It's happened to me, more than once, and likely has happened to you as well. Rejection. Failure. The boss or even senior management didn't go for your idea. Maybe they weren't even nice about it. You might have thought that your recommendations were good ideas, but they didn't gain you the approval you had hoped for (too expensive, too controversial, too complicated. etc.). But hey, you can fix things and get back in there to pitch your proposal again.
But what if the rejection was more complete, a one word NO and the meeting ended. What if you were shown the exit before really getting into the details. You zigged and they zagged. You missed the boat and the boss wasn't afraid to tell you so, and even by how far you had missed the mark. Ouch.
Now what do you do? Before you head for the aspirin, or other pain relievers, let's take a look you might approach the before, and then the potential after of any presentation.
To get ready to pitch an idea to your boss, or to senior management for that matter, it's best not to "wing it" when getting your presentation ready, but instead to thoroughly prepare yourself. You might set up a checklist to help you remember some do's and don'ts.
- Remember the formula for any proposal: State the problem, then the impact and ongoing cost. Pause then to let the gravity of the circumstances sink in. Then offer a solution (your proposal), followed by how the problem would be solved, along with projected costs. Finally, paint a picture of the success to be achieved because your proposal has been approved.
- These are the basics, taken from any good compensation manual. Now also consider the rest.
- Don't try to overwhelm with facts and figures: You're a professional and already have their trust, that you know what you're doing. So focus on the key program changes and only use summary statements and figures. You don't have to "prove" your case with reams of data.
- Get ready for "gotcha" questions: They will come, so prepare by asking yourself - what do you think they will ask? Are there possible glitches that should be addressed early on? Survey your staff for devil's advocate thinking.
- Double check your figures and your text: Sounds minor, but don't let yourself stumble over embarrassing math errors or typos. And yes, someone will notice. Highlighting even a minor error could prove a costly distraction in the middle of your presentation.
Now you're ready. But being ready only assures a smooth presentation. Something can still go wrong. Don't be blinded by a personal bias toward your work that may not be shared by those responsible for making the ultimate decision.
If everyone smiles and you get a green light, you needn't read any further. But if you play the percentages it's likely that something will slide off the tracks, from a minor mishap to a major derailment. If so, what do you after the meeting?
Your reaction to a "failed" presentation depends a great deal on the specific aspects of what went wrong, who said what to whom, and whether your proposal needs a band aid or major surgery. But consider a few basic responses that should serve you sell.
- Making adjustments: Listen to what they said, nod your head and commit to reviewing your materials and the resubmitting in a fashion that addresses their concerns. Get back into the fight!
- A different perspective: Think hard about why you didn't win the day. Maybe they have a perspective that you hadn't considered. Maybe they raised concerns that you hadn't addressed. Learn from the experience.
- Half a loaf is better than nothing: There's nothing wrong, and a lot of good that can follow compromise. Even if the powers that be won't approve everything you asked for, take what you can get. Getting halfway to a goal positions you better than remaining at the starting gate. Next time you'll move even closer.
- A defeat is seldom unconditional: Even if your proposal was rejected, you raised important issues and created a dialogue with the decision-makers. That's a good thing. You also got them thinking, and likely created an environment where raising the same issues again (in a revised format) will likely receive a better reception.
So don't give up when your precious ideas and recommendations get slapped down. Instead get up, brush yourself off, adjust your thinking as necessary and prepare to fight another day.
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image,"Amelia Cat," by brownpau