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 process that can boost your career and benefit your organization.
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.
While 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, and 2) get the resources and support they need to resolve
Essentially, 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 organization.
1. Lay the Foundation
When you send an e-mail, answer a call or attend a meeting, you are selling
yourself. Every interaction makes an impression. If you want people to be
attracted to your ideas, you’ve got to be perceived as positive, open-minded
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 difference.
2. Define the
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 reasons a business will take action, and they are: It’s 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.
Outline the project’s scope.Describe the 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
Put 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
Be savvy about the organization.The more 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.
Review the audience.Everyone from 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 successful.
Rehearse the presentation.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 analysis.
If 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
Meet and greet.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.
Present with passion. Your 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.
Validate your position.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
Provide evidence.Evidence 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.
Overcome objections.Anticipate as 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
Turn objections to your advantage by responding with answers that help your
audience see things differently. Use questions to provoke thought and 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
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.
If 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.
If 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
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