Over the last year, I’ve had the privilege to speak to thousands of leaders. In virtually every setting, I asked them to send me their leadership questions. I am grateful hundreds have responded. Each week, I try to address at least one question I believe will have broad interest. Today, a question I’ve been asked repeatedly: How do I sell my ideas?
First, let me say good luck! Selling ideas is rarely easy. The truth is, the bigger the idea, the more visionary, the harder it will be to sell. The world is vested in the status quo. That’s one of the primary reasons leadership is so challenging.
The other thing I’ll say about the difficulties we sometimes face when presenting our ideas: the resistance is often justified. Many of the ideas we generate are not good! Very few big ideas are as big as the originator thinks. I don’t say this to discourage you. Just be aware - you must evaluate the resistance. It may be well founded.
Now, for those of you trafficking in big ideas worth fighting for, here are a few practices that may help you win the day.
Do your homework. Have you done your due diligence? Has your idea been validated? Prototyped? What can you learn from the experience of others? What have others done in the past in this arena within your own organization? Were they successful? If not, why not? What have others done outside your organization? The better questions you ask in advance, the better prepared you’ll be to answer the questions of others.
Have the meetings before the meetings. Who are the people who can help you evaluate your idea? Who are the people who can strengthen your idea? Who are the people who will likely oppose your idea? Meet with as many of these men and women as possible BEFORE you officially present your idea. Learn as much as you can and alter your presentation accordingly.
Anticipate questions and objections. Make a list of the top 25 – 50 questions you could receive regarding your idea. Be prepared to answer every one of them. If you don’t know an answer, admit it. But be aware, the more questions you cannot answer, the less likely your idea will be approved.
Simplify your idea. Be prepared to share your idea as succinctly as possible. You can always elaborate as needed. A good question to ask in preparation: “How would I explain my idea to a small child?” This exercise will help you select simple language and images to convey your idea. In most settings, simple sells. (See my Post: Simplify)
Don’t give up easily. I’ve been working on helping our organization build teams for almost 25 years with strong opposition most of the way. I’ve been asked many times why I have stayed the course. My response: “Because teams outperform individuals.” When you discover truth, don’t give up just because the road is hard.
When you find your next big idea, stay the course… That’s what leaders do.[GLS_Shield]