Innovation requires that your ideas and proposals capture the acceptance of senior management in your organization so they will provide support and resources for implementation. Do you have trouble enrolling other people in your company in your new ideas and proposals? Then invest some time and thought into developing strategies to sell your ideas more effectively.
Many of the people who review your proposal will have a habitual automatic “No!” response and love to give knee-jerk negative criticism. That’s why you need to put your proposal in a form that demonstrates you have carefully evaluated and developed the proposal before presenting it.
First examine your proposal’s merits. Consider effectiveness, feasibility, acceptability, and difficulty of implementation.
Identify the problem you solved and list your proposal’s short- and long-term advantages. For example, identify how your proposal will contribute to profits or improve workflow, working conditions, the quality of your company’s product or service, and methods of operation. Determine whether your proposal provides a temporary solution and whether it either partially or completely solves the problem.
Consider your proposal’s disadvantages. Identify possible ways in which the proposal might fail and develop ways to avoid or reduce these potential problems.
Consider whether your proposal can co-exist with current policies, techniques, and objectives. Determine if the necessary resources exist for a successful implementation. Identify what new materials or processes, training programs, and changes your proposal requires. Estimate the cost of implementation, and the amount of time needed to present, gain acceptance for and implement your proposal.
Write a clear, one page statement of the proposal that most people would understand and accept. Consider what factors might prevent people from accepting your proposal. While effectiveness and feasibility involve tangible matters, people often use intangible factors such as opinions, values, and feelings to make decisions.
The more difficult to implement people find your proposal, the greater the amount of time you must spend selling it, the larger the number of people you must persuade to accept it, and the more presentations that you must conduct in the selling process.
Assert that you want people to help develop your proposal, not reject it. Resistance to change rises when a person perceives a new proposal as a threat to security and status. For example, people may resist a decision to start a training program for creative thinking techniques because it threatens old ideas and the comfortable status quo. Some may react with hostility because they fear they will not easily master or use new skills. Or they may believe your proposal threatens their status or questions their performance. To overcome this, make a list of everyone who might feel threatened by your proposal and how to reduce the perceived and real threat. Include how your proposal benefits each person.
Some people may even reject a new proposal because they did not develop it. Therefore, determine in advance:
Review your proposal’s advantages and disadvantages. Prepare answers to questions that may arise regarding the disadvantages. Make changes that assist in reducing the disadvantages.
Start your presentation with a general description, and then follow with a detailed explanation. For example, when you make a proposal to conduct workshops on creative thinking techniques, the general description might include a description of creative thinking techniques and the reason you to do it: to enhance profits by developing new products, patents, procedures, processes, or services. The detailed explanation might specify the content of the workshops; their dates and times, whether the workshops will occur immediately throughout the company or gradually by work groups and departments; and who has the responsibility for implementation.
If your proposal involves changes in procedures, authority, or responsibilities, consider how such changes will affect the people present. This, in turn, determines the overall approach of the presentation. People reject promising proposals because of an inappropriate approach when selling them.
Present your proposal in an understated manner. Avoid a hard sell approach. Over-enthusiasm, especially at the beginning of the presentation, can have a negative effect. In addition, avoid jargon or technical terms unless people understand them.
To correct defects in your presentation, rehearse before friends or colleagues. Even a minor flaw or omitted point can result in quick negative criticism followed by rejection.
Visual aids clarify technical aspects and help people retain material. Recall rises with visual aids. Reinforce main points and benefits to key people. Keep your visual aids simple. Each chart or graph should cover only one idea. Unnecessary or poor visuals create a more negative impact than no visual aids at all.
What techniques do you use to successfully sell your big ideas? Please share them in the comments section below.
Adapted from Team Creatvity At Work II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best by Edward Glassman. Ph.D. He can be reached at his website, where he encourages readers to send him questions about creativity and the creativity of your team. ©2010 Edward Glassman