Having a great idea is one thing. Selling it to those who can support you in making that idea a reality can be more challenging and take some doing. Recently, I was asked what advice I would give to women who are starting out in their careers and want to become skilled at selling their ideas. I received some positive feedback about my answer so I thought I would share it here.
First, if you want your ideas to be taken seriously, you have to take them seriously yourself. Second, don’t apologize or discount either yourself or your suggestions. Too often, we start off by making comments such as, “Oh, I’m sorry to bother you,” or “This will only take minute,” or “This is probably a really dumb idea, but . . . .” What if, instead, we said something like “Good morning, thank you for making time for me today. I’ve been thinking a lot about our business problem (or opportunity). I’ve done some research and I have an idea worth your consideration . . .”? That sounds a lot different, doesn’t it?
Here are 10 points to remember when selling your ideas:
- Be confident and own it. Present with belief, conviction, and energy. Believe in yourself and in your idea, and others will, too.
- Schedule time with the right people and let them know in advance the reason for the meeting. If you aren’t sure who the stakeholders are, ask around, including such questions as, “Who else would you recommend I share this with?”
- Be prepared. It’s been said that preparation breeds confidence. It’s always a good idea to rehearse in advance with a trusted colleague. Be open to their feedback and use it to improve your pitch.
- Present your case, including the business problem or opportunity you’re addressing, relevant data, metrics, research, competitive info, cost/benefit, and examples.
- Use visuals that enhance your proposal, are purposeful and relevant, and help tell the story.
- Give credit where credit is due. If others contributed to your idea, be sure to mention them and express your thanks for their input.
- Be ready for Q&A. Anticipate what questions you’re likely to get and have answers.
- Welcome feedback. If you don’t like what you hear, don’t get defensive. Take feedback as an opportunity to improve.
- Don’t let a “no” dissuade you. Seek to understand the reason behind the no. Determine what information was missing or maybe it was a timing problem. Consider a pivot. If it’s a good idea, it will come to life. It just might take a little time to get there.
- If you get a “yes,” brace yourself and be prepared for the next steps to take for what is necessary to bring your idea to life.
The best of luck to all of you who have the courage to think differently about your business and to bring ideas forward!