“We need a new couch,” my wife says to me. I was not aware of this need.
“Why?” I ask.
“It’s 16 years old.”
“So what? Looks good to me, and it fits my bottom perfectly.”
“Actually, it is too big for this room.”
“It’s been in this room for 12 years. Has the room shrunk recently?”
After that conversation I don’t hear any more about furniture for a couple of weeks. Then, over the Sunday paper, my attention is directed to a furniture ad replete with a four-color spread of couches. I scan and nod, “Nice looking.”
The campaign has begun. Next come the comments about her girlfriend’s new living room decor. Then there are newspapers casually left open to furniture ads, TV commercials that come up seemingly on their own. My attention is directed to furniture wherever we go.
One day she comes in and shows me three brochures featuring couches she likes. I’m a dead man. We’re having a new couch delivered next week.
In case you missed it, she built a sales campaign that moved the buyer — me — from disinterest, resistance — I’d rather spend the money on a new set of clubs and a golfing trip to Palm Springs — and no perceived need, to yes.
People tell me they can’t get the budget they need to do their jobs well. The reasons they cite are familiar: no money, no need, no attention, no value, no, no, no.
Failure to sell is the result of inadequate preparation. Just as my wife laid the groundwork over a period of weeks until I could see the reason for getting something I didn’t care about, you have to lay the groundwork before you make your pitch.
Recognize that your boss has more requests than he or she can possibly fulfill. He or she also has to compete with other unit managers who want a piece of the budget. Like you, your boss has to sell upward to get resources.
I’ve been in business since 1959. I’ve learned that the many excuses we are given for lack of support are usually legitimate, except for one. If we are told there is no money, that is a lie. In a company that generates millions or billions of dollars each year, there is always money somewhere. What may be true is that we are not getting any of it.
Senior management can always find money for something they believe in. So when we are told there isn’t any money, they are really saying the money is going to be given to someone whose sales pitch is better than ours.
There are several things you can do to prepare your buyer for the pitch you will give. They include:
•Casually point out something akin to what you are going to pitch without expressing a need for it.
• Share an article about what another company did in the general area of your topic.
• Mention your topic to a colleague of your boss in the hope that the message will be passed on.
• Share an idea about the topic, something you saw or heard, and ask the boss what he or she thinks about that.
• Prompt someone who will be in a meeting with you and the boss to bring up the topic, for which you will have supporting evidence.
Now that you know the reasons for no, what are you going to say in your sales pitch to get to yes? There are three rules for successful sales:
1. Know your product: What is its objective value — make money or save money?
2. Know your competition: Who is after the same money and what do they have to offer?
3. Know your customer: What is his or her pressing need that your idea will support?
Finally, reverse the situation. If you were the boss, what would appeal to you? Be aware of the market. If your company is on a cost-containment program, don’t pitch innovation. If the competition is fierce, pitch competitive advantage by helping get a product to market faster with better quality.
The bottom line is your pitch cannot be about what is good for HR. It has to be what good it will be for your boss and the organization.?