The ability to pull off a business case is a crucial skill in the toolbox of today’s workplace leaders; yet, this is something that leaders are usually not exposed to until suddenly, it is a high stakes, do not fail case.
High-impact mid-level leaders – the B-Suite – are increasingly called upon to brainstorm, engage, and write important business cases that were previously the domain of the C-suite and their financial partner. Yet many of them don’t know where to start and rarely have a mentor to walk them through.
The simple trick to gaining a business case is to think through your approach and commit to it well.
Don’t start by finding a business case template online and start writing things down – this is a sure-fire way to stop yourself from doing your best! Instead, plan your approach and engage widely – by the time you write it, half the deal will have been won and your pitch will be tested and strong.
These 5 key steps that will ensure you build – and land – the perfect business case next time, every time:
Think – Prepare your pitch
Make sure you understand and can clearly articulate:
- Why are you proposing a change: what fear, pain, or opportunity exists for the business you are proposing to deal with?
- How would you size this? Is there anything being measured today, whether it’s through financial or efficiency data, user feedback, or generally accepted facts?
- Who will benefit – both in terms of improvements and in terms of achievable benefits (more details in step 3)
- What is your solution and does it relate directly to your problem statement?
- TIP: Avoid the best practice trap – “because we should / this is best practice” will rarely win you a business case
Engage – Channels of influence
Now develop your influencer strategy by determining who you should talk to and what part of your pitch you should present to them. Taking a strategic approach to how you deliberately influence the process is crucial, and it’s something we often cut short in our rush to deliver a written business case on time. Even in a small business, this is a critical step in getting a yes.
- Who are your key decision makers, what process do they need you to go through and what they are thinking right now – you can leverage this in your favor.
- Who influences these key decision makers and can you rally them?
- Who are your main beneficiaries and do they support your cause? Use them to practice your pitch – they have a vested interest in your success after all!
Convince – Nail your advantages
Many executives I work with can overly complicate the reporting of benefits.
- Link your benefits directly to your problem and related measures.
- Peripheral benefits such as safety, legal or reputational risks can often be as compelling as tangible benefits, but not if they don’t match the problem statement.
- If you state tangible benefits, demonstrate how those benefits will be realized.
- TIP: Don’t use specialized metrics – especially if they’re not already reported, it may confuse your stakeholders and undermine your message.
Keep it simple and compelling – the more you add, the weaker your benefits will appear.
Prove – Share your implementation plan
It’s not enough for your stakeholders to agree with the problem statement and agree that your benefits will be realized by addressing the root cause – they also want evidence that you can actually do it! This is a very important trust tactic that often wins over decision makers who are always on the fence.
- Can you present them with a quick option versus a cheap option, and are there any quick wins or early benefits that could be realized along the way?
- Any implementation gaps or risks that you need to report or mitigate?
- What are the specific steps you will take to complete and the key steps if you are successful in obtaining financing?
Deliver – Writing and presentation
You are finally ready to write and present!
Every business and investment process is different, and they all have their own models, so be sure to find what you need when researching your avenues of influence.
- Keep it short and concise – your stakeholders are busy
- Keep it simple – don’t lose your point in layers of jargon and complex paragraphs
- Give them options – 1) the risk of doing nothing 2) your preferred option and 3) an acceptable plan B.
Depending on the formality of your organization, a good business case can be a multi-page affair or a compelling conversation. Either way, these five steps will help you approach your pitch logically, consistently, and with the support you need to be successful.
Written by Rebecca Houghton.
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