Making the Case for the Resources Your Team Needs
As a senior sales manager at a fast-growing software-as-a-service company, Ronja prided herself on having a scrappy, can-do attitude. Her team had always been lean and agile, and they were used to generating business with less-than-optimal resources.
As the company’s customer base expanded, Ronja’s focus shifted from traditional sales to sales enablement. Instead of direct, one-on-one interactions with prospects, her team was now in charge of coaching field reps, developing collateral, and tracking metrics — all of which required a substantial investment in new technology and a larger headcount.
“I know I need to speak up and tell the executives what we need, but I’ve never really negotiated,” Ronja told me in our coaching session. “I’ve always had an ‘I’ll-take-what-I-can-get’ attitude. But that’s hurting my team now.”
On one hand, Ronja recognized the need for additional resources to ensure their sales efforts didn’t lose momentum. On the other hand, she feared appearing weak or inept. She felt an obligation to continue making do with the bare minimum in order to uphold the perception that she was a tenacious, resourceful leader.
“If I’m honest,” Ronja told me, “I’m afraid of influencing up my chain of command. Sure, I have strong technical skills, but the art of persuasion — especially with those in power — is something I’ve never been taught.”
Many of the leaders I work with find themselves in Ronja’s shoes. They need to advocate for more resources for their team, whether it’s better equipment, budget for important projects, or getting raises or bonuses to reward and retain star team members. Yet despite their excellent managerial skills, they, like Ronja, feel out of their depth when it comes to navigating the political and persuasive aspects of leadership. They feel unsure about how to speak up and secure the resources their teams need in a way that also won’t hurt their relationships with those in power.
Since few managers are ever explicitly taught how to advocate effectively at the leadership level, here are some tips to help you make a compelling case.
Show them the money.
Demonstrate to decision-makers that the proposed resource allocation is not simply a nice-to-have, but a strategic investment that will yield tangible benefits for the organization. Put together a data-driven justification to supplement your request, highlighting how more resources will result in a return-on-investment. For instance:
- Quantify how additional resources could boost productivity. Maybe new software could reduce the time it takes to complete a task by 20%, or hiring one mid-level employee could double your team’s output.
- Show how an investment today could lead to long-term cost savings. Perhaps new training eliminates the need for outsourcing or leads to fewer costly errors.
- Highlight how the resources would improve your competitive edge, market share, or the company’s reputation.
Ronja did her research and discovered that each week they delayed bringing a new feature to market ended up costing the company $20,000. She also found that, because her team was understaffed, their satisfaction scores were lagging behind their biggest competitor. She compiled this data into a one-page business case to present her argument in a succinct and easily digestible way.
Align your request with the vision.
Aligning your request with the organization’s vision or your manager’s strategic objectives is another powerful way to demonstrate the relevance and importance of your and your team’s needs. Your goal is to show a deep understanding of the organization’s direction and articulate how your request supports it. This shows your commitment to the big picture and reinforces the fact that you’re a strategic thinker.
For example, if your organization is striving to become a thought leader in its industry, you could make the case that additional headcount — like hiring a dedicated research analyst — would help you stay on top of trends and create content. As a result, you’d attract higher-profile clients, partnerships, or speaking opportunities that elevate the organization’s reputation. Ronja knew her boss was focused on customer experience, so she argued that new software would allow them to understand customer needs and preferences better and provide faster, more personalized support.
Present solutions, not demands.
Executives are busy. They don’t have time — or all the information — to think through every issue. You’re the expert on your domain, and they expect you to act like one. Even Steve Jobs once famously remarked, “We hire people to tell us what to do, not the other way around.”
By presenting solutions instead of dumping problems or demands on those above you, you’re not only helping to lighten their decision-making load, but you’re also positioning yourself as a problem-solver. You’re not simply passing the issue up the line for someone else to solve; you’re actively working toward a resolution. For example, “We need more staff to handle our workload” could be switched to “We could hire two junior stylists at lower starting salaries and then upskill them over time, which would be a wiser long-term investment.”
Make your intentions clear.
Those above you need to trust that the organization’s success, not personal gain or advantage, is your primary motivation for seeking more resources. When you use phrases like “We’re willing to be flexible” or “I’m happy to consider other options,” you signal a willingness to collaborate and compromise. Don’t sell yourself or your team short, but do aim to find a win-win outcome.
Ronja anticipated that if her initial request for a significant tech upgrade was met with hesitation due to budget constraints, she could suggest alternatives like gradually enhancing their tech stack in phrases. Similarly, she could propose other ways around getting additional headcount, like cross-training existing team members or reallocating personnel from other less-critical areas.
Demonstrate past success.
Proof is powerful, and past performance often serves as an indicator of future success. Showcasing success stories builds trust in your ability to deliver results, so highlight previous instances where you asked for more resources and turned them into a positive outcome.
Several years ago, after Ronja requested funds to implement a CRM system, sales shot up 15% in six months. She decided to use this anecdote when approaching her boss for budget to fund her new initiatives. She later told me her boss replied, “There’s not a lot of money to go around right now, but you’ve shown me you know how to make the most of everything you’re given.”
Highlight the cost of inaction.
Be candid about the cost or impact of doing nothing (e.g., “If we don’t invest in XYZ, it could mean this negative consequence is in our future”). One of the most powerful biases in decision-making is loss aversion. In fact, research shows that losses are twice as powerful compared to their equivalent gains.
Underscoring what’s at stake shouldn’t be posed as a threat, but instead, used to help your leaders see the broader implications of their decisions. You’re showing them that you’ve thought deeply about the situation, that you understand the context, and that you’re proactively looking out for the organization’s best interests.
. . .
Advocating for resources goes beyond the act of getting a “yes” to acquire more tools, personnel, or funds. It represents a deep commitment to the team’s success. It shows those you lead that you’re someone who understands their challenges, values their efforts, and is willing to champion their needs. Plus, with more resources at your disposal, your team can work more efficiently, innovate more effectively, and deliver higher-quality results, directly contributing to the bottom line