A frequent question from people in all career phases is what a person can do to better sell a new idea, whether to a customer or inside an organization. As much as it would be nice to have a standard formula that always works, success really depends on the particulars of your situation.
There are, however, a number of common strategies you can consider. Your best course of action is to be adept at using a variety of approaches to make your ideas more powerful and compelling. These nine strategies are a strong start to include in your idea-selling toolkit:
1. Get the Facts in Place behind Your Idea
Make sure you build fact-based, logical support as the underpinning for your idea. If the facts aren’t readily available, look for new or nontraditional information sources. Assemble the information you need to develop a fact-based case for why your idea will deliver results the organization needs.
2. Link Emotions to the Facts Supporting Your Idea
Think about the world’s great stories. Very few are made up solely of facts. They all are strongly rooted in characters and emotions. Develop the most compelling storyline which makes sense with your idea and creates emotional connections to it among potential supporters.
3. Depict Your Idea
Based on whatever is appropriate, create an early mock up of what you’re trying to accomplish. It could be a picture, a storyboard, a video, or an actual prototype, among other things. Help others buy-in to your idea by making it easy to interact with an early version of the end result you’re attempting to deliver.
4. Create a Clear Implementation Roadmap
If there aren’t obvious steps for how an idea can become reality, it may be dead on arrival in an organization. Break down the “how-to’s” behind your idea so key stakeholders can clearly see the effort and investment necessary to bring an idea to fruition.
5. Make Your Idea Easier to Support
Do the groundwork to make choosing your idea easy for decision makers by removing as many obstacles as possible. Think about whether it makes sense to break your idea up into easier to digest (i.e., support, fund, implement) pieces. Maybe you can better sell your idea by going the Goldilocks route, with “too much” and “too little” versions surrounding the option you want. Push for the BIG idea, but be happy to settle for the “just right” option in between.
6. Quietly Build Your Support One-by-One
Rather than waiting for a big meeting to introduce your idea and see how things go, build your support person-by-person ahead of time. Talk to individuals in advance, share where you’re headed, and solicit both input and support. If someone is supportive individually but becomes antagonistic or noncommittal in a later “big meeting,” you can always tactfully refresh their memory about an earlier favorable position.
7. Be Ready for the Right Moment
Some ideas will be ahead of their time when you’re working on them. Keep going. Perform all the preparation, get your assumptions and ideas challenged by others, and make refinements. Then read the organizational or market tea leaves as best you can so you’re ready to introduce the idea when it’s really the right time.
8. Secure Visible Third-Party Validation for Your Idea
It always helps to have an influential spokesperson backing your idea. Inside an organization, your third-party validation may not be from a TV star; it’s likely to come from senior leaders willing to expend their political capital to support good things for the organization. Identify who the key influencers are and start building their interest and support for your idea.
9. Pick a Different Salesperson
It could be someone else can run with your idea more effectively than you. If you think that’s the case, consider recruiting THAT person to be the salesperson. Or maybe even give the idea away to someone who can nurture and develop it better than you can. If you’re really interested in bettering the organization first and foremost, seeing the idea pushed forward and implemented by someone else should be more important than retaining ownership of a great idea which never sees the light of day.
These strategies are a starting point. Adapt, combine, or pull them apart so they’ll work most effectively in your organization to take full advantage of successful new ideas.