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Selling Strategic Ideas

August 5, 2015 // Erik Nelson

As any CEO can attest, evaluating, refining, and selling a strategic idea within a large business is a high stakes, complex endeavor. The outcome can determine the fate of an organization — and the fate of its executives. Healthcare leaders are uniquely challenged because of the speed in which their market is changing. They need to implement strategic ideas quickly but do so with limited resources in a complex environment. Because strategic ideas require approval and buy-in from dozens of decision-makers, each with their own unique set of priorities, biases, and competing ideas, it’s no wonder that decisions in the consensus-driven culture of healthcare take a long time and are often flawed.

Creating a Compelling Business Case 

While there are a multitude of factors that determine the fate of an idea, there is one common factor among those organizations that sell their ideas well: they have a compelling strategic business case. And by business case, I do not mean a boring template-based business plan that recites facts that we already know. I am referring to a dynamic set of information that creatively helps people quickly understand the core value proposition along with the business model that supports it. A compelling business case has the following characteristics:

  • It is dynamic and insightful. It models different scenarios and creatively presents information in ways that meet the unique needs of an organization’s decision makers.
  • It is flexible. It can incorporate new information that addresses questions raised throughout the process.
  • It is concise. It is as comprehensive as it needs to be, and nothing more.
  • It is honest. It is an unbiased representation of the business situation and reflects the entire scope of the idea.
  • It is a set of information — not just one document. Executives can draw on it and use it in different ways to make their case.

While each case is unique, there are five basic steps required to create a compelling business case:

  1. Define the idea, the “value proposition” and supporting business model that will prove it. You need to answer questions like: Why should the organization do this? How will it impact our business?
  2. Understand the decision makers and the decision-making process. What are the values of the decision makers? What are the barriers? What is at stake for them?
  3. Gather, assess, and analyze information needed to model the idea in a manner that is insightful and addresses issues and concerns that have been raised.  Make sure to draw information from a wide variety of internal and external sources;
  4. Evaluate and refine the model as needed. Incorporate feedback and new findings in a way that improves the accuracy of your model and increases the trust level with key stakeholders.
  5. Finalize core content and create deliverables that address the specific needs of each decision maker.


A Business Case is Just the Beginning

Building a compelling business case is just the starting point for selling a strategic idea, but it is the foundation on which the sales process is built. It supports sound decision making and provides the content needed for one on one politicking, influencing internal stakeholder groups, creating communications material, and winning approval from the Board of Directors. Developing a solid business case is difficult. It requires talented people who have the right mix of creativity, business acumen, and experience. And while this process may be challenging, making a strategic mistake can be fatal.