6 Steps to Sell Your Big Idea

The biggest challenge in corporate communications is coming up with new ideas.
The second biggest challenge is selling them to internal stakeholders.

Too often we’ll settle for the status quo because it’s easier and safer than stepping out into the unknown. This hesitancy comes from fear. But great ideas are a precursor to growth. They demand to be heard – or they’ll just keeping nagging at your subconscious until you give them an outlet. Instead of driving yourself crazy with “what if” scenarios, use these 6 tactics inspired by an ex-BP employee on how to change the system from within.

1. Make the Business Case – Why?
Ideas without a strategic anchor are great for your ego – not so great getting buy-in. By stating upfront the business issue your idea addresses, you immediately get past the knee-jerk reactions of “we’ve never done anything like this” or “well, that will never work with this group.” In the back of their mind, your stakeholders are already thinking about ROI, so meet them where they are by stating the return upfront.

2. Show the Practical Application – How?
Demonstrate the thoroughness of your thinking by sharing how you would implement the idea. This does not need to be an in-the-weeds discussion, but rather an overview of tactics – a very simple project plan with tasks, timeline and resources.

3. Anticipate the Objections – Why Not?
Right about now, the naysayers will have a litany of objections to your plan – the timeline is too aggressive, the company doesn’t have the resources…That’s ok. Fortunately, you’ve done your homework and already know how to respond to these issues. Rather than be defensive, show that you take their concerns seriously. “That’s an excellent point, and one that I considered when developing this plan, which is why I recommend X.” Then ask if the recommendation is clear. You may not have answers to all of their objections, but this open the door for a great dialogue.

4. Build Support – Who Else?
Before your presentation, seek out individuals that can support your idea. The benefits are twofold. First, these people will be your tire-kickers to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Second, you can leverage this support in your presentation, showing that a number of people share your perspective. Remember, there is strength in numbers and comfort in consensus.

5. Describe the Expected Outcome – What If?
Your approach has been very practical up until this point – engaging their minds. Now is the time to shift to some blue-sky thinking and engage their hearts. In this stage, you’re asking your stakeholders to imagine a better world – one filled with unicorn and rainbows – well, your company’s version of it. In this cause-and-effect discussion, you link your tactics from step 2 to the expected results – for example, a changed behavior or a cost-saving. It may not be the key to world peace…but it’s a start.

6. Know When to Save the Idea – Well, OK.
As any poker player – or 70’s song aficionado knows – You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away…

Sometimes the timing just isn’t right, and despite your best efforts, your idea simply won’t find traction. Ideas before their time can come across as visionary…and delusional. If after you’ve laid out the master plan, the power that be still don’t see the value of your brilliance, it’s time to preserve your sanity – and their patience – by saving it for another day. You may present a variation of it in a few months, incorporating the suggestions you heard during your presentation. Or you may need to wait for a fresh set of stakeholders. Either way, the idea isn’t dead – just placed in suspended animation.

And don’t worry – you’ll have plenty more.

Ideas without support are just pipe dreams. How do you get the support needed to bring yours closer to fruition?

Make a plan.
Take a stand.
And pave the great ideas yet to come.

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