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  • Sam Decker

12 Ideas to Sell Ideas

In the June issue of Fast Company Seth Godin points out the keys and challenges to bringing remarkable products to life…

Guess what? There’s no correlation between how good your idea is and how likely your organization will be to embrace it. None. It’s not about good ideas. It’s about selling those ideas and making them happen. If you’re failing to get things done, it’s not because your ideas suck. It’s because you don’t know how to sell them. …Champions turn “no” into “yes.” Champions understand that the internal sales process is at least as important as the idea itself. Champions are able to bring together all of the elements they need to turn a soft innovation into a free prize, creating a remarkable product that reaches the market and potentially transforms an industry.


I thought of 12 things I’ve found useful in getting a project sold…

1. Learn to Let Go. Everyone wants to own something. So do you, so do I. However, you have to get others to own YOUR initiative. Quite a paradox! Perhaps they can own a piece of it, an idea within it, or be seen as the owner within their department. At some point, you have to be secure enough in your career that you can ‘seed’ ideas and be a catalyst for others to own the whole idea. Otherwise, your impact is only in your two hands, rather than through the hands of many. 2. Find Optimistic Co-Champions. As important as finding co-owners of your initiative, it’s as important to find the optimistic, can-do champions who you know will carry the light into other parts of the organization. 3. Participate Heavily Early. While you want others to champion your project, make it a point in the beginning to be present at discussions about your initiative. It’s amazing how one meeting with a naysayer can diffuse your momentum. 4. Use Great Words. Related to participating early, you can help shape the words that are used to describe the idea and opportunity. Think of exciting, unique, memorable words to describe the idea…and they will be repeated. 5. Anchor Your Idea. You want those you are selling to see the WIIFM – to see how the idea benefits their ‘domain’ and how they can picture themselves taking part. But when you show a bigger picture — how your initiative ties into other ‘big ideas’, objectives or strategic initiatives — then your idea becomes bigger, and they want to take part. 6. Give it a Name. I estimate the acceptance of a major project or initiative goes up 2-3x with you give it a fancy name. “Project ______” 7. Pilot for Business Case. No one can deny data. Do a small pilot to get results, then extrapolate out to the entire P&L. It’s much more powerful than subjective business case. 8. Get Executives Excited. You have to start with a groundswell, but then quickly get support and interest from the top. I’ve gone into executive meetings with middle management resistance to my initiative. After others see resounding support from the executives, those who resist suddenly have a 180 degree change of heart! 9. Use a “Killer Slide”. Have one or two killer slides that clearly illustrate the idea and opportunity. Less is more. 10. Be the Great Recognizer. We know that recognition is more important than pay for most employees. But many leaders aren’t very good at recognition. If you become known as a recognizer, others will want to be a part of your projects. 11. Communicate Excessively. Getting an idea sold is a lot about momentum. Marketing inside is not very different than marketing outside. You have early adopters in the beginning, and you’re trying to cross the chasm to the mass majority. Buzz is important. The more frequent you communicate what’s happening, agreement, progress, status, benefits, etc., the more others will feel the project is going to happen. 12. Use Relationships. You’ve heard that selling is as much you as it is the idea or product. Therefore, build co-owners and champions with people who know and like you.

Like you, I have ideas…but it’s not very fulfilling unless they get done. I’ve seeded many of my ideas, otherwise I’d never get the satisfaction of seeing them done…or I’d never see my kids!

Figure out how to sell ideas and get them done through people, and your impact and work life balance will be greater than you imagine. [Consultants: read this one more time.]


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