Change. It’s essential for small business growth…and it’s also something many owners resist. Their reasons are always very valid, but the fact is transitions and changes just have to happen sometimes. So when you decide that the business needs something new, you need to be careful about how you introduce the idea. Whether you’re proposing using a CRM, starting a blog, switching email providers, or just finally getting a smartphone, there are specific strategies you can employ to make sure this helpful change gets approved. I don’t usually contribute to the whole plans we offer our clients, but I’ve definitely had my share of small inputs. Here are a few things I’ve learned will help:
Explain why your idea is needed and the ways it will improve the company, both in the short- and long-term. Try including key phrases or specific examples that the owner has brought up in the past. For example, if the boss is constantly asking for updates on projects but also hates micromanaging, use this concern to make the idea of project planning software with social collaboration seem appealing. Explain that in the short term, the new software will allow them to frequently check for updates, but in the long term it will also improve the company culture by increasing communication and accountability.
Create a plan for implementation. A huge concern for many small business owners is that they will have to invest time and money in something that will fail. Generate a meticulous project plan that shows them not only that this is feasible but also gives them a better idea of the effort involved and the overall timeframe. For example, having a blog is a huge commitment, but detailed planning for an editorial calendar, periodic brainstorming sessions, and some “backup” posts makes the endeavor seem doable.
Designate an official owner for the project. This person will get to know every detail of the software or process, be responsible for implementing the project plan and reporting on the status, keep others accountable, and troubleshoot as needed. This will probably end up being you, but make this clear regardless so that the boss knows this is under control and won’t fall through the cracks. I’ve actually ended up being the administrator for our CRM, even though I don’t do sales myself. I have Alex and Albert’s login information and I regularly check to make sure they’re using it. If they have a problem or concern, I have spent a lot of time reading and watching tutorials on how best to use the software. The same goes for our project planning provider: everyone knows how to use the basic functionalities, but I watch webinars, talk to our account manager, read the blog, send feedback, reorganize as needed, etc. Not only am I ready to help solve problems that come up, I am making sure that we are using the program as effectively as possible and making the best use of all aspects of the service.
Have resources and answers readily available. If you’re presenting this idea at a meeting, have the project plan pulled up on your computer screen, go over how it compares with other options, and have the numbers ready to go. Consider printing hard copies of what you’re presenting, even if it’s redundant or simple. A lot of times, the person in charge doesn’t hear the awesome things you’re describing because they’re just waiting to ask how much it’s going to cost. So have the pricing ready and calculate ROI if possible. Be ready for all their questions—not only will this cut back on email back-and-forths, it will show everyone that you’re passionate and ready to run with this project, thus increasing confidence in your ability to make it happen.
Show that they can easily adapt. For many small business owners, a common barrier to change is the belief that they simply don’t have the time, mental bandwidth, or ability to go along with this idea. They’re used to doing everything themselves and this just seems like too much. So include training as a subsection of the implementation project plan and give them an idea of what they’re in for. Figure out what will best push their buttons and use this to your benefit—you may not think that the reporting features of a CRM are the most important or interesting, but the boss may get on board when they see some sexy pipeline graphs! Don’t get caught up in the minutiae you find fascinating, stick to “selling” what is most relevant and appealing. Something else you can try is finding out if there are people they know and/or respect who are successfully doing this. Knowing that their peers are all using Dropbox will make them much more likely to 1) believe they are capable of learning how to use it 2) want to join the cool cloud club.
These are some of the strategies I’ve learned to use when I have an inspiration that I think will help CSR or one of our clients. Do you have other tactics for selling an idea? Have you ever used one of the above methods? Please let us know in comments or on social media!