Selling your ideas

Selling the value of a project to management takes more than talking like a businessperson. It requires thinking like a businessperson. In essence, if youíre not there already, you must become a businessperson.

The overriding focus of business leaders is creating value for stakeholders. Stakeholders include owners, managers, workers, partners, and customers. The firmís leaders are responsible for articulating a vision of how the organization will create value and specifying milestone objectives along the way there.

Any businessperson worthy of the name can relate how his or her activities support those objectives and help fulfill the vision. You should be able to articulate how what you're doing establishes value in these areas. This is your "elevator pitch" and you should be able to giive it in your sleep.

Analysis and Decision-making Techniques
Here are techniques for business analysis and decision-making that we rely on continually. We suggest you run through them when making major decisions until they become second nature.

  • Trade-off. Every business decision is a trade-off. (If thereís no trade-off, itís a no-brainer.) We find it useful to list the proís of doing something and the conís of not doing it or doing something else. Try to be aware of what youíre trading off when making a decision.

  • Risk. Every decision is made with less than perfect information, and every decision entails taking a risk. The way to make sound decisions is to judge when you have enough information to move ahead and when the level of risk is acceptable. A decision-maker who takes no risk receives no reward. A decision-maker who disregards risk is a fool, a pauper, or both.

    Financial decisions trade off risk and reward. An important corollary: There is no free lunch.

  • Empathy. To understand your customer, walk a mile in her shoes. Hereís how. Make up several representative customers (personas). Give them names, positions, likes, gripes, habits, intelligence and personalities. When youíre planning marketing campaigns and learning activities, stop every now and again to slip into these personasí shoes. How does our proposal make them feel?

  • The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, describes the common situation where 20% of the effort gets 80% of the results. Itís not uncommon for 20% of the sales force to make 80% of the sales. Or 20% of the customers to generate 80% of the profits. Itís likely that 20% of your effort produces 80% of your results.

    The point is that input and output are not balanced. As marketers, we break the market into pieces (ďsegmentsĒ) in order to identify and focus our attention on the significant few who produce most of the results.
    As designers of learning experiences, less is often more. Find the elusive 20% of the learnerís time that yields 80% of what is learned and put your energies there.

  • The bottom line. Earnings. Profit. Revenue minus costs. Over time, profit and shareholder value are the same thing. The total value of the shares is equivalent to the stream of expected future profits, discounted for the cost of capital. Forgive us if you find this obvious, but you must be able to relate your decisions and choices to the profitability of your organization. Otherwise, you will not be able to make sound decisions as conditions change.
    Focus on core; outsource everything else. Shareholder value (AKA market cap) is a function of sustained competitive advantage, and organizations achieve it by leveraging their core competencies. Everything else is context (overhead), and context is a needless distraction. Without careful management, context always gets in the way of core because it absorbs time, talent and management attention.

  • To get a different view, go up to the balcony. Look down from a higher level to gain a broader perspective. Try to discern whatís really going on. Back away from the trees to see the forest.

Business leaders present themselves to the world as confident, authoritative, conservative, results-oriented, deliberate, and a bit staid. Itís best to leave your clown suit in the closet when youíre selling a concept to executives. Be concise. Hit the concepts described above as they apply to your project. When youíve said your piece, ask for questions and sit down.

Posted by Jay Cross at December 30, 2001 07:31 PM | TrackBack

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