One of the key tasks of managers is to gain support and approval for new ideas. Sometimes this can be done quickly and informally, but for bigger decisions, a more formal approach is required.
So, whether you want funding for a new product or service idea, approval for a reorganisation of your team, or extra cash to help you fund new marketing and sales campaigns, what are the critical factors that will give your proposal the best chance of success?
Having worked on dozens of formal business proposals over the years, here are seven steps that can help turn senior indifference for your idea into raging support and evangelism.
Develop a trusting relationship with your decision-maker.
It’s not just your idea that counts when it comes down to the final decision. Your track record and your relationship with the decision-maker are also vitally important. Spend time getting to know the decision-maker, understand their needs, preferences and their objectives, and seek to create a trusting relationship of peers.
Clarify your big idea.
Behind every business proposal is a specific ‘big idea’. Ikea, for instance, is built on a big idea of ‘creating a better everyday life for the many people.’ Understanding and articulating that idea has helped the business create a clear and compelling brand concept and operating model. What is the big idea behind your proposal that can help you build logical and emotional support for your proposal?
Maximise the benefits.
Too many proposals that I read hide the real benefits, opting instead to enter into excessive detail on how the idea can be implemented and operated. Operational issues are important, but are only relevant once your ‘buyer’ is bought into the benefits of the big idea. You must list out the major benefits – both financial (e.g. sales and profit growth, return on investment) and non-financial (e.g. brand development, customer loyalty and corporate reputation) – and show your decision-maker that the prize is so compelling that the risks of change are worth taking.
Think of your proposal as a story.
People relate to stories far more than they relate to facts. Think through the situation and why it’s relevant to your decision-maker, and consider the provocative questions that your proposal is seeking to answer.
Use an inductive approach.
There are two basic ways to writing a` proposal. One is deductive, and involves sharing all the salient facts up-front before providing your conclusion and recommendations. The problem with this approach is that it creates too much hard work for the decision-maker. Like a detective story, they need to piece together all the clues before they can understand what it is you want to do. Instead, use an inductive approach and set out your proposal up-front and then support your big idea with compelling reasons to believe.
Do not start writing your proposal by immediately opening up your Powerpoint or similar application! That will merely serve to confuse you and give you a sense of control that does not match reality. You may eventually wish to create a presentation for your proposal, but this should be the last, not the first thing, that you should do.
Do not think of your pitch as some sort of cup final or one-off event. Instead, think of it as part of an ongoing conversation. That way you will feel free to follow-up with your decision-maker, get feedback and have the opportunity to deal with any concerns. Even if your proposal is rejected does not mean that you should give up. Entrepreneurs often have to make 20, 30 or even more pitches to potential funders before receiving the backing they are after. Feedback from each of these “failed” proposals enables the entrepreneur to change the pitch, the idea and their relationship with the decision maker until the proposal is sufficiently compelling.
Which of these seven steps could help you transform the chances of obtaining approval for your business proposals?
© Stuart Cross 2019. All rights reserved.