Can you sell your ideas?
We all have to present our opinions and ideas at work. We all want to be listened to and taken seriously, and our aim is to have our ideas accepted. But for this to happen, ideas have to be put across in the right way, at the right time and to the right person.
Ten tips to help sell your ideas at work:
1. Prepare carefully
Do your homework!
Find out what information is needed, who needs to be included and who the decision-makers are. Develop your reasoning and support it with examples. These could be good or bad practice examples; most importantly they are real examples.
Also prepare carefully for what could be any potential barrier or resistance and consider the best way to deal with it. Work hard to prepare to answer any possible objections before they are even asked. Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail!
2. Help others to see the benefit
Make it easier for them to say yes.
Express ideas in terms of what others need and want. Put yourself in their shoes. Help them to see the reward in doing what you want them to do. Try to incorporate their ideas and find ways of giving away credit for the results that you wish to accomplish. Another technique is to turn the whole exercise on its head. Ask them what rewards they would want or what rewards they think they will get, and use these to sell your ideas.
3. Be clear and concise
Know your audience and use ‘the rule of three’. If your arguments are too complicated or very long, you are unlikely to be effective. Your arguments should be the right length for the context and the person. How does your boss or the decision-makers like to communicate? It may be different to your own, so plan how to communicate your point in a strategic and effective way. One language technique to help convince people is by using ‘the rule of three’. When listening, we can take in three pieces of information, and three points help consolidate ideas better than two or four. For example, use three main arguments, use the same structure three times, or repeat your message three times using similar sounding words. For more tips on presenting your ideas click here.
4. Be patient
Be flexible and keep all your options open. Appreciate that it may take time to get your ideas accepted and put into practice. Think about this as a journey, with a start and a finish, and be prepared to make compromises along the way. Structure your proposal in stages and be ready to adapt subsequent stages in order not to give up but to give way. Rome was not built in a day; wouldn’t you rather have a win-win situation?
5. Don’t underestimate emotions
Decisions are often made based on emotions rather than rational choices. Whilst facts are important, we should also pay attention to building understanding with those we need to sell our ideas to. One method is to think about which emotion-based arguments may work best to create greater impact on them. Another method is to help others visualise your idea.
Paint a picture of a bright future if your idea is accepted and a dull future if it is not. Using stories, pictures, metaphors will all help to involve others and this engagement will increase the probability of gaining approval.
6. Earn trust
You cannot fake trust. Trust is a big factor when working towards getting your ideas accepted. Not only do your ideas have to be practical but an assessment has to be made about the likelihood that you will actually do what you say you are going to do. Earn trust at work by saying what you’re going to do, doing it and then sharing your success. Build and establish a pattern of standing behind your words. Take care to avoid exaggeration and only promise results that you can realistically deliver.
7. Get others on your side
There is strength in numbers. Enlist the support of peers to help get ideas off the ground. For example, discuss your ideas with colleagues and find out who agrees and why. Then use this agreement by pointing out that others have already discussed and agreed your ideas. You could also use peers to help influence others for you and possibly invite them to a meeting to share their opinions. And remember, it’s tactically important to know who needs to be convinced as well.
8. Pick the right time
Good timing is essential. Show how your ideas fit company policy and support company planning for the future. When is the best time to present your ideas? Watch out for signs that it may be a good or bad time to introduce your ideas. Prove that you have the awareness and appreciation of what is currently taking place in the company, and link your ideas to complementing department and/or company objectives.
9. Listen to feedback
Take rejection in your stride. Be open and accept it when people say no to you as this can help you sell your ideas better in the future. Listen carefully, ask questions to fully understand the objections, and start preparing better arguments. Building up supporting analysis and hard facts from credible sources as well as focussing on any bottom line implications will also help your cause. Never stop thinking of how to make your ideas better; show appreciation of future opportunities to present your ideas and be persistent.
10. Become accountable for actions
Own your actions and their outcomes. Believe in yourself enough to accept the consequences of your actions. Be dedicated to getting the ideas across to others and accepted. Demonstrate your passion for your ideas and confidently show that you are the owner of the ideas. Be prepared to accept responsibility and make it clear that if your ideas fail, you are prepared to accept the blame. Be purposeful and see things through to the end.
Ten tips to sell your ideas at work
Look back at the ten tips and take time to consider the techniques of putting across your ideas. Whilst every company and situation is different, if you keep reflecting on how to put your ideas across at work, this will help you to sell your ideas in the future.
Julie has been a trainer at ETI since 2008. Apart from her experience teaching English, she has more than 20 years of business management experience working in the Travel and Marketing Industries.