How to Secure Buy-In… How to Sell “it”?

Selling!

If ever there was an uphill task, it’s getting buy-in – convincing someone to buy whatever you’re selling.

It’s no wonder there are hundreds of books written on this topic. Most of them from the perspective of a business trying to make a deal. What about in a corporation? It’s not like you can knock on the CEO’s door and be granted an audience right away.

If you’re in a corporation trying to sell an idea/solution to your corporate – most of the time the immediate next steps are not clear. Very often you can end up going in circles. So if you had something to propose, how should you go about it?

I’m going to share a real example, how we launched an events management service, and we’ll build this handy little table as we go along, this checklist will help you structure and quantify your idea. This quick survey will help you decide if its worth pursuing.

Questions Yes/No
Is there clear business value
I know how this will be paid for
I know who is willing to pay for this
The numbers make sense, my management will agree
I can do a proof of concept, to secure buy-in
I can get customer supporters to present this idea to decision makers

Business Value

First and foremost, it stats with a need. Don’t think of it as looking at a gap, think of it as “what makes life easier?” Many times you’d know this just by keeping your fingers on the pulse and listening…. It can be the smallest gripes. In our case we heard them say – “its such a waste of time to talk to Vendor X, Vendor Y and Vendor Z to prepare for a townhall…” Just so happens those were IT vendors mentioned and we had super integrator skillsets available.

Business Value is abit more than someone crying for help. Most companies won’t care if an employee has to do more within the day, they are already paying for that employee. So an argument like “not good use of their time” or “not the right skillset” – these in itself won’t hold water.

We looked at the number of events and townhalls the customer had in a year, and reviewed their process – the number of vendors to talk to in preparation for the webcast and audio quality, as well as the type of things that went wrong during the townhall.

Our articulation was like this:

Each year in Asia, you hold 20 mini and major townhall events. These events vary in size, but typically have 100-250 participants joining in person and virtually. These events touch the end user in very direct way, every IT outage is strongly felt as a massive disruption (as we noted in the very last event) and discredits the capability of the IT organization.

 It typically takes your current team weeks to prepare for each townhall, in planning dry runs, and bringing 4 different technology vendors together. Because your resources are not dedicated to running events management as a service, the users face rescheduling/cancelling if schedules don’t align.

 We’re recommending to let us run this service for you. We have onsite presence in all the markets you have been conducting townhalls, and by virtue of this can offer:

  1. A competitive pricing model
  2. Guaranteed availability in accordance to the requester’s schedule
  3. All technical planning and integration to make each event a success
  4. Seamless partnership with your facilities team

Engagement Model

You have to ask yourself:

  • Who would pay for this?
  • How would they pay for this?
  • Is this a one-time service, is it ongoing?

Every company has its own financial process, different ways in which they can pay vendors – service requests, statements-of-work, books-of-work, small-purchase procurement systems.

Make the effort to understand their payment processes and lead times. You’re banging your head against the wall if you find that your customer’s procurement lead time is 1 week but the turnaround time for requests is 3 days. However you package your solution, it has to be realistic – it’s no longer a world where you let customer worry about payment, smart partner should advise the customer on this – which engagement process best fits the service/solution you are proposing.

It’s never wise strategy to package your proposal with a huge single price tag. Most customers today are going to want to see you in action before committing to a longer term agreement. Pay-as-you-use is also becoming a preferred model as the trend of services being commoditized grows.

This is typically where you’d run into a challenge, and where a lot of the works needs to go – packaging your idea into an affordable solution.

In our case, we found that the customer had a generic service request process with a lead time of 1.5 weeks and a cap of 2000 USD – specifically for routine tasks, and best of all, anyone could raise a generic service request.

So we did our math, worked out a task list, calculated the effort, put on the margins and we could offer the customer a per event price that was within the generic service request guidelines. We spoke to the customer’s procurement team to align on the general scope of work – thus making it a service request.

We added this to our business value summary:

Given this service will be used widely, by various business units – we believe that it makes fiscal sense for the business units to pay for the service versus the shared services organization. This would mean that our engagement model for the service must be flexible to allow for different cost-centers and location-codes, and it must have a fairly consistent pricing model.

Supporters

All the business value in the world won’t matter if the decision makers don’t agree. You could talk an idea to death with the folks whose lives become easier if implemented. What you need to do is ensure that the folks who matter, review it early.

Let’s say we’re told that we need to bring this idea to the regional CIO, you have to real clear in articulating the whole idea in a way that makes sense – what’s the benefit and what’s it going to cost? It may also make sense to lobby some of the folks in the CIO’s organization who stand to benefit from it, to get behind your proposal.

We did 3 things. Firstly, we spoke to the other vendors that supported different parts of a Townhall and socialized what we would do, to see if they welcomed the partnership… Second, we spoke to someone form the customer end who did some level of events management as a secondary role and lobbied for some support on our proposal… Third we reached management on our end, and achieved an internal alignment to do 2 for free to showcase the service.

We added this to the business justification:

As your strategic IT partner, no one knows better than us the value of standardization and producing a consistent level of customer satisfaction in every transaction we engage. We have partnered with your facilities organization and Townhall management team to standardized the pre-event, during-event and post-events IT tasks we conduct such that we are able to offer the service as a general service request in line with corporate standards.

 We are proposing to support this business need with a long term view in mind, we will support 2 events of your choosing for as our investment in this service to prove its value.

The Presentation

If you made it this far, you’re now presenting the proposal to customer leadership.

Not a lot to say in this section, keep it simple J My recommendation on the format:

  1. Start with what you want – the objective/solution
  2. Explain briefly what need it caters for, who benefits
  3. Share costs and what you will do for free

Also think very carefully about the help you need. Was there some signoff that was needed, was there some approval? Do you need a customer point-of-contact to work with on an ongoing basis?

Promotion!

If it takes off, congratulations on the sale. I’d recommend not to stop in a country or a region.

Use the opportunity to grow your profile, do a sharing with your counterparts in other regions.

Once you’ve trended the service for a while, do a management up, share the success with them.

The Summary We Sent

Each year in Asia, <company name> coordinates 20 mini and major townhall events. These events vary in size, but typically have 100-250 participants joining in person and virtually. These events touch the end user in very direct way, every IT outage is felt as a massive disruption (as we noted in the very last event) and discredits the capability of the IT organization.

 It typically takes <department name> approximately 16 hours over 3 weeks to prepare for each event; in planning dry runs, and bringing 4 different technology vendors together. Because your resources are not dedicated to running events management as a service, the users face rescheduling/cancelling if schedules don’t align or worse – they proceed with the event unprepared.

 We’re recommending to let us manage the IT aspect of your events. We have onsite presence in all the markets you have been conducting townhalls, and by virtue of this – we can offer:

  1. A competitive pricing model
  2. Guaranteed availability in accordance to the requester’s schedule
  3. All technical planning and integration to make each event a success
  4. Seamless partnership with your facilities team
  5. Delivery in accordance to your operational standards

 Given this service will be used widely, by various business units – we believe that it makes fiscal sense for the business units to pay for the service versus the shared services organization.

 As your strategic IT partner, no one knows better than us the value of standardization and producing a consistent level of customer satisfaction in every transaction we engage. We have partnered with your facilities organization and Townhall management team to standardized the pre-event, during-event and post-events IT tasks we conduct such that we are able to offer the service as a general service request, in line with corporate standards. This also means our engagement model for the service is flexible to allow for different cost-centers and location-codes with a fairly consistent pricing model.

 We are proposing to commoditize IT support for your events with a long term view in mind. To showcase the value we can bring, we will support 2 events of your choosing for as our investment to prove the value of this proposition.