In an era of fiscal and time constraints, is it possible to sell your ideas to company leaders? Yes, but the success depends on how you frame the opportunity.
The first step is to avoid talking about the idea itself. While that may sound strange, it’s the primary sales rule that most people break. You may love your ideas, but the feeling isn’t always mutual. When you’re selling your ideas to others, you shouldn’t focus on your preferences. You must focus on the other person, and here’s how:
Forget about how excited you are about the idea you want implemented. If you’re going to sell your idea, you have to understand where the other person’s pain is. Maybe they’re dealing with upset stockholders or perhaps sales are down. Do your research and uncover the main challenge they’re presently dealing with.
Once you know the other person’s pain, you can position your idea to sell as a solution to it. Essentially, you have to show the person that there’s a direct payoff to them if they approve your idea. If you know that the CEO’s greatest pain is a lack of communication between departments, then you have to consider your proposal and figure out how it can ease the pain and bring resolve to the situation.
Be sure to state it clearly to avoid guesswork. For example, you could say, “I know you’re dealing with poor internal communications. I’ve come across some things that I believe can help you overcome those challenges so the company can grow.”
Then talk about the new idea in terms of solving the current problem only. Don’t go into all the benefits, functions, features, or costs. Right now, you’re simply getting the decision maker on board with the idea and its problem-solving potential.
As you have this discussion, you’ll also have to address common objections. Plan for them in advance by figuring out what their objections could be and solve them before the discussion.
For example, if you’re talking to the CEO about your idea and you know budgets are tight, you can deduce that they will say, “This sounds great, but the CFO won’t approve this right now.” However, because you’ve anticipated this objection, you can reply, “I’ve already run this by the CFO because I knew it was important.”
Of course, before going to the CFO, you’ll have identified their greatest pain and presented the idea to solve it. If what you’re proposing is really a solution, and you showed how it benefits the company’s strategic imperatives with a good ROI, you will have a receptive CFO.
The goal is to overcome the potential blocks before they arise.
When you’re selling your ideas, the people you’re talking to are thinking risk. Alleviate this fear by remembering that strategies based on uncertainty have high risk, while strategies based on certainty have low risk. Prior to the discussion, ask yourself, “What are the things I’m absolutely certain about regarding this idea? What are the current hard trends? Where is the industry, company, and economy going with or without this solution?”
Make your list the things you’re certain about. For example, mobile devices are quite popular. Is this a trend that you know will continue, or will people eventually trade in their mobile devices for an old flip phone of yesterday? The answer is obvious: people won’t go back. Look at sales trends, customers, the economy, and everything around you. Get clear on what’s a hard trend and what will pass.
Additionally, look at the strategic imperatives of the company and the current plan. Determine if your proposed idea is an accelerator or decelerator of that plan. You want to show how your idea can accelerate the plan and how your solution can help increase sales, innovation, and product development.
Go into your list of certainties by saying, “Here are things I’m certain about in the marketplace and in our company. Based on this certainty, here is why implementing this idea is a low-risk winner.”
It’s important to remind yourself before the meeting that if you haven’t done the groundwork to excite the listener, you’ll lose them. As you’re busy talking about features and benefits, the other person is thinking about costs, risks, and uncertainties. Having a preemptive solution is an anticipatory approach to selling – you’re anticipating the problems, rejections, objections, and concerns so you can overcome them.
Anyone who has worked with C-level executives knows that leaders get excited about many things while carrying the weight of costs, controls, and constraints. Challenge those issues by making what you offer about priority, relevancy, and strategic imperatives to sell your ideas.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.