How to ‘sell’ an idea to get support from senior Managers

How to sell an idea - getting the attention of senior managers is sometimes more important than the idea itself

Figuring out how to sell an idea to Senior Managers is sometimes more important than the idea itself. 

Before you start this article, it’s written for employees in organisations rather than entrepreneurs – the people that, to get their ideas listened to need to win support from their senior managers first. If you are an entrapreneur and you want some tips and advice on how to sell your idea to customers or investors, that’s another article which you can access on this link.

[ezcol_2third]Do you see ideas that you perceive to be inferior being prioritised over yours? Does it sometimes feel as though some people could propose just about any idea and it would be seen as brilliant where your truly brilliant ideas are overlooked?

‘Selling’ an idea is every bit as important as the idea – if people don’t understand or believe in it, they won’t get behind it, so here are my top six strategies to help you.[/ezcol_2third]

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1. You wouldn’t tell the punchline before the joke so be careful to describe the problem your idea solves first. If possible, project that problem on the person you are describing the idea to, for example, “do you ever find that [the problem] happens to you? Do you find that this has the effect that?” or “I had an idea to solve [the problem that]….which causes real problems because…..” or “I have been looking into this problem of…..because the impact is that……and I think I have come up with a good idea”.

If they are not receptive and acknowledge the problem it is unlikely that they will be receptive to the solution / idea. It’s the most important place to start.

Similarly, don’t back your idea into a corner. It’s hard to do because we love to talk about our ideas, but the less you can talk about the idea until you get acknowledgement of the problem, the better. Someone might acknowledge the problem in a different, and potentially more compelling way which might mean that you need to re-frame your idea.

2. Find allies. Once you have found someone that acknowledges the problem and gives you an indication that they support your idea, ask the straight question, “who do you think will be the best people to talk to about the idea next”? Find as many allies as possible. Remember, the ‘poor’ ideas are probably getting support because the senior people are backing the person who owns the idea rather than the idea itself – in other words it’s the messenger rather than the message so if you find the right sponsors to back your idea, you’re more likely to get somewhere.

3. Tailor your pitch to the audience. Also be aware that different levels of the organisation will feel that they ‘own’ different levels of interest. Connect your idea to the likely issues that relate to the audience. The CEO won’t want to listen to process improvement ideas unless you can tell them the impact of the idea in ££££.

4. Be very aware of whether you are ruffling feathers. A brilliant idea to improve the thing that the CEO publically championed is unlikely to gain any support if it’s going to make the CEO look bad.

5. A prototype is worth a thousand meetings. Some ideas – those that are too far ahead of the audience’s current understanding or too radical may never get traction. You might need to invest something in turning the idea into something concreate – a prototype or test.

6. Don’t take it personally. Even the best salespeople can’t win every time, and sometimes the payoff isn’t worth the effort. History, even the history of the most successful business leaders is littered with missed opportunities. If you can’t sell them your idea, move on, don’t let it get you down. Every idea has its time, revisit it later, or, even better, have another idea!

More reading

120x120 i2i canvasHow big businesses can innovate like start-ups. A model that helps you go from idea to prototype and prototype to innovation


idea-canvasThe Idea Canvas, how to describe your idea on one sheet of paper using 5 simple questions.


How to have more ideas. The Secret Sauce of Idea Generation120x120 dragons chair

There is 1 comment

  1. I like this post – practical but will work. I’ve seen so often that people are so excited about their idea, but are unable to convey why it is just the best thing ever.. I wrote a similar piece about getting your idea heard –

    March 11, 2015, 12:09 pm