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Get Executive Sponsorship for Your Great Ideas

LisaG_2_v2Today's blog post is by Lisa Gschwandtner, Editorial Director at Selling Power. Follow her on Twitter @SellingPower20.


Many sales leaders have great ideas about how to help the sales team improve or exceed its goals. No matter what your idea is, it probably represents an investment of time or money (or both) to carry it out.

In February of 2012, two sales leaders, Ken Powell and Jim Neve, had a great idea for SunGard, a financial-services company: undergo a complete sales transformation. The plan was to maximize channels, sell the broadest set of solutions, and go to market in a coordinated manner -- all with the goal of creating a sustainable revenue engine.

All told, Powell and Neve planned to invest about $4 million to purchase technology solutions and work with vendors who could help them achieve their goal. In a workshop at the recent Sales Performance Management Conference in San Francisco, Powell said that a key element of success was to secure executive sponsorship. Here are five tips he shared for getting the boss to support your great ideas:

1) Align your idea with existing strategic priorities.

You’ll have a much better chance of convincing executives to support your idea if it complements stated goals for the organization. Given the challenges SunGard faced at the start of the sales transformation, it was pretty easy to make a strong case for building a sustainable revenue engine. As long as you can connect the dots, your company’s strategic goals could be a great springboard to garner enthusiasm for your idea.

2) Don’t ask for new money.

There’s a budget for your idea -- it’s just sitting somewhere else right now. Before you ask your boss to divert funds from other departments, however, make sure you truly believe your idea will bring the highest value to the company. If you don’t feel that way, wait for a better idea to strike.

3) Build an internal coalition among peers.

The boss isn’t the only person you should be chatting up. Build a coalition of support among your colleagues for your idea. Ideally, they’ll talk it up without your involvement. Powell calls this “seed planting.”

4) Offer your boss at least three options.

Powell said it’s rare that he doesn’t provide executives a list of at least three options, along with a list of the pros and cons of each. The reason is simple: if the boss feels he or she had a part in crafting or selecting the idea, it might be easier to secure support for execution. Allow your boss to decide in which direction the company should go.

5) Present and refine those options multiple times.

As a rule, don’t expect to get a yes from top-level executives on the first go-around. In fact, Powell says it’s a good idea to assume that execs will be either neutral or negative about your proposal. Use the presentation as an opportunity to test and refine your idea. Although it can be frustrating when the boss doesn’t see its value right away, taking the time to listen to feedback and refine options can get you one step closer to yes.

You don’t have to embark on an idea as lofty as a sales transformation to try out Powell’s advice. Investments in change (even tactical ones, such as outfitting the field sales team with mobile devices) typically require resources and internal support. Use these tips to get buy-in from the boss and make your mark as a great sales leader.

For more behind-the-scenes information about SunGard’s sales transformation, download this free white paper

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