How to sell your ideas to a resistant boss

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Build consensus. Share your idea with people on your team you trust and get their feedback. If they support your idea and understand its benefits they will be a great back up when you pitch the idea in the department meeting. It’s harder to say no to a group who is in agreement than it is to one lone voice.

Have a plan in mind. You don’t want to sound clueless when you get pummeled with questions. What’s the potential? Who will the idea primarily benefit? Why do you think it will succeed? How will you measure its success? When and where will you implement it? What are the upstart costs involved? What kind of resources are needed to get it off the ground? Anticipate the kinds of questions that will be asked to be better prepared to respond quickly without any hesitation.

Be confident but not cocky. Don’t oversell your idea. “This will be the marketing success story of the year!” You might think that but you have no way of knowing if it will sell at all. Your confidence must be backed by substantial research that gives you a pretty good idea of how the idea will be received. Avoid hyperbole, it can be a put off.

Practice your pitch. You don’t want to come across nervous and stammer through your pitch. That makes you look amateurish and few people want to trust significant resources to some one who appears clumsy.

Give your idea a context. If your idea is radically new your boss might have a difficult time grasping the concept. Paint a picture to show how the idea works, how it will be used and what need it fills. You want the boss to have an “Ah, I get it” moment. Showing him or her that “it’s like this, only different,” is easier to communicate and sell.

Don’t give up. New ideas are the lifeblood of any business but they are also a threat to the status quo. Even if you follow all these steps and your idea is rejected, don’t lose heart, some of the greatest ideas in history were rejected several times until they were eventually accepted. For example, in 1938 Chester F. Carlson made the first electrophotographic image on wax paper. Over the next six years, he offered the rights to the process to every major equipment company in the country and yet he was turned down every time. One company finally bought the rights and they eventually changed their name to the Xerox Company. I bet the companies who rejected the idea now have a copy machine in their office that they can’t live without.


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