Selling Your Document Strategy8 Nov, 2002 By: Kevin Craine imageSource
Selling Your Document Strategy
When it comes to designing a
document strategy, perhaps the most difficult task is selling your strategy to
executive decision-makers. Support for your strategy is absolutely essential,
but obtaining the sponsorship you need is not easy. Selling your strategy will
require the ability to persuasively speak in a language that will resonate with
potential supporters of your plan.
Obtaining the endorsement of
decision-makers is only part of the challenge, however. You must also elicit the
cooperation of those who will be using the product to make your strategy work.
Regardless of sponsorship from management, if people on the front line resist
change and find ways to interfere, your strategy will not take sail.
Even the best plans will fail
without the support and resources you need to make your strategy a reality. The
number one cause of death for a document strategy is a lack of sponsorship and
support. That's the bad news. The good news is that you have the data,
information and perspective you need to make a convincing case. The key is to
present your case so that it will both inspire and convince a potential client.
When it comes to selling your strategy, the essential questions are:
What arguments will hit home
with your prospective customers?
How can you build the buy-in of
coworkers and colleagues?
How can you craft a compelling
portrait of your document strategy vision?
Speak the Language To sell your
strategy, you must "speak the language" of the potential customer. You
must learn who your supporters are, what aspects of your strategy will be most
compelling to them and how to best communicate your ideas and recommendations.
Get inside their frame of reference and speak persuasively in a dialect that
will resonate with their views. Be prepared to discuss the right things at the
Knowing your client is an essential
part of selling your strategy. If your client is a stickler for statistics, sell
him with hard numbers. If your client is concerned with customer service,
concentrate on how their customers will be most satisfied. If your sponsor has a
technological focus, tell him how your strategy will take advantage of trends in
Whatever the context, you must
recognize and be fluent in the various "languages" that will
communicate effectively with your clients and inspire their commitment. You may
need to speak different languages at different times, even with the same
clients. Speaking the wrong language or lingering too long in one, will quickly
dispel enthusiasm for your strategy. The question is: What language will ring
true with your prospective customers...and why?
Find the Emotion One approach is to
"find the emotion" that will connect your strategy with the person you
are trying to convince. Dr. Keith Davidson of Xplor International describes this
notion in terms of a skillfully scripted political campaign. "A practiced
politician will focus on the issues that strike an emotional chord with
constituents. For instance, when giving a speech to members of the Veterans of
Foreign Wars, he'll stress the need for a strong national defense. The same
speech delivered on a college campus will stress peacekeeping with an
all-volunteer army. This type of 'spin' is not really a matter of deception, but
rather a matter of addressing the essence of what people really care
Consider the Mazda Miata. Legend
has it that the designer was having trouble convincing Mazda executives to move
forward with development of the ragtop. Market studies, schematics and
specifications failed to inspire the level of support he needed. One sunny day
the designer took a top executive on a drive down a curvy road in a cherry red
British MGB. With the top down and the wind in their hair, the designer simply
said, "This is the experience we should build." The Miata, now
regarded as a modern classic, is a legendary success for Mazda.
Beware of Jargon Industry jargon
and technical terminology are effective ways to communicate when used in the
correct context, but your prospects will probably be less interested in the bits
and bytes of your proposal than the benefits and risks your strategy presents.
Beware of the tendency to overuse jargon. Selling your strategy will depend on
your ability to speak in terms of the positive impact to an organization, not
your ability to explain how each technical component works. In most
circumstances, not everyone will understand (or care to understand) technical
terminology, so it is best to leave jargon for focused interactions with people
who thrive on the lingo. Otherwise, you run the risk of both boring and
confusing the people you are trying convince.
Another danger presented by jargon
arises when you are not familiar with the terms. If you do not have the benefit
of a high-tech background it can be hard to keep up with the vernacular of
technology, especially when technology evolves at such a rapid pace. This can
put you at a disadvantage. Certainly, in-depth knowledge is best left for the
technical experts. Nevertheless, to sell your strategy, you must have a fairly
fluent understanding of the technological language involved. If you do not, you
must work to expand your vocabulary - take notes, keep your ears open and do not
be afraid to ask questions at a manufacturer's demonstration. Even when the
techno-babble seems endless, irrelevant and foreign, take advantage of the
opportunity to learn the language.
Be Concise Your exposure to
decision-makers is probably limited; it can be helpful to develop a brief mental
summary of the most outstanding benefits of your strategy. Think of this as an
"elevator pitch." Imagine you enter an elevator and bump into the CIO
of the company you're hoping to sell to. You have exactly three minutes before
the elevator reaches the 15th floor. This may be your best and only opportunity
to pitch your ideas. If you can be convincing and compelling in this brief time
- X will improve Y because of Z - those three minutes may be all you need to get
the support you need.
Prepare yourself to take advantage
of unplanned opportunities to enlist support. Your ability to summarize your
strategy (or at least the major benefits) concisely will be helpful in meetings
and other conversations as well. You may have only a few moments during a
meeting to discuss your concepts. Your "elevator pitch" will be useful
in the hallway, or at the local Starbuck's, as well as in the executive
Build Company Buy-In You also must
have the buy-in of those who will actually be using your strategy to be
successful. Everyone involved with your document process, from entry-level
clerks to high-level specialists, must support your strategy (or, at the very
least, not sabotage your efforts). This is especially true for people who are
the target of the changes you propose. Your ability to inspire their support
depends on your ability to answer: What's in it for me? For these people, the
"proof is in the pudding." You must prove that your strategy will make
their job easier, less chaotic and more productive. You must demonstrate how
improvements will directly benefit their department. You must show them that
day-to-day operations will be made better and that everyone will benefit from
Testimonials One way to build
buy-in is to elicit "testimonials" from people who have benefited from
earlier improvements. Enlisting others to validate and verify your success is a
powerful way to create momentum and support for your strategy. Testimonials can
help you overcome resistance to change and convert skeptics to your cause.
"Behavior is the hardest thing to change. You are not going to change
somebody if they don't want to change," said Tom Martino, director of
communications services at Warner-Lambert. "The way we do it is to find a
champion to provide a testimonial. So rather than try to sell an overall concept
or theory, we leverage the testimony and enthusiasm of those people whose job
has been made better. If we can get them to say 'this is great, I don't know why
we didn't do it years ago,' then we inspire grass root support for our
The testimony of satisfied
customers will enhance your reputation and credibility. The more testimonials
you collect, the more credibility you gain. Your aim is for cynics to want to
get in on the benefits being realized by others. To raise awareness, you will
need to do a certain amount of self-promotion. Be assertive and creative in your
efforts to get the word out about your successes. "We advertise
testimonials and successes in a variety of ways," says Martino. "Since
we are the division of the company that knows how to communicate, it's not
difficult to find ways to get the word out. We use a combination of printed
materials, our electronic bulletin board and our Intranet."
Use testimonials to continually
expand your circle of supporters and sponsors - at both higher and grass roots
levels. Look for people who are willing to testify how their job or department
has been improved and how a company is more profitably served by your strategic
Piggyback on Important Initiatives
Another way to sell your strategy is to "piggyback" on other important
initiatives underway in a company. To piggyback, link an aspect of your strategy
with an initiative that has a high degree of importance to a company or a
particular department. Show how you can help meet the objectives of that
company. Look for new ways of doing things that will overcome the challenges and
barriers that prevent implementation of the project by a company. Construct a
document solution that makes a difference and contributes to a specific vision
or objective. The more you are able to piggyback on the strategic agenda of
other areas in your organization, the more likely it is that you will find
willing supporters and sponsors. The questions are:
What aspects of your strategy
feed into important corporate initiatives?
What new ideas for your
strategy are needed to serve the initiatives that are planned?
What features serve the
objectives of your customer?
Which of your recommendations
line up with important items on their agenda?
You may find that some aspect of
your document strategy suddenly becomes more valuable than you first thought.
For instance, a particular solution or project may not have been your first
choice to pursue, but if you find that it aligns closely with an important
initiative, or fits within the agenda of another department, you are more likely
to get a green light for your ideas. It is also possible that recommendations
you made months or even years earlier will take on a new dimension of
importance. The corporate landscape is replete with levelheaded recommendations
that collect dust in an in-basket until they abruptly become part of someone
else's agenda. Until a related and driving need comes to the surface, even the
best ideas can go unnoticed.