Anyone who works in sales will know, that one of the key stages in the buying cycle is the generation of the business case. This is where the rubber meets the road in getting a potential sign-off from the key decision makers. It is also a time-consuming task, so it is critical to know what you should put into it, when you should begin preparing it and when it should be delivered. To frame this more specifically it is useful to understand some of the key reasons why business cases – in general – can fail:
- The VAST majority of business cases are not read. In the world of small and medium-sized businesses, most buying decisions are made (or are heavily influenced by) the business owner or managing director – and she/he will rarely have the time to go through a weighty document unless it is a big investment decision.
- A LARGE number of business cases involve guesswork, particularly when it comes to outcomes and business benefits (such as ROI). In many cases the buyer is unclear what the problem is that they are trying to solve, or indeed what the solution will eventually look like “in practice”. This uncertainty can sink a business case. It is always easier simply “not to buy” and retain the status quo.
- Finally, I would argue that MOST business cases are simply unengaging. Traditional business cases (there are thousands of templates online) follow a generic structure – straight out of business school. I am not arguing that this may have to be delivered eventually to meet due diligence or compliance standards, however it can be a huge waste of your time.
In the buying cycle, an effective way to negotiate around this and ensure an engaged buyer is to develop a “mini” business case early in the buying cycle, which we call a “Business Case Canvas”. The canvas is designed to capture fundamentals only: High-Level detail, concise problem/solution identification in line with a business objective, plus some basic costs and ROI projection. It should fit easily on to one PowerPoint slide, and must be both easy to understand and highly visual.
Why use one? The answer is simple: our buyer is looking for relevant information that explains the business benefits, outlines the related costs, as well as a rough timeline for implementation – quickly. Once he/she feels that these minimum requirements are being met, then this will build confidence and allow other stakeholders to engage proactively in the process. At the very least, it will provide an early “go/no-go” and avoid wasted effort downstream.
So why not give one a try?
We have added a guide and a template for you to use to the business partner resources folder.
If your project can’t be neatly summarised on the canvas, then perhaps it’s not as clear-cut as you thought. This could save you a bunch of time later in the cycle.