So you have a great idea and want to pitch it to your leader. You know it’s a great idea, so how do you persuade the powers that be to give you the green light? Well, as the joke goes all leaders are from Missouri, the ‘show me state’… so show them it’s a great idea! In order to get that buy-in, it’s your job to illustrate the vision and impact of your idea in a compelling way.
Where to start?
You must start with the big picture by asking how the idea benefits the organization. Facts, figures, and passion are all required to paint a full picture. Leverage storytelling to share compelling data in a way that appeals to the heart and mind. Explain what success will look like and how the future will change for the better. If you don’t have the data to back up the idea, go back to the question of how does this benefit the origination? If you can’t answer that question, then your idea needs more time to incubate.
Once you can answer how the organization will benefit, your job is only beginning. The flip side of that coin is the actual plan execution. This is where the rubber meets the road! If the timeline or resources available are too restrictive, then the idea is still not ready. The new software you like might be affordable, but if it takes years to implement, it may not be practical.
Before proceeding with any proposal explore the question “what if it fails?” Imagine that you have the go-ahead and you launch the project. Then, things go horribly wrong and the project ultimately fails. Why could this happen? By exploring what could go wrong now, you can anticipate pitfalls and plan ways to mitigate the risks. Use this to better plan the project and present your proposal.
How much information do I need?
Imagine for a moment that you are the leader and your employee is pitching the idea to you. What kind of information will you be looking for? Generally speaking, if the idea doesn’t save time or money, it will be hard to persuade anyone that it will be worth the investment.
The information should be comprehensive, but presented in a succinct way. Costs will be associated with the entire process and should not be minimized or overlooked. Consider everything including time, materials, resources, people, systems, software and training. Using the worse-case assumptions here will help you avoid unplanned overruns later. You may want to consider including a range of costs from target through worst-case. Overall, be realistic and thorough. The worst thing you can do is to try to massage the numbers at the start, only to have to explain budget overruns later. This will erode your credibility and make it even harder to gain acceptance of your next big idea.
As with any professional communication, you should present a polished proposal in writing. You are presenting an idea and putting yourself out there too. Don’t dilute the idea with poor formatting and spelling mistakes.
Consider your audience when writing the proposal. Leaders often wear many hats and have limited time. If you want your proposal read, you must keep it concise and to the point. Provide a summary and bottom-line cost impact first. All of the data and research should be available, but you want to hook your reader early! Make sure your data includes hard and soft costs, benefits including savings and any return on investment or buy-back information.
Provide easy to read charts, tables and avoid getting to fancy with formatting. Let the data speak for itself. If the data is complex, find ways to simplify it and try illustrative storytelling to convey the message.
As we all know, timing matters! If you walk into your leader’s office to pitch your proposal, but clearly something else is going on, alter your approach. If your audience is distracted by another issue or even emergency, how well do you think they will be listening? Instead, use this opportunity to see how you can pitch in and help, and reschedule your pitch for another time.
Remember, timing matters for you as well. If you are not well-prepared, you are less likely to be successful. Plan ahead and ensure you have buffer time for preparation. You do not want to be scrambling the morning of the meeting to refresh yourself on the details.
Congratulations, you got a yes on your proposal! Getting your proposal accepted is great, and again, your work doesn’t stop here. Keep up momentum by transitioning into project planning activities. Make sure to provide regular updates to the leader and keep them updated on how the project is proceeding.
If you did not gain acceptance, reflect on the reasons why. Keep in mind, the reasons may be completely unrelated to your project. Either way, there are still valuable lessons to be gained. Think about the things you did well and what you could improve on. Ultimately, you still gained important experience by practicing building proposals. This skill-building will help you be better equipped to present your next big idea.
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information: