We work with people like that all the time – the thinkers, initiators, and team players who seek better ways and pursue real change.
As a middle manager, you’ve got both your feet in the real world: you’re close to the market and customers and you’re the link between them and your organization.
You’re in the best position to enact change; in fact, it’s often in your job description. It’s what you were brought in to do.
So why, even when it’s part of your brief, is it so tough to sell your ideas and get buy-in for trying new approaches?
Well, from our experience, this is precisely what it’s all about – selling. Here are some ideas and tips we’ve done with others that can help you be successful with getting buy-in, too.
To get buy-in for JTBD, you need to get in the right mindset. That means start by giving yourself some credit
With so many approaches and tools, most of which barely differ from one another, picking the right one for you and your team is no easy task.
If you have got to this point, you have a good handle on the real problem – and how your chosen framework, Jobs to be Done (JTBD), can help you solve it.
Chances are you’ve dedicated hours to research, crafted a business case, set purchase criteria, and carefully evaluated your options. Go ahead and give yourself a high-five for the stellar work you’ve already done.
And don’t hesitate to put those numbers in your pitch to show the hard work and consideration that’s already gone into it. This will show you’re not just doing this on a whim – there’s solid thinking behind it.
Now all that’s left is to get approval – but there’s one critical thing to do first.
Agree on the problem – and align the work to strategic goals and priorities
Many projects are important, but not many are urgent. It’s not rocket science: if a senior manager doesn’t perceive an idea as being relevant to organizational performance, they won’t even pay attention to it. If something isn’t a priority, it won’t get approved – so make sure you connect the work you’re proposing to the company or your department’s strategic objectives.
As an example, customer research may seem irrelevant until you explain how it will improve product-market fit and increase usage.
Make sure you do this by framing the problem and the pain with words they use. Then refer to it throughout your pitch.
You need to also align to you budget holder’s personal goals and motivations.
See things from your budget older’s perspective. Think about recent conversations with them, or open one up if you haven’t recently talked. Find out what’s on their plate, what they want to achieve in the next quarter, six months, or even the year.
If you can, get insight into their personal goals, too, and what in their world outside of work is motivating them. This will help you for later.
It will help if you’ve already built rapport with this person. But if you haven’t, recognize where you are in your relationship, and if needed, take a step back and follow some of the principles Dale Carnegie shares in his timeless classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. The part about winning people over to your way of thinking can be especially valuable.
Now that you understand the context, who you need to get on your side and how to frame the problem in their words, this is what to do next.
Tip 1: Be clear on what Jobs does for you – and them
What’s in it for you?
You may not share any of this, but knowing your “why” will help you build your pitch and better demonstrate the ripple effect of how it will help others.
Let’s say the budget holder is your manager. Hopefully, they’re the kind of person dedicated to your development and progress. In that case, it might help to talk in terms of how doing JTBD will upskill you and how you can bring this knowledge back to the company, or how you will turn it into a repeatable framework.
We’ve found this to be successful when people ask to take part in our coaching and mentoring programs. It also helps your manager in two ways.
One, it gives them flexibility as they can use the learning & development bucket of their budget, and not the product development/market research bucket.
And two, there is now a purpose attached to it that they can connect to their own goals of developing their team.
If we were to borrow some aspects from JTBD itself, you might want to think about and write down the functional, emotional, and social benefits you’re getting from it.
- Functionally – be clear on why JTBD is the solution to your specific problem and situation (you will be asked). What will new and meaningful customer insights do for you, what impact will it have? How will you act on them that will make your workflows better?
- Emotionally – paint a picture of how being successful in this will help boost your confidence and make you even better at what you do.
- And socially – how will it improve working relationships and how others see you? And why that matters for the dynamics in your team.
What’s in it for them?
Now, do the same with the person holding the budget. You need to communicate in terms of what matters to them. Really put yourself in their shoes. Use little nuggets from conversations you’ve had with them to understand their own forces of progress, their pain points, and desired outcomes – and build your pitch around those.
Is this project going to help them get promoted? Are they frustrated with the slowness in teams? Are they trying to reduce costs or mitigate risks? Has the company been struggling with getting the same results, or not understanding the customer enough?
You can apply parts of the thinking behind JTBD to help you laser-focus your delivery and presentation. The pitch has to tell them how Jobs will be different.
Yes, it might cost a bit in the beginning, but think about all the gains from not having to interview people over and over again. You want to show added value.
Emphasize the long-term gains over initial costs. Communicate how the process can be recycled from team to team and applied in other areas. Say how it will save you money later by reusing the learnings and by not resetting how you do things every time there’s a new project.
Tip 2: Be able to handle objections – and remember, most objections are just misunderstandings
You’ve built a pitch that shows how the project meets your needs, as well as what the person above or the company needs out of it. Great! Now you need to be comfortable with handling objections.
You will hear versions of this a lot – “I’m not sure, it’s a lot of money”, “I don’t know, seems like we’ve already done this before and it didn’t work”, “Can’t [insert existing supplier name] do this?”
It’s easy to take things personally, but you need to keep in mind that, most of the time, objections are due to a lack of understanding.
We have to be able to keep cool and peel back the layers of this misunderstanding by asking questions like:
“If we’ve agreed on how it helps us both and how it helps the team, then where is value lacking?”
“Can you give me more detail on what part specifically you’re not sure about and why?”
Perhaps they’re using different language to frame the problem? Or maybe we need to do some more education around what we’re trying to do, or the process of how it will be done?
If they have objections, that’s good because it means they’re thinking about it and now we just need to align.
Ask questions in such a way that you don’t lose the progress you’ve already made. That way, you’re helping the conversation rather than just throwing information at them.
Tip 3: Tailor the pitch to their communication style – and give them as much info as they need
Does the budget holder prefer written communication, a video call, or sitting down and chatting? How much detail do they want? Maybe just a brief meeting first, and a more detailed one later? Maybe they’ll want to meet the supplier and get to know them.
It’s useful to gauge how involved they want to be in the selection process. I once had a manager who needed to know every detail about the supplier’s offering. He’d sit down with me in meetings and interview them.
Some might say this is really over the top – but different people need different levels of reassurance. It wasn’t that he was a control freak, it was just his way of getting a feel for their personality and making sure we would get along, especially for business-critical projects.
Others will be more hands-off and only need to touch base every now and then. They will want to know the top-level stuff, like your set of criteria for choosing strategic suppliers (some organizations and departments have this pre-built), why they should care, and how it will be delivered. In those cases, you need to be brief but have your full proposal at hand for when they ask for details.
This is valuable and indicates how involved they want to be once the project kicks off.
Bonus tip: Ask you chosen provider to show that they’re a partner – and support you in getting sign off
It’s refreshing to have someone that gets the dynamics in your team and how to navigate conversations. This can help you reaffirm you’ve made the right call – and help you rule out the kind of suppliers you don’t want to work with. Strategic projects need strategic partners – and building strong relationships is key.
We often help with things like building the pitch and helping you handle objections of others involved in sign-off. So if you need us to meet the team, just say so. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with some case studies.