For a variety of reasons, many people can't sell their ideas. Some fear rejection. Others are reluctant to invest the time and effort it takes to prepare an effective presentation. Still others fail to realize that ideas must be sold.
Putting an idea into salable shape requires effort. In fact, it may require more work than originating the idea itself. In addition, a lot of imagination, initiative and staying power are required.
If you are convinced that your idea has merit, demonstrate that you have thought it through. Before actually presenting it, give a short history of the problem it addresses, what led you to investigate the area, and how you proceeded to solve the problem and create the new idea. This ensures that your idea will be taken seriously.
Describe your idea clearly, for nothing will turn others against it more quickly than a muddled description that they can't understand. New material should be delivered no faster than it can be understood. If visual aids will help clarify your story, use them. Take special care to avoid trade jargon unless your audience is at home with such language.
When selling an idea to management, make a strong dollars-and-cents case. Your presentation should contain plenty of "business benefits to us"—not just "how it works."
Don't overestimate the benefits of your idea. It may create unnecessary doubts and reservations in the minds of others.
Be careful to avoid an air of superiority or pride when presenting the idea. This may make your listener feel inferior and build resistance.
It will certainly help if you know as much as possible about the people to whom you must present your idea—their temperaments, aptitudes, idiosyncrasies and preferences.
By putting yourself in your audience's shoes all the way through, by trying to imagine how you would react, were positions reversed, you will be able to do a much better job of anticipating—and answering—objections.
Any idea that can be subjected to a road test should certainly get one. When ideas are debated instead of tested, a poor idea, supported by a good debater, makes a better showing than a good idea supported by a poor debater. But when ideas are tested, the good ones invariably stand out.
At the end of your presentation, sum up the salient points, the anticipated advantages of the idea, the need that exists or can be created for the idea, and why you think the idea should be adopted.
Finally, leave copies of a clear, well written report with your audience. It will give them a chance to study it later and—perhaps—arrive at the same conclusions as you.
What Did You Say?
People don't always speak the same language. Some talk too much, some too little. And—let's face it—a few have no idea what they're talking about. A great many more use vague, ambiguous words that really say nothing.
Yet, most people consider themselves effective communicators. Misunderstandings, they believe, are the other person's fault. This is the sort of attitude that causes problems.
How can you make sure that you are understood? First, realize that every-thing you do or don't say affects your operation and the way people work.
Then remember these suggestions:
For example, don't try to sell an order clerk on the benefits of a new system with the same words you used to sell it to management. You'll never convince him with phrases about inventory turnover, gross profits and cost reduction. He's more interested in exactly what he's supposed to do and how it will help him do a better job.
"When in Doubt—Gallop!"
Back in the days when the cavalry consisted of soldiers on horseback, there was a popular saying among French cavalrymen: "When in doubt—gallop!"
To this day, a lot of people subscribe to that sentiment. Having lost sight of their objective, they redouble their efforts, as if activity were the same as accomplishment.
It isn't, of course. In fact, activity can be the antithesis of achievement. For example, if we form the habit of remaining in the office an additional two or three hours each day, we encourage ourselves to take it easy during the regular work day because we can always catch up in the evening.
By extending our work hours, however, we dispel the natural tension of the eight-hour workday that helps us get things done. We tell ourselves: No need to concentrate on the job during regular hours; we'll catch up later, when everyone else is gone. But that approach produces tedium and neglect of family which, in turn, can eventually lower job performance.
Hard work is sometimes necessary. There are unexpected developments and deadlines and unanticipated needs. But a steady rhythm of accomplishment during regular hours is far preferable to habitual late hours and self-inflicted crises. A little planning can go a long way toward preserving your health and sanity.
Common Denominators of Success
While no one is born a good leader, one study has pinpointed these traits as common among effective managers: