Technology is necessary to innovate and evolve your business. Great technology creates opportunities, streamlines processes, and allows your team to perform their roles more effectively. You've identified a need and a technology - how do you sell it in?
“The only way you survive is you continuously transform into something else. It’s this idea of continuous transformation that makes you an innovative company.”
Virginia M. Rometty, Executive Chairman, IBM
Board members may not always be keen to invest in new technology and you might be met with scepticism. They might be feeling that the investment is being made to keep up with other businesses. Or, they may be concerned about costs getting out of control - causing death by a thousand cuts.
Pitching any new technology or software to your board and broader executives is a science; get it wrong, and you can put the whole team offside. You have to know when to ask, and you have to know how to ask.
Like any pitch, it’s essential to get it right to foster a successful outcome. Here’s how to pitch like a pro:
1. Emphasise the benefits
The number one question on your board member’s mind is, “how will this benefit the company.” Whether the software shaves time off processes, services clients better, or creates other efficiencies - tell them loudly, tell them clearly.
Ask yourself, “how vital this technology is to the business’s overall strategy?” and “how is it going to impact clients?”. What opportunities will be opened up by this technology, and how will it improve the company?
2. Detail the investment
The next question on your board member’s mind is cost. We’d recommend running a cost-benefit analysis to understand the return on investment. Be prepared to show your board the negative impact of ignoring this technology. Make it a no-brainer. (If it isn’t a no-brainer, why are you pitching it?)
3. Develop a persuasive presentation
Avoid death by PowerPoint by remembering that YOU are your presentation - keep that in mind when you create your slides. Keep it punchy, less than ten slides, and even fewer words. When you present a wordy presentation and read from the slides, you lose the room, as they’ll be reading the slides themselves. It’s better to sell the technology yourself through storytelling, facts, and figures. Do not rely on a product demo alone - you need to live and breathe the technology before your board trusts it.
4. Anticipate tough questions
Be ready for tough questions. Make a list of potential queries and have a rebuttal for each of them. This will help you make your case watertight and prepare you for anything. Think of the issues your board cares most about. As, these are likely to be hot topics and the areas they’ll ask the most questions. Put yourself in your board’s shoes, read over your presentation with their concerns in mind, be critical, and look for holes in your argument - if you don’t, they will.
“If they’re not getting something, you’ve got to make the point
in a way that they do get before you move on to the next point.”
As well as tough questions, prepare to be interrupted. Usually interruptions mean one of two things - 1. you’ve sparked an idea, or 2. something in your presentation may not be clear. Embrace these interruptions and take the opportunity to encourage positive discussion.
5. Recruit a trusted advocate
Nothing will help your case more than a trusted advocate - perhaps there’s a consultant or a non-exec who can vouch for the technology you’re looking to use? Testimonials and referrals are your most substantial chance to deepen authority; this is key if the technology is new or innovative.
Board members who are not in the know about blockchain, for example, would benefit from hearing from an advocate with credentials in this space.
6. Ask the vendor for help
Vendors are a happy, helpful bunch who want to arm you with the information you need. Reach out to them to get more information, stats, and case studies to help you secure the board’s seal of approval. Many vendors offer risk-free free trials and demos - seeing a product in action can make a lot of difference rather than theoretical. Seeing is believing.
Got a 'thumbs down' from your board? Ask for guidance and explanations as to why they are still on the fence - they may be something you haven’t considered or there may be a bigger picture challenge at play. Good luck with your pitches.