Selling Your Ideas
By Jim Dawson
we believe it or not, we are all in the sales business.
Regardless of what we do for a living, in one way or another we
are always selling ourselves, and our ideas, to other people.
When it comes to problem solving, improving the workplace, and
enhancing customer service, this ability becomes crucial.
employees at all levels have good ideas for how to drive the business
to greater success, management often seems to be hard of hearing.
Why? Because most
employees don’t know how to: 1) articulate the problem well enough
to identify its cause, 2) get the resources and support they need to
most employees don’t know how to sell their ideas to the decision
makers who have the power to buy.
The good news is that learning how to sell your ideas can be an
exciting six-step process that can boost your career and benefit your
1. Lay the Foundation: When you send an email, answer a call, or attend a meeting, you are selling
interaction makes an impression. If
you want people to be attracted to your ideas, you’ve got to be
perceived as positive, open minded, and trustworthy.
When day-to-day problems arise, offer to help where you can.
If you show initiative, instead of complaining or criticizing,
you’ll earn the reputation of being someone who can make a
Define the Opportunity/Problem: You can’t sell your idea until you have clearly identified the opportunity
at hand or the problem and its underlying cause.
Determine what advantages the opportunity can generate or what
it will cost if no action is taken.
There are only three reason a business will take action and
they are, is faster, better or cheaper. Ask others what they think
about your idea. Use this
occasion to build relationships with people who understand and support
you and can help you get to the decision makers.
3. Prepare Your Proposal: Once you’ve done your homework, you are ready to prepare your proposal.
the project’s scope.
parameters of your plan, how long it’s going to take, and who will
be involved with its implementation.
People are more inclined to favor a plan that is easy to
understand, offers a realistic timeline, and outlines the resources
and investment required.
some skin in. Decision
makers are more willing to give you a chance when you are willing to
“put some skin in the game.” Are
you going to coordinate the project and follow up to make sure people
are doing what they are supposed to do?
Are you part of the team that will be doing the work?
Remember ideas are a dime a dozen, execution separates the
few from the many.
savvy about the organization.
complex the business, the more effort it takes to understand the goals
of the organization and its structure.
Learn how the business operates and who makes the decisions.
The people in your network can help you get this information.
the CEO to the line worker has an agenda.
Know who the “players” are and what they need.
You must take their world into consideration or you won’t be
If you are
going to present your idea to a group of managers, or in a one-on-one
session with your boss, practice your delivery.
If you are presenting with a team, decide who will present what
and practice together so that each participant makes their best
contribution. For example,
if someone is nervous, let him make the introductions and sit down.
Other aspects of the presentation include presenting the
problem/opportunity, the relevant background information, an
overview of your innovation or solution, and the cost-benefit
your proposal is to be submitted in written form, be prepared to
clarify and defend your ideas should you be called upon to answer
4. Sell Your Idea
If you are
making a formal presentation, arrive early so you can meet and greet
everyone who is going to hear you speak.
Shake hands and smile. Human
touch is important when you want to connect with your audience,
especially if you anticipate resistance.
It brings your essence into the room giving you an inside edge.
presentation must be objective—there is no room for “I’ in your
proposal. You are stating
what the business has to do. At
the same time, if you don’t have confidence in yourself and passion
for your idea, your audience won’t either.
Confidence is convincing even if there is doubt.
Passion persuades because people want to believe.
They will vote yes because they want to see you do it.
Validating what you are saying is extremely important.
You must validate yourself as the presenter and why you have
the right to be there. Tell
them about your job experience and how you can help the business.
If you are going to reduce the amount of work, while increasing
productivity and job satisfaction, validate those points.
Emphasize to your audience that you are there to make things
better for them and for the organization.
demonstrates how your envisioned outcomes can actually occur.
Build your business case by citing examples and case studies.
Use body language, gestures, and voice inflection to help your
listeners get the picture. Walk
people through the process you are proposing.
Physically or virtually show what they are currently doing vs.
what you want them to do to highlight the difference.
many objections as possible before your presentation, but don’t be
afraid of them. Most
objections are an attempt to get more information.
Objections help you answer questions that your audience may be
wondering such as, “Why should I care?” and, “What’s in it for
objections to your advantage by responding with answers that help your
audience see things differently. Use
questions to provoke thought and to have your audience convince
themselves that your idea is solid and will work.
If someone says, “We tried that 10 years ago and it didn’t
work,” ask in return, “Has management, or the market, changed in
the past 10 years? Why is
now not the right time?” Then
be quiet and listen carefully. The
answers will reveal the concerns you need to resolve before you can
finish your presentation.
5. Close the Deal: It’s up to you to make sure that a decision is made, so ask for it.
If they say, “We’ll get back to you,” ask, “Is there
any part of my proposal that you don’t agree with?” Then address
any remaining issues.
your audience needs time to think, or if you submitted your proposal
in writing instead of making a presentation, ask when the decision
will be made and let them know that you will follow up.
Find out whom you should get in touch with and when.
during the decision making process they try to negotiate with you,
remember that wants can be negotiated away, needs cannot.
If you insist on what you believe is needed and give in on the
other, you can win the negotiation.
6. Reap the Rewards: The key to selling your ideas is to remember that you are in the sales
business. Everything you
do and say makes an impression. You
can make changes happen with enough time, courage, and commitment.
The process will not only enhance your self-esteem, it will
reap positive rewards for you and the organization.
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