, but your request for additional budget is denied. What happened? Not getting funding for an idea, project, or training strategy is not always a reflection on the quality of the idea. Many factors affect a "yes" decision. Timing, presentation style, perceived criticalness of the issue, to name a few. It is difficult to get management to loosen the purse strings, particularly when they are faced with a myriad of good ideas from their other managers, who are simultaneously trying to push their initiatives. Try this five-step plan to break out from the pack and get the green light.

Step 1. Language is key. How you ask is as important as what you are asking. People who are successful in the art of the deal attest that it is all in the way you say it. Approval is easier when your packaging and positioning is in alignment with and uses language management understands. When building your presentation, focus on benefits to them and ways their situation will be eased.

Step 2. Understand motivation. Learn what drives those who run your organization. If you can understand the motivation and the needs of senior managers then you can build a case that makes it easier for them to support funding your project. This is where information via the grapevine and knowing the scoop about what is going on underground can be critical. Even in circumstances in which an initiative pushed by a vice president is highly publicized, it is sometimes the case that resources are actually being diverted elsewhere.

Step 3. Link to the bottom line. Clearly indicate how your project can help the bottom line. Tie it into existing strategic initiatives and your project is more likely to be funded. If your project will benefit your department and you base your arguments on that foundation, you will probably be less effective than using departmental benefits as only one of a series of stepping stones that bolster your major point which is bottom line driven.

Step 4. Be real. As you build your presentation as much as possible, use real figures to support your points. Estimates are vague and likely to be dismissed as exaggeration or fantasy. Internal statistics are always good, but so are figures from competitors. Sometimes basing a case on moving away from a situation, i.e., a fast-gaining competitor can be more powerful than moving toward an ideal.

Step 5. Track your return on investment. Show how you will track your ROI through the duration of the project. This will indicate the thoroughness of your plan. If you are in a "soft" area, like training or human resources, you must be particularly diligent about this when requesting large expenditures for expanding facilities, hiring staff, or setting up a new multimedia training library.

Step 6. Keep it brief and cogent. It is tempting to provide too much information and more details than senior managers are interested in trying to absorb in your initial meeting. Give them the summary information with your key points but bring your supporting documentation just in case you must justify a particular figure or assumption.

There is no foolproof, guaranteed way to make the sale every time but these strategies will help you successfully sell your budget proposals more often. Your common sense and pragmatic approach to presenting a project can help upper management make changes and take steps the organization needs to undertake in order to successfully pursue its mission and goals.

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: odette@SmartWaysToWork.com. Visit us at: www.smartwaystowork.com call: 1-800-599-8463.

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