By - October 14, 2019

10 Tips for Requesting a Benefits Decision Support Budget

10 tips for requesting a benefits decision support tool

Fostering better open enrollment decisions for your employees doesn’t happen on its own. It takes time. It takes resources. And often, it takes benefits decision support software to make it happen.  

Empowering employees with intelligent technology is an investment…which might mean you’ll need to request a decision support budget from multiple stakeholders before you can implement your open enrollment strategy.

Need help getting your proposal funded? Check out our 10 tips for securing stakeholder buy-in.

1. Use a business case for your decision support budget request.

Stakeholders want to ensure any budget allocations will substantially benefit the organization. Since decision support software is an overhead expense, you’ll need to prove the value of your proposal. 

A business case can do just that. This document will help you articulate…  

  • Which specific challenges the software will address. 
  • What opportunities it places within your company’s reach. 
  • Why the solution you’re proposing is the best among its competitors. 

If you need help persuading stakeholders to make room for a decision support budget, place a business case in your strategic toolbox.

2. Ensure your approach is audience centric. 

To be persuasive, tailor your approach around decision-makers’ preferences. Here are some potential questions to help you craft an audience-centric request for your decision support budget: 

  • What is the average attention span of my stakeholders? Remember those higher up the corporate ladder will likely have less time to devote to a presentation or meeting. 
  • How do my stakeholders process information? Consider the format you use to connect with decision-makers. For example, some may prefer you present your solution first before providing background information. Other stakeholders may prefer seeing your reasons for the proposed change before discussing your solution. 
  • What forms of communication do my stakeholders prefer? For example, if most are visual and analytic thinkers, consider creating presentation slides. In contrast, if your stakeholders enjoy thinking out loud, hold a meeting that focuses on a group discussion. 

Asking questions like these will help you determine how to effectively present your request.  

3. Create an elevator pitch for your decision support budget. 

According to BusinessDictionary.com, an elevator pitch is a “[v]ery concise presentation of an idea covering all of its critical aspects, and delivered within a few seconds (the approximate duration of an elevator ride).”

In the world of startups, an elevator pitch is important for getting funded. However, it can also be a useful tool for the benefits professional.

If your stakeholders aren’t familiar with decision support software, you’re asking them to fund an untested solution. Why not take a lesson from entrepreneurs and craft an elevator pitch that helps your own “investors” understand the value of decision support software? Here’s an example to get you started: 

“Benefits decision support software will empower us to increase engagement and give employees an easy-to-use solution for understanding and choosing the right health plans.”

4. Understand how to justify the decision support budget ask.  

As you prepare to communicate with stakeholders, work to prove the math behind your request. Drawing a connection between your decision support budget and improving company profitability is a powerful way to create alignment with stakeholders.   

List the ways that decision support software can generate ROI. Here’s a quick list of your potential savings:   

  • A reduction in phone calls to HR by employees 
  • Increased enrollment in financially favorable plans, such as HDHPs 
  • Increased contributions to HSAs/FSAs, which reduces your FICA and payroll taxes
  • Increased participation in your wellness plan, which improves employee satisfaction and reduces medical spend through healthy action

5. Anticipate and prepare for potential questions. 

More than likely, your stakeholders will have a number of questions. It’s important to articulately address any queries your stakeholders ask about benefits decision support software. Otherwise, your communication may come across as confused, uninformed, or less than confident. 

Before requesting a decision support budget, attempt to list the questions your stakeholders might have. Then, write out your answers so you’re better prepared to address concerns. 

6. Invite the right stakeholders to a meeting. 

With your format and core pitch ready, it’s time to plan a meeting. At this phase, carefully choose who will attend your gathering. 

Try to invite colleagues who will be directly involved in the purchase of your benefits decision support solution. Here are some ideas for whom to include: 

  • Your CHRO
  • Leaders from your department 
  • Decision-makers responsible for purchasing  
  • Stakeholders from your finance department 

7. Thoughtfully arrange the date and time of your meeting.  

A thoughtfully arranged meeting is vital for smoothly making your request. You don’t want miscommunication or inconvenient meeting times delaying buy-in for your decision support budget. 

If possible, take a look at internal calendars to see when most stakeholders are free. Or get feedback on which date is acceptable for everyone’s schedule. Then, create a calendar invite to help attendees block out the time. (You might consider sending a reminder the day of as well.)  

Important Tip: When you send your invite, be sure to include a call-in number. This gives stakeholders who are traveling or working off-site a way to participate. 

8. Prewire stakeholders about your proposal. 

If you haven’t heard of the term prewire before, think of it as a heads-up for key stakeholders. Will Weider offers a succinct definition when he says, “A pre-wire is simply the meeting before the meeting.” 

As the meeting draws closer, carve out time to speak with key stakeholders about your proposed decision support budget. This gives you a chance to… 

  • Preview any concerns so you can better prepare for your meeting. 
  • Lessen the likelihood of decision-makers being surprised.
  • Give stakeholders time to warm up to your solution.
  • Provide another timely reminder for attendance. 

9. Invite discussion during the meeting. 

While your meeting might involve a presentation, your gathering should create a two-way conversation. 

Once you’ve finished pitching your benefits decision support solution, open up the lines of communication. Keep in mind your stakeholders may offer helpful insights you haven’t considered. So invite feedback from your audience, and avoid combative answers at all costs. 

10. Confidently request your decision support budget.  

Throughout your meeting project a positive and assured attitude.  

You might be confident your organization needs a decision support budget…but if you don’t communicate your certainty, stakeholders might walk away with the wrong impression. Try to avoid the following words as you communicate:  

  • Possibly 
  • Maybe 
  • Perhaps 
  • Probably 
  • By chance
  • Umm…
  • I don’t know 

If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t provide inaccurate information. Simply say you are not 100% and will get back to them. 

In addition, avoid grounding your request in language that conveys your own personal opinions. Instead, try to stick with the facts. For example, don’t say… 

“I think budgeting for decision support software might increase our HDHP enrollment.”    

Instead, you should explain…  

“A decision support budget is an investment in our long-term benefits strategy. In fact, our proposed vendor has seen an organization use decision support software to achieve HDHP enrollment numbers that were 170% over the original target.”

(Nope, we’re not making up that open enrollment number! You can read the actual case study here.) 


Ready to propose a decision support budget? 

If you’re ready to propose a decision support budget—but you’re not sure where to start— we’d suggest creating a business case.  

A business case can give you material for presenting the budget request. And it can also provide talking points to prewire stakeholders. 

To learn about what a business case involves (and get copy-and-paste content for creating your own document), download our free guide How to Create a Business Case for Benefits Decision Support.

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