Give your idea the best possible shot.
My job is to sell ideas — to convince my leaders, my peers and my team that if they do what I think they should, everything will be better for it.
That might sound ego-driven, but I don’t mean for it to be. Many times, a lot of people have worked really hard on a project that could be rebooted if I don’t show up and know my stuff.
Other times, I could persuade someone toward an idea that’s utterly horrible and will negatively affect our customers, a friend’s personal brand, or even the path of a team member’s career.
I think selling ideas is important to all of us. Don’t we all want to be more understood? To get the “yes” we’re hoping for? To transfer our passions and perspectives to someone else? It’s important work and requires just as much science as it does art.
Today, I want to give you the science side of selling ideas. It boils down to a 3-step, easy-to-remember process that will give your preferred future the best possible shot at reality.
Step 1: The Problem
You have to convince your audience the problem is important and that you aren’t wasting their time. So be prepared to define it in one sentence. If you can’t state it simply, you haven’t spent enough time understanding the problem to begin with.
For example… a few months ago, the Creative Leadership Team I’m on realized the majority of our interactions with one another were reactive, instead of proactive. It wasn’t working, so I called a meeting with the team to solve the problem, minus our fearless leader — Brian Williams.
After putting our head’s together, we asked for a meeting with Brian, and the selling began! Here was our one-sentence:
“We are struggling to run our department as an effective business, because we aren’t giving first priority to this leadership team.”
Step 2: The Pitch
Presenting a problem without suggesting a remedy is too close to complaining, so your second goal is to propose a solution:
“Every time we gather as a team, great things happen for our team…
So we feel like the best solution is for us to spend more time in the same room.”
But be careful! Your pitch should be focused on strategy, not logistics. Otherwise, you risk derailing the process.
If we had said, “We feel like the best solution is for all of us to meet every Monday from Noon to 3pm, and here’s what the agenda could look like…” then we would have thrown the conversation into the weeds and we all would have gotten stuck. Keep your pitch at a high enough level where you can keep moving without inviting an interruption.
Step 3: The Possibilities
We have a leader here at Dave’s who always says, “If you want me to get excited about going to the beach, then paint me a picture so I can see what it looks like.” Your final goal is to get your audience dreaming along with you. Here’s how we did it:
“What if we were able to spend more time working on our business, instead of in our business? We could be proactive instead of reactive, help one another learn and grow our teams, identify roadblocks, have visibility into all of our teams’ work…”
Help your audience see the beach, then hand the conversation off with a sentence like, “We have some ideas of how we could move forward, but would love to hear your thoughts about the idea...” This allows them to decide whether to pass the ball back into your court to dive into the logistics you’re prepared to discuss, or to keep it in theirs to begin their feedback.
Since our meeting with Brian, we have been meeting as a Creative Leadership Team every Monday for a half day, and the results have been outstanding. We have never felt more cohesive, confident in our roles, and clear on the future of our entire team.