Senior Client Partner
This Week in Leadership
Teaming Up for Purpose
Best-selling author Daniel Goleman highlights how some high-profile partnerships can move the needle on purpose.
During budget season, sales teams are asked for revenue projections. Finance department pros stress-test various scenarios. Top teams mull over strategic plans.
But most every other manager in the company probably doesn’t care about any of those. They have plans big and small, but they need more resources to turn those plans into reality. A new software system to make their department more efficient. Extra headcount to capitalize on a market opportunity. Bonus money for top-performing direct reports to keep them from jumping ship. In today’s environment, where budgeting has been made even more difficult because of pandemic-related disruptions, experts say the secret to getting these projects funded is not to hesitate. “Don’t wait to be asked for budget numbers—start socializing your ideas with the finance department and other functional partners now,” says Nathan Blain, Korn Ferry’s global lead for optimizing people costs.
Whether budget season is approaching or in full swing, here are five ways to effectively ask for a bigger budget.
Do your homework.
Before making an official request, assess how your proposal aligns with not only your boss’s priorities but also your firm’s current strategic goals and business plan. Then frame your “ask” against this and use data to support your proposal. “Take into account what you know about your manager—their personality, their flexibility, their openness to trying new things, and their pain points,” says Val Olson, a career coach for Korn Ferry Advance.
At the same time, network with people in the planning and finance departments. These professionals could tell you whether your specific request or something similar has been tried before, and what the outcome was. More importantly, they could help you build support for your idea, develop a business case, and help brainstorm questions you’ll likely be asked as you go through the budget process. “Anticipate questions about how to accomplish your goal cheaper, better, and faster,” Blain says.
Focus on the opportunity—and risk—of doing nothing.
Determine the potential return on investment on your request. That ROI could come as an easy-to-track metric, such as increased profitability for the organization, but also less tangible things, such as the career progression of your boss or advancing a company priority.
You can also build a case around avoiding a negative impact. “Explain to the executive team that if we don’t make this investment, we will fall behind, see sales or profits drop, or lose key talent,” Blain says.
Connect your request to changes in the marketplace.
Experts suggest thinking about your appeal holistically. Consider the anticipated changes in customer behavior. Importantly, research whether competitors are doing something similar and what their goals or outcomes have been. “Speaking with colleagues at different companies may give you a broader idea of how to broach the subject and sell it to your manager or others within your organization,” Olson says.
For instance, if you know that your competitor is making a $10 million investment in new technology, this information could help make your case for a similar investment. “This will position you in the eyes of the executive team as looking ahead and looking around corners,” Blain says.
Emphasize the outcome.
To be sure, anyone making a request for funding needs to say exactly how much in dollars, people, or other resources they need. But after stating the figure, emphasize what these resources will allow you to accomplish. Senior executives are inclined to fund projects that will help their organizations grow in ways consistent with their business plans and priorities. “People get wrapped up in what they need, but remember that the organization is focused on outcomes, so make sure to emphasize what you will deliver,” Blain says.
Be ready to negotiate.
Not every proposal will get funded, but experts say you don’t necessarily have to give up after the first time the request gets rejected. Ask your boss if there is room for negotiation. For instance, if your petition for an additional $10,000 is turned down, can you ask for $8,000 instead? Or are there other resources that can help you to achieve your goals?