If your experience is like mine, you’ve seen this too many times. Here comes sales again with another incomplete, unclear investment request. Maybe it’s for training or technology. Maybe it will improve processes and increase sales. You’re not sure. Approve? Deny? Tough call.
The Discomfort Zone
Approving funding shouldn’t be this hard. Yet once again, sales has put you in ulcer territory. Say no and frustrate the reps. Say yes and risk the dollars. Or say, “Improve your chances with a good business case. I can teach you how.”
Sales may not love creating business cases or working toward precise outcome expectations. What should be welcome, though, is your help in developing successful funding requests. Whatever your individual perspectives, you and the sales force are on the same team.
This is an opportunity for you to be strategic and lead the way. Let’s look at how this collaboration works.
The Business Case Is a Win-Win
Bottom line, you and sales both want a workable process. That’s where an informative business case comes in. When sales provides a solid rationale for its request, you have information you need. Approval is more likely. Everyone wins. So how do you guide sales in building a high-quality business case? How do you make this a key sales skill?
We’re all accustomed to seeing good cases from other functional areas. You expect concrete ROI projections: so many more units from production, for example. Such a forecast is fairly firm. But a sales business case calls for more flexibility.
Sales relies on human interactions, with the unpredictability that entails. Relax – your expectations should be different, and compromise may be in order. You might hold others to precise benchmarks, but consider evaluating sales on directional achievements.
What Will the Funding Buy?
Every investment request has a purpose. There’s an issue to resolve or goal to attain. Maybe that’s revenue growth, maybe cost savings. Help sales define the objectives and make them clear in the case document.
These qualitative elements divide into two questions. First, what does sales want to do with the money? Second, what will the result look like?
How much? How long? How effective?
The quantitative dimensions address the qualitative. The case must clarify costs, anticipated returns, a realistic timeframe and success measurement.
An investment request might seem straightforward. But there may be more to it than is obvious. For one thing, you may be funding in increments. For another, the actual investment could have a wider scope than initially envisioned.
Have You Answered These?
Some questions go under the surface — and they should. Are there supplies, technology or training expenses aside from the request to factor in? Is there a need to hire one or more consultants? Do we need to allocate a staff member to the project? Will we need to hire or fire sales reps? Does the comp plan need to be changed?
How will the case play out and pay off? Your sales team will have to make some assumptions here. It’s best to keep this portion of the business case simple. Let debate determine whether the expectations are too conservative, too aggressive or on target.
Time to Outcome
Time is money. But be realistic about how long it will be before the outlay produces revenue. Think about the span from implementation to results, taking sales cycle into account. An investment in a sales training technique could take months to show a yield.
Sales has to make the number. That’s the job, and it comes with pressure. Small wonder nobody cheers the idea of more accountability spelled out in business case. That’s why flexibility and directional targets might be more palatable.
Take a look at the KPIs. Behavioral change could mean using a call plan to prepare for sales interactions. A leading indicator might be pipeline growth that suggests tangible returns ahead. A lagging indicator is closing deals and bringing in revenue.
These measures will show whether sales is on track for its timeline commitment. You’ll need this information to approve incremental investment dollars.
Better Working Relationships, for Better Business
Consider downloading our C-Suite Sales Presentation Template and forwarding on to your sales team leader. This concise presentation template makes it easy to plug-in the information they need to make a solid business case for their requests.
Download a copy of the C-Suite Sales Presentation Template here.
Teach your sales team how to make a strong business case. Start early, and get buy-in from the beginning. Help sales close the deal. That’s just good business.