Much of what I write about on my blog is idea-based. Once I share a concept, my job ends and yours begins. Your job is to take what applies to you, sell it in to your organization and put it into practice. But alas, most great ideas die on the vine – before they can ever be harvested. The following article, originally written for MPI Toronto, will give you more fodder to help you sell in that great idea. So enjoy!
You have a brilliant idea. The problem is that no one else in the organization shares your wild enthusiasm. They think it’s a fad, so they don’t want to invest time or money into something that will be here today and gone tomorrow. Should you kiss your great idea goodbye?
FAD VS TREND
The answer is not so simple. Understanding the difference between a fad and a trend is easy in hindsight – since longevity is one of the biggest differentiators – but can be very difficult to identify in the moment. Fads are fleeting. Trends, on the other hand, are a sustainable cultural movement. One of the greatest ways to uncover a trends is to watch where consumers are heading – what is influencing their behavior, impacting their lives, changing their thinking and how are they reacting?
Social Media was once touted as a fad. What naysayers didn’t grasp was the underlying movements – the rapid rise of smart phones, the desire to communicate while on the go, the every widening gap between consumers and advertisers, the globalization of business and the recession, to name a few.
One of your biggest challenges before selling in your idea is knowing whether your idea is a fad or a trend.
5 KEYS TO UNLOCK BUY IN
So here’s what to keep in mind when you try to convince the CEO, the SVPs, the Board or anyone else too busy to know a trend when it hits them in the face:
1. Know your culture
Does your work culture encourage creativity and innovation? Are they risk averse? Do they make decisions by committee? Knowing the environment should give you an understanding of how to construct your idea and who to involve in its assessment.
2. Start with the end in mind
An idea without a strategy is novel and just as fleeting as a fad. As an integral part of your organization, it’s imperative that you know the corporate goals…and not just the topline goals. You need to understand what every department that your idea will impact is trying to achieve because research shows that, in most organizations, a minimum of eight people will need to sign off on even the simplest of ideas.
The CEO wants to know: Will it increase the value of the organization?
The CFO wants to know: Will it generate ROI?
The COO wants to know: Do we have the ability to execute it?
The CTO wants to know: Will it have an impact on our existing systems?
The CMO wants to know: Will consumers see value in it?
Everyone wants to know: Will this impact me, my department, my time, my success and any ideas I’ve already presented or have in the works?
Selling in an idea that doesn’t have an end benefit for the business, and its stakeholders, is shortsighted and ends up hurting your credibility in the long run – your next great idea will be snuffed out before it leaves your lips.
3. Build a Story
For some reason we’ve been fed the idea that in order to be taken seriously we need to sell facts, figures and pie charts. Let me be frank – first it’s B-O-R-I-N-G and second you often end up making a complex idea more complex. If your audience is bored or confused, they won’t buy in. Period.
Paint a picture with your words. Start by setting the stage with the challenge. Has something happened to the business, its people, its customers or its industry that your idea solves? Did your company just lose a major customer? If so, thread this into your story. That’ll wake them up. Next, present the hero – that’s your big idea. Illustrate how it will overcome the challenge and have a positive impact on the business. And finish with supporting concepts, stories or statements that will drive your idea home.
4. Recognize that emotion trumps all
Back in 1774, Frederick the Great of Prussia believed that the potato – a low cost and easy to grow vegetable – was the key to feeding his struggling nation during a time of famine. Although a very rational idea, the community didn’t agree. They felt the potato wasn’t good enough to feed to the dogs. Knowing he was fighting a losing battle, Frederick switched gears and appealed to their emotions. He planted a royal field of potato plants and hired a guard to protect the field. It worked. Peasants felt that if it was worth guarding, it was worth stealing. So, they snuck into the fields to snap up the potatoes and soon planted them in their own gardens.
Although we like to think we’re rational creatures, we’re actually anything but. It’s important to understand that the greater the perceived risk, the more emotional the decision becomes. If you can anticipate your audience’s greatest fears or biggest dreams, you’ll have a much better success rate.
5. Have a pink spoon in your back pocket
When you go to Baskin Robbins they let you try the flavours before you buy. This takes the risk out of your purchase decision. If, after all of your preparation, they’re still not willing to sign on the dotted line, you may need a scaled-back ‘try before you buy’ option, to make buying in less risky.
At the end of the day, your success is in your hands. Don’t let a great idea go to waste.
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