In my last post, I wrote about how to prepare to make a presentation to your boss. To get him to say, “yes,” I encouraged you to prepare a brief, written proposal. I even provided a template.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to anticipate objections and formulate talking points for each one. Don’t risk getting a “no” because you haven’t carefully thought through the questions and your responses.
Step 5: Make the Pitch
Schedule a time to make the pitch. Pick a time when your boss is likely to be the most receptive.
Has it been a bad month? Don’t schedule an appointment right after he’s likely to get the news. Is he more alert in the morning or the afternoon?
Use some common sense and try to schedule the meeting when you have the best chance of success.
Now go in and make the pitch. I usually just slide the RBF across the table and jump in. I literally walk through the document one section at a time.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind while making your presentation.
- Maintain eye contact. I said that I walk through the document. However, I don’t read it. The document is intended to be a “talking points” list rather than a narrative.
You should be familiar enough with your recommendation that you can stay focused on your boss—and his reactions—rather than the RBF.
- Stay alert to the signals. This is “Selling 101.” Does your boss appear bored? Pick up the pace. Does he have a question? Stop talking and let him ask.
Hint: If your boss engages you in a discussion, this is a good thing! It means he is interested.
Is he distracted? Let him get refocused or reschedule the appointment. The last thing you want to do is plow ahead, oblivious to the reactions of the very person you’re trying to persuade.
- Re-state the recommendation. When you get to the end of your presentation, restate your recommendation and ask for a decision.
Then—and this is critical—stop talking. Give your boss a chance to say, “yes.”
This may make you feel uncomfortable, but, trust me, you will decrease your chances of success if you keep talking at this point.
Sometimes, your boss just needs to sit there and absorb your pitch. Sometimes, he may sit quietly to see what other information you may volunteer. Regardless, resist the temptation to fill the vacuum with words.
- Know when you are done. Once your boss approves your recommendation, it’s once again time to shut up.
My Dad taught me this early in my career, and it has served me well ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a person in authority give his approval and then watch the presenter proceed to unsell the sale.
If possible, when the boss says, “yes,” thank him for his decision, collect your belongings, and leave the room. If you can’t leave, then at least move to the next agenda item or change the subject.
Own the Outcome
Earlier in my career, I used to hear my peers constantly complain about how unreasonable their boss was or how bureaucratic the company was. Blah, blah, blah. They had a thousand-and-one excuses for why they didn’t “make the sale.”
Few of them were willing to accept the fact that:
- Their proposal just wasn’t that compelling.
- Their presentation skills sucked.
It was easier for them to blame someone else rather than accept responsibility for the outcome. As a result, they missed the opportunity to improve their skills.
If your boss says, “no,” go back to your desk and engage in a little postmortem analysis.
- What went wrong?
- What was missing?
- What could have been stronger?
- Where were you unprepared?
- How can you do this better next time?
Accept full responsibility for the outcome, and you will gradually get better at this critical skill. Not only will you become better at getting to “yes,” you will also find yourself moving along faster in your career.
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