The Reluctant Sponsor is an Untapped Resource in Business Growth
Remember the good old days when the visionary executive called the shots? If you had an innovative idea, it wasn’t too difficult to find sponsorship because hey, everything was looking up and the company had extra money to invest and couldn’t wait to bring out their version of the iPad. But in an economic downturn, visionaries lose power to the pragmatists, who holds very conservative views when it comes to wasting the company’s money on any concept that is not proven.
Who are these pragmatists? They often come from Line Management, Operations or Finance. They are strong individuals motivated by achievement and control. They want to protect the company’s resources and have almost zero tolerance for ambiguity or fuzzy outcomes and questionable business growth. If they are not analysts financial analysts themselves, they will usually have their trusted analyst sitting right next to them, ready to throw cold water on your spark of innovation.
If you have followed any recent history of Hewlett-Packard. Carly Fiorina was a visionary, Mark Hurd a pragmatist. While senior managers could talk about “brand love” with Carly, Mark would wave off any such talk and zero in on a line item in the product line financials, especially if those financials were not up to his expectations. Woe to the manager who went into a meeting with Mark as if he were presenting to Carly.
So, how can you gain the support of these reluctant sponsors?
First and foremost – Be prepared! Have your facts, figures, and data straight. A Portland marketing coach can help you to be prepared for what the meeting may bring. Preparedness is very important in your future business marking efforts.
In the meeting, be direct and specific. Don’t open up the presentation with a long preamble. Get to the point. State your purpose, the outcome you are looking for and the decision to be made. Yes/No (thumbs up or down) are decisions that pragmatists can relate to.
Present a specific business proposal with a clear outcome (e.g. we’ll generate profits of $1M over the next three years. We will invest $250,000 to do this).
Provide alternatives to your proposal. What if you can only get half the funding? What might go wrong and what would you do about it?
In the meeting:
- Do not try to dominate the discussion.
- Ensure the pragmatist sponsor “wins.” Never try to make them look foolish or not “with it.”
- Disagree only on facts and make sure you have your facts and numbers straight! Again, be prepared with data to back up your proposal.
- Welcome their questions and skepticism. Despite what you may feel at the moment, these individuals are motivated to do what is best for the company.
- Act quickly – they decide fast.
Pragmatists can be powerful allies if you meet them on their playing field and show that you are prepared and specific.
Now, go get ’em.