One Idea for Sale

by Joanne Leitschuh

If your business is like mine, you are probably surrounded by sales people, advertisements, marketing aids, How-to selling books, catalogues and countless websites that encourage promoting your company to millions of consumers. Its one thing to learn how to sell your product and make a profit -- its another to learn how to sell your ideas and get positive results.

When was the last time you were at a meeting and decisions were being made that you thought weren't quite right plans that seemed second best? You knew that if you were better prepared, you could probably convince the other members in your team that your solution would be better for the company.

Perhaps you found yourself in a situation, like I did the other day, when you wanted to express yourself, but didn't know how to start. Selling your ideas is just another avenue of communication. It's an art! If you really believe in your idea and in yourself to have the ability to bring people along your way of thinking, it can be a rewarding experience.

Like selling your product, there are logical steps that enable both parties in the transaction to be happy with the final plan of action or decision. Octavious Black, in an article from Management Today 1 , clearly lists 10 steps to communicating your idea to others.

How to Sell Your Ideas
1. Know the facts, but don't rely on them. People make decisions for emotional reasons just as much as rational ones.

2. Link your ideas to the priorities of those you are selling to.  This allows potential customers to see what's in it for them. If you don't know their priorities, find out. People make decisions for their reasons, not yours.

3. Talk to the main decision-makers, ideally one-to-one. Ask for their views on your ideas and listen. Show them later how these have been incorporated.

4. Share the credit. The more it seems that your proposal is widely supported the harder it will be to reject.

5. Break your argument into bite-size chunks. This allows people to follow at their own pace. If you rush, they are more likely to become lost and may reject your idea rather than admit confusion.

6. Make all the decisions explicit. Start with the big issue (e.g. "Do you think this is a good idea?") and then work through the other decisions (assuming the answer to the first question is yes.)

7. Offer a range of options. This will give those you are selling to a chance to influence the outcome and so feel part of the solution.

8. Believe in what you are selling. If you aren't confident, others are unlikely to be.

9. Don't be fazed by difficult questions. Pause, ask others for their views, if appropriate, or say that you can't answer the question now but will find out and get back to them.

10. Paint a picture. Describe how great things will be if your ideas are accepted (or the terrible things that might happen if they aren't.) The more vivid and personal the picture, the greater your chances of selling the ideas successfully. 1

It's tempting sometimes, especially in "heated" discussions, to take the easy option and just sit back and let the others have their way. If you think little of yourself, you might not even value your own ideas. Perhaps you think, "Who cares anyway? I can't make a difference, right?" Wrong!! It's such a shame when we get inspired and say nothing or do nothing. Our inner voice is struggling to express itself. It's our responsibility to respond to the prompting -- whether it be a little suggestion or a revolutionary move! Businesses are made up of people. People who are willing to be all that they can be and share the gifts they have especially been given are a real asset to the group. Be bold! If you do it right, you have nothing to lose, and each member has everything to gain.

1. Octavius Black, Brain Food: Route to the Top, Management Today, June 2002.

1, 2. Saunders, Andrew, “How to Drag Your Firm Back From the Brink”, Management Today July, 2002.

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