Pitching Ideas: Important questions people ask themselves

In every situation people start by asking themselves certain questions to determine what decision they should make. This way of self-reflection is sometimes done consciously, but mostly unconscious. It’s built into our cognitive system to help us make decisions based on our current state of mind, as well as our values, beliefs, and ethics.

Note: This is an excerpt from the book ‘Pitching Ideas: Make people fall in love with your ideas.’ More information: pitchingideas.com.

Important questions people ask themselves:

  • What is the goal here? Do I agree with it?
  • Do I understand the idea? Do I like it or not?
  • What is expected of me? (budget, time, acknowledgment) Am I able to deliver this?
  • What are the consequences (benefits, risks, etc.) if I support it?
  • What are the consequences if I don’t support it?

The process of considering the answers to these questions can happen in a second, or in a few days, or weeks. It all depends on the context of the situation and the character of the people involved.

Let’s look at John and Kim:

John’s goal — To have dinner ready without having to clean the entire kitchen.

John’s idea — Order pizza margherita, because he absolutely loves it!

Depending on the situation Kim starts by addressing one of the following five areas, allowing her to consider whether or not she’ll support John’s latest scheme.

  • If Kim doesn’t like pizza, has to pay for it, and has to clean the kitchen anyway: NO
  • If Kim doesn’t like pizza, but John’s going to pay for it, and clean the kitchen: MAYBE
  • If Kim does like pizza, has to pay for it, but doesn’t have to clean the kitchen anyway: MAYBE
  • If Kim is okay with pizza, has to pay for it, doesn’t have to clean the kitchen, and instead gets to watch an awesome movie with John: ABSOLUTELY

It all depends on how well you know your partner. If John understands that leisure time is more important to Kim than doing chores, then he’ll lead with the idea of ‘watching a movie’ rather than ‘not cleaning the kitchen’. And if pizza’s there to sweeten the deal, well, everyone’s a winner!

There are many other things to keep in mind when pitching ideas; but getting support means understanding contexts and individual motivations. Some examples:

  • Sam the programmer supports the idea to build a new website, not because he likes the new website concept, but because it gives him the chance to finally learn that new coding technique.
  • Commercial manager Ingrid shoots down the idea to let the new intern research the effectiveness of the new campaign, because it might reveal insights that could generate negative feedback on the work she did last year.
  • Marion the CEO supports an idea thought up by one of her manager because she has just promoted him and wants to show her support.

There can be many reasons why people would or won’t support an idea. It’s not always because of the awesomeness of the idea itself, but because of many reasons surrounding it. When creating buy-in you must be aware of all these possible thoughts, reasons, and choices.

This is an excerpt from the book ‘Pitching Ideas: Make people fall in love with your ideas.’ More information: pitchingideas.com.