As a manager, you’ll often have to persuade people to believe in your views and to accept your ideas. If you’re good at selling your ideas to employees and colleagues, you’ll go further, faster, in your career. Unfortunately, good ideas must first be sold to staff and, if you can’t get your proposals across as you envisaged, they may well go the way of many other good ideas – into oblivion. So here are some simple rules that will help you sell your ideas more effectively in the future…
1. Know what you want – exactly.
Don’t present a vague fuzzy shadow of an idea and then grow angry when you fail to get it across to others. Pretest your idea for clarity: put it on paper. If it can’t be written down – goal, numbers, key players, deadlines, budgets – it isn’t a fully developed idea. The very act of finding the appropriate words with which to express an idea compels you to think it through.
2. Double-check everything.
Make sure that all the necessary research and validation has been done to support your idea and that you have all the facts and figures readily available. You’ll need them later.
3. Consider current circumstances.
Ensure that the idea suits the current climate of your organisation. For example, you wouldn’t want to suggest a costly idea if little money were available in your organisation’s organisation. For example, you wouldn’t want to suggest a costly idea if little money were available in your organisation’s coffers.
4. Highlight the benefits.
The key to persuasion is to see your proposition from other people’s points of view. Their questions (to themselves, usually) will be: ‘How does this affect me?’ and ‘What do I stand to gain or lose?’ So make sure you can clearly demonstrate the specific benefits to be gained by others if they adopt your idea – and keep these benefits foremost in your mind, and theirs, during your presentations and subsequent discussions.
5. Be prepared for the objections.
People are always suspicious of new ideas; most prefer the status quo. Anticipate their objections before-hand by consciously and diligently examining your idea for flaws. List potential objections and prepare yourself to tackle them with data, not emotion. Of course, the surest way to squash an objection is to incorporate both the objection and its solution into your presentation. Another useful strategy is to overcome people’s objections not by showing them the error of their logic but by reiterating what’s in it for them.
6. Make your idea their idea.
A great way of gaining support is to give away the credit for an idea. By skilfully making suggestions, you can often get people to adopt, and commit themselves to, your ideas as if they were their own. It’s amazing how much you can achieve if you don’t mind who gets the credit! As well, it’s important for you to sow the seeds of ownership by getting others, if possible, to contribute in some way to the idea.
7. Get some kind of ‘yes’ early on in the process.
Good salespeople know that it always pays to start their sales pitch on a point – however minor, even irrelevant – with which your audience can agree. In other words, find some common ground quickly to start off with agreement of some kind.
8. Solicit the support of colleagues.
Discuss the idea in advance with your close colleagues and opinion leaders in your organisation. Their support and agreement can then be called on at the meeting at which you present your idea for consideration.
9. Prepare a simple and effective presentation.
Your presentation should take two forms: written and oral. Writing adds weight to an idea by indicating that the ideas are less likely to be half-baked or lacking in commitment. Keep your written proposal to a graphic, simply expressed, concise page or two.
Your oral presentation should simply convey the main points of your proposal and its benefits and costs. Avoid being drawn into too much detail. You cannot be accused of hiding or concealing something if you also bring out the disadvantages – before shooting them down yourself. Be convincing and enthusiastic in your summing-up.
The effectiveness of your presentation will also depend largely on how well you have prepared for it, having your facts and figures straight, deciding what you are going to say in what order, and how you are going to say it. It’s wise to rehearse your presentation.
10. Check timing and sequence.
Determine precisely when you should present your idea. Make sure your timing is appropriate, and thus give your idea a greater chance of being accepted.
11. Check your fallback position.
If your proposal is not entirely acceptable to your audience, make sure you have a fallback position with which you’re comfortable, so that, if your first idea is defeated, you are not left with nothing. Don’t let your planning inhibit flexibility.