Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 26;   June 30, 2004: Selling Uphill: The Pitch

Selling Uphill: The Pitch

by

Whether you're a CEO or a project champion, you occasionally have to persuade decision-makers who have some kind of power over you. What do they look for? What are the key elements of an effective pitch? What does it take to Persuade Power?

"So what about Marigold?" Sara asked. She and Karl were concerned that Wolf would argue for trying to fix Marigold first, before even looking at their proposal for Metronome. But Karl had an idea.

A Metronome"Maybe we don't say anything about Marigold. Suppose we critique a third idea — not Marigold — that looks at least as good as Wolf's. Then we're not arguing against Marigold, and it's a lot less personal. But it still raises questions about his approach."

Sara was impressed. "Yes, and if Metronome is an even better idea, it might be easier to turn the discussion back to Metronome. Interesting…"

Karl and Sara are devising one of the key elements of any proposal — the discussion of alternatives. By demonstrating the advantages of their proposal relative to all plausible alternatives, they effectively turn attention to the approach they're advocating.

Here are the key elements of an effective proposal. Some might not apply in your situation, so be selective.

What's the issue?
What issue does your proposal address? Present the issue from your management's perspective. Stick to one issue — complexity is a demotivator.
What's the impact?
What was the impact of this issue on a current or recently completed project? Did it affect schedules? Budgets? Relationships? Customers?
What's the impact of inaction?
Project what will happen if this issue isn't addressed effectively. Estimate budget and schedule effects, showing how the issue affects future or current projects. Estimate the financial costs and lost revenue associated with these factors, going forward quarter by quarter, for three years.
Where will the impact be greatest?
All projects To effectively advocate
for a position,
understand first
what your audience
cares about.
Let that drive
everything else.
are unique. What kinds of projects are most likely to be affected by this issue? Rank project types by impact, and estimate schedule, budget, and revenue consequences. This is especially persuasive if your proposal helps favored projects or customers.
Are there alternatives?
Every problem has multiple solutions, and no solution is best all around. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of three alternatives. Include financial consequences. This is the piece that Karl and Sara are working on.
What do you recommend?
Of the alternatives you explored, which one are you proposing and why? Take a position and defend it.
What should we do next?
Assuming that your proposal is adopted, what's the next doable step? Sketch a plan for implementation, including a schedule with milestones, and a budget. Include a risk plan.
Who should do it?
Who would work this plan, and how much of their time would be required? Are consultants involved? New hires?
How will we know if we succeed?
What criteria determine success? Will we need resources to determine success? How much? When?

Do you have a rejected proposal in a file somewhere? Dig it out. How many of these key elements were covered? Can you see ways to improve it? Go to top Top  Next issue: Believe It or Else  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenYzTBHmmYeyjgAZAqner@ChacTEpnPWuTuitSkMFmoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Answering machine controlsAt the Sound of the Tone, Hang Up
When the phone rings, do you drop whatever you're doing to answer it? Do you interrupt face-to-face conversations with live people to respond to the jerk of your cellular leash? Listen to seemingly endless queues of voicemail messages? Here are some reminders of the choices we sometimes forget we have.
A rowboatFiguring Out What to Do First
Whether we belong to a small project team or to an executive team, we have limited resources and seemingly unlimited problems to deal with. How do we decide which problems are important? How do we decide where to focus our attention first?
A cup of coffeeHow to Procrastinate
You probably know many techniques for procrastinating, and use them regularly, but vociferously deny doing so. That's what makes this such a delicate subject that I've been delaying writing this article. Well, those days are over.
Lake Chaubunagungamaug signDeciding to Change: Trusting
When organizations change by choice, people who are included in the decision process understand the issues. Whether they agree with the decision or not, they participate in the decision in some way. But not everyone is included in the process. What about those who are excluded?
A Great Grey OwlHow to Waste Time in Virtual Meetings
Nearly everyone hates meetings, and virtual meetings are at the top of most people's lists. Here's a catalog of some of the worst practices.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness, Effective Communication at Work and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Raquel Welch (left) and Gilda Radner (right) from a @Cite{Saturday Night Live rehearsal, April 24, 1976Coming December 20: Conceptual Mondegreens
When we disagree about abstractions, such as a problem solution, or a competitor's strategy, the cause can often be misunderstanding the abstraction. That misunderstanding can be a conceptual mondegreen. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
An engineer attending a meeting with 14 other engineersAnd on December 27: On Assigning Responsibility for Creating Trouble
When we assign responsibility for troubles that bedevil us, we often make mistakes. We can be misled by language, stereotypes, and the assumptions we make about others. Available here and by RSS on December 27.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenkqtvZrJaqIEiLsGkner@ChacBwMNWjiRjMZIAOyooCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applications
When Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applicationswe talk, listen, send or read emails, read or write memos, or when we leave or listen to voice mail messages, we're communicating person-to-person. And whenever we communicate person-to-person, we risk being misunderstood, offending others, feeling hurt, and being confused. There are so many ways for things to go wrong that we could never learn how to fix all the problems. A more effective approach avoids problems altogether, or at least minimizes their occurrence. In this very interactive program we'll explain — and show you how to use — a model of inter-personal communications that can help you stay out of the ditch. We'll place particular emphasis on a very tricky situation — expressing your personal power. In those moments of intense involvement, when we're most likely to slip, you'll have a new tool to use to keep things constructive. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
More articles about person-to-person communication!
Reader Comments About My Newsletter
A sampling:
  • Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
  • You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
  • I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
  • A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
  • …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.
  • More
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.