How to Sell Ideas To Companies

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Do you have an idea that could take your career to the next level? With a little preparation and some skills, you can sell your idea to your boss, your company bigwig or even to another company.

  • Earn the company's trust. Sell ideas suitable to your credibility level. If you're a mailroom clerk, pitch an idea about a better way to sort mail. If you're a mailroom clerk who has an idea about a new computer program, prove your expertise in that area with a resume and recommendations from recognized people in the field. Or work to make yourself known to executives in the company who have expertise in the area you are interested in. Write letters or e-mails to executives and ask their advice for meeting other company people for informational interviews. Get names from these interviews and network further. Also, go to trade shows to meet company people in your area of interest. Speak or manage a booth at trade shows to demonstrate your level of ability.

  • Do your research. Know what ideas the company is already interested in or has worked on in the past. Understand what types of activities and ideas appeal to the company. Talk about how your idea ties into the company's strategies and objectives. Show the company how your plan will help further its goals. Make your idea part of the "big plan."

  • Solve a problem. Get someone to pay attention to your idea by resolving an issue for them. Understand the needs of the person from whom you are trying to win approval. If you can't figure out how to help that person or help her company, you can't really sell your idea to her.

  • Use relationships. Find support within the company. Ask for co-chairmans within the company to help you pitch your idea. Make sure these co-chairmans are enthusiastic and optimistic about your idea.

  • Name your idea. Give your idea a memorable or catchy name. Call it "Project ____" or whatever unique name you can think of. People will remember your idea and be more willing to think about it and discuss it.

  • Use exciting words to describe your idea. You can help shape the way executives think about your idea with the words you use. Words like "innovative," "cutting edge," "state of the art," and "visionary" will help sell your idea.

  • Try to be present at most meetings where your idea is discussed. One naysayer in the room can destroy your idea. If you are present at meetings, you can rebut negative comments.

  • Be ready to address objections or weaknesses in your idea. Don't downplay weaknesses. Most good ideas have cynics. Be ready for objections and negative comments when you present your idea and have rebuttals prepared.

  • Understand the funding process. Each company has a different way of funding projects. Get information from a variety of departments to find out the best way to get funding for your idea. If you rely on someone else to do the funding legwork, you may find your idea gets canned.

  • Close the deal. Once you have presented your idea and dealt with objections, summarize your basic points and take a look to the future. Ask questions, such as "Does this meet your objectives?" and "When can we take this to the budget committee?" Don't go on too long, or people will get sick of you and your idea. Wrap things up in a timely manner while people are still excited about your proposal.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep a whiteboard by your desk, so you can write down your ideas and keep them in plain sight. Run your ideas by a trusted adviser who will be brutally honest about their weaknesses and flaws. Make networking a round-the-clock habit, so you have people to whom you can always take your ideas.
  • Have some humility. If your idea keeps getting rejected, listen honestly to the criticism.

References

  • Photo Credit Right Brain: Flickr Creative Commons
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