Former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca once noted that “you can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere”.
The foundation to earning support for ideas includes good leadership, communication and planning. Even ideas we are convinced are the best will be implemented only when others become convinced. Leaders must be able to “sell” their ideas effectively to their boss, their colleagues and their customers.
In The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa write about how leaders can sell their ideas without coercion, using “relationship-based, emotionally intelligent persuasion”.
Consider the following 7 practices for effectively winning others over and for effectively closing the deal.
1. Sell the Solution
Too often, we miss the point and confuse the audience by not staying focused on the outcome or desired solution. We bury our boss and/or other key stakeholders in piles of numbers and analyses, and lose the opportunity to connect our ideas to real results others can see.
2. Answer the S.W.I.F.T. Question
One of the biggest barriers to successfully convincing others to follow our lead is focusing too much on our own needs and on how this new idea will make our own lives and jobs easier, and not enough on how our ideas line up with the agenda and needs of our boss.
Bottom line, others are often more interested in implementing their own ideas and plans, and when we can answer the “So What’s In It For Them?” question, we increase our chances of securing the support we need from others.
3. Appreciate Objections
Avoid interpreting an objection as a “no”. Often, an objection is simply a signal that your audience is interested in continuing the conversation, and a request that you provide them with more information.
Given time, many individuals will actually overcome their own objections if we resist the temptation to fill empty space with our continued “selling”.
4. Do Your Homework
The lack of preparation dooms many presentations before the first word is even uttered. Taking the time to connect our ideas and recommendations to the organization’s existing strategy and priorities; anticipating questions and having appropriate responses; and providing sufficient background, rationale, timelines and financial impact all contribute to a more credible case.
Running our ideas by trusted colleagues before we make our pitch to the boss or other decision-making body can provide us with important feedback, allow us to practice our approach and build our confidence.
5. Listen – Don’t Reload
When we are presenting our ideas, it is critical to remain open to the perspectives of others. If we have done our homework, and are passionate about our positions, our level of clarity and energy can sometimes be communicated in a way that appears closed-minded and resistant to pushback by others.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to truly listen to others. Instead, many of us practice a technique called reloading. When we reload, we are formulating our very next question or two while the other person is speaking.
Reloading actually limits our communication effectiveness because we are not fully listening to the other person while we are preparing our next response.
The result is that others often perceive us as not listening, and we miss important cues that can provide us with the most relevant means to address the needs or objections of others.
6. Start with the End
Sixty percent of us are global processors. This means we look for the big picture first and then we assimilate the facts that created the big picture.
Thirty percent of us are analytic processors. Analytic processors start with “facts” and then assemble the big picture after analysis.
Ten percent of us combine both processes.
Bottom line, when we start with the big picture, or the recommendation we want people to walk away with, we grab the attention of 70% of most audiences.
7. Follow Up After the “Sale”
After all of your hard work preparing and then delivering your pitch, you have secured support for your ideas. You have effectively closed the deal. Or have you?
Winning initial support from your boss and/or others in your organization for your ideas is cause for celebration, not complacency. The world’s most successful salespeople know the importance of follow through to avoid “buyers’ remorse” and to reinforce the value of the ideas (or products) just sold.