Bringing your bosses and coworkers on board with the idea of a new software tool that will affect their everyday work and cost the business some money is never easy. This can be especially difficult if your business is among the 60%* spending more than their planned technology budget this year due to COVID-19-accelerated digital transformation.
If you are a manager, team leader, or IT personnel tasked with getting stakeholder buy-in for a new software purchase, take the time to prepare a pitch. These five steps will help you make a strong business case for your software of choice.
Stakeholders fall into three categories:
End users who’ll be directly using the tool (the accountant or the editor).
Project team responsible for setting up the tool, troubleshooting, and training (the IT personnel and learning and development personnel).
Leadership that’ll approve the software purchase (the directors, vice presidents, and C-suite executives up the business’s organization chart).
Once you’ve identified all stakeholders, connect with them for a brief interview to understand their pain points with the existing processes or tools.
What are some problems we face with our current processes or tools?
Do the current tools’ return on investment (ROI) meet our expectations?
Do we have to spend a lot of time troubleshooting the current tools?
After interviewing the stakeholders, you should have a list of pain points; map the software features you think could solve that respective pain point.
Here is an example of list mapping accounting software features to user and leadership pain points:
When looking at technical or task-specific software, such as accounting or CMS, seek help from team leads or managers to understand the pain points on a micro-level. These individuals have team-level visibility and perspective into micro-level challenges, as well as in-depth knowledge of the everyday nitty-gritty of work done by end users.
With their help, prioritize pain points and address them in order of importance.
An elevator pitch is essentially a crisp and clear description of what the software does and how it will help the business. The goal is to entice the listener with your idea.
Include the following key points in your elevator pitch:
The most critical pain points the business is facing: Be sure to clearly describe the challenges, so the listener understands what’s at stake.
How your software addresses the pain points: If possible, quantify the improvement (such as “reduction of data entry efforts by three hours a day”). If not, then paint a before and after picture (such as “imagine having approval requests auto-delivered to your inbox in real time as opposed to piling on your desk”).
Remember, the elevator pitch that will appeal to a C-suite executive will be different from what will appeal to an end user. For instance, a C-suite executive will be interested to know if the accounting software will help clear account receivables faster or not. However, an end user will be concerned about the time it takes to, say, generate an invoice.
After collecting all this information, be ready to shuffle it up for the relevant audience.
With the help of the elevator pitch and the interviews you conducted, enlist two or three supporters who will directly benefit from the software.
If you conduct a group presentation, ask them to participate and share their concerns with the coworkers. If you hold personal meetings with the decision-makers, ask these supporters to be available in case the decision-makers want to talk to them. If you prepare a presentation deck for the pitch, request to include them as examples.
This will give your business case some real-world examples and add emotional quotient to the pitch. After all, saying “Bob and Sharron from accounting are spending 15 hours a week on manual data entry” is a lot more impactful than “Accounting staff is spending 15 hours a week on manual data entry.”
Try to enlist support from team leads or managers because they will have a team-level perspective to share. To add further credibility to your pitch, you can ask them to be present when you make the pitch to the decision-makers.
When there are dozens, if not hundreds, of software options on the market, the obvious question to prepare for is “Why this tool over others?”.
Start by explaining your selection process. Highlight any top-rated lists that the tool appears on; talk about positive reviews, current big brands using the tool, its ease of implementation, user training modules, and support provided by the vendor.
Also, explain how the product fares in comparison to others on the market. Include screenshots of features comparison, pricing comparison, and user reviews from product directories like ours.
Given you’ve already selected the tool, users will likely assume that you’ve taken the company budget into account and discussed it with the appropriate stakeholders. However, you should keep the total cost of ownership and a couple of competitors handy to back up your choice if needed.
With tools offering dozens of features, and some of them quite fancy, it can be enticing to talk about them. But having cool features is not enough. To be worthy of investment, the tool needs to solve the troubles your business is facing, or at least make the job of your coworkers and bosses more efficient.
Remember, “X product solves Y challenge because it can do Z” is what you need to highlight. With that, your chance of getting stakeholder buy-in should improve dramatically.
*The Digital Transformation survey referenced in this article was conducted by GetApp in April 2020 among 503 respondents who reported executive leadership roles at small businesses with 250 or fewer employees.