How to Get Unconditional Approval for a Proposal

March 31, 2016

When did you last receive unconditional approval for a proposal? After carefully researching, considering, and choosing a solution to the problem, it can still be tricky to get approval from bosses and coworkers. How can you make it easier for yourself and others?

Whether you’re about to propose a problem-solving idea for the first time or the hundredth, there are some simple approaches you can use to help avoid potential pitfalls.

It’s not about using underhanded techniques to convince others so that we can get our way.

What one needs to do is find the right way to present a proposal, so that others can fully assess whether the idea you’ve struck upon:

  • streamlines workflows
  • saves time and energy
  • improves customer experience
  • is an improvement on the status quo
  • is affordable and worthwhile

The benefits of the proposed solution may need explanation, evidence, and trialing to convince coworkers of its merits.

Let’s go through five easy steps you can take to increase the chances of approval.

#1 Outline exactly how it will help you solve the problem in your proposal submission

To successfully get approval, you’ll need to make sure your proposal is the right tool for the job, and will provide tangible business benefits.

It’s one of the first things your boss will ask you about, and therefore requires you to be able to give a clear, succinct answer.

For example, will implementation of the idea result in any tangible return on investment in regards to:

  • Time saved
  • Money saved/made
  • Greater team motivation
  • Reduced requirement for training
  • Improved experience for your customers

If so, great! Have this ready as a go-to explanation for your proposal.

How does your current solution compare?

It also pays to have a clear understanding of the comparison between the status quo and your proposed solution.

After all, doing nothing is certainly an option and often the easiest one.

By providing a clear comparison of the pros and cons of the current solution (or non-solution) with the new one, bosses and coworkers will get a sense of what could be achieved.

#2 Communicate this clearly and in the right way to stakeholders

For your proposal to be accepted, you’ll need to clearly communicate your reasoning. Touch on points your boss will be most concerned with, and in a way that will be appreciated.

Begin by summarizing all the main points you uncovered during step one.

If your proposed idea involves the use of new software, then take this summary into an exploratory call with the vendor. Explain to them in full what you want to achieve with the software.

As they’re experts on the software’s usage, they may be able to point you towards specific functionality that will be an advantage to you.

They will also be able to provide you with compelling arguments, useful for convincing others of the value.

Demonstration (software-based proposals)

Ask the vendor to demonstrate the software to you, so you can see the best, most relevant features of the software in action, and find out how to implement it into your daily work.

Armed with this knowledge you’re ready to approach your boss, coworkers, or anyone else you need to get buy in from.

By the way – it’s more likely to go smoothly if you have a conversation in person or on the phone rather than via email. In my experience most of the implicit tone and understanding, which would be evident in person or on the phone, can be lost via email.

That being said, it’s good to always follow up with an email after your conversation.

#3 set up a demonstration with your boss

Another way to speed up the approval process, and get people on board, is to set up a demonstration for stakeholders.

If no third party is involved, this can simply be a one-to-one demonstration. If a vendor is involved, a demonstration with all three parties is best.

The vendor will have plenty of experience in identifying potential roadblocks standing in the way of a positive decision.

If possible, participate in this online meeting yourself as well, in order to be on hand to answer any specifics the vendor may ask about how you propose to use the solution within your company.

#4 Be patient if it takes time to get approval for a proposal

You may be eager to get started with your proposed solution in your daily work, but do not be surprised if a decision takes a little bit of time to come through.

Sometimes your department may have an existing way of doing things, or a solution which they’re paying for, which they’d like to replace once that subscription comes to an end.

Then again, if your boss feels it’s extremely important to your team’s success they can make a decision within a week.

But it’s not completely uncommon for decisions to take months.

How to speed up the process

Faced with a lengthy wait for a decision, the only action you can take to speed things along is to communicate (politely but persistently) the problems you or the whole team has.

Explain that without solving this problem, time is being wasted and customers are suffering, or whichever pain points you believe the new solution solves.

#5 if your proposal submission is rejected, do not despair

A rejection may be due to many reasons.

Perhaps the timing was bad. Or perhaps the benefits weren’t taken on board. Or maybe there simply isn’t any budget set aside, pushing a purchase back until the new financial year.

You have a few options open to you:

  • Ask the vendor to speak directly with the stakeholders, allowing them to identify what’s holding the decision back
  • Try to discover the reasons for rejecting the idea yourself, and explain whether or not the proposal does in fact solve them
  • Start the process from the beginning again

Key takeaways

To summarize the steps:

  1. Outline exactly how the proposal matches your needs
  2. Engage with the vendor (if there is one) to set up a demo and learn everything you can about the product
  3. Communicate clearly with your boss and arrange a demo for them too
  4. Be patient with the decision process
  5. If your proposal is rejected, try to find out why and counter it

Do you have any other hints or tips? Please share your advice in the comments section below.

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