You’ve come up with a great idea that you know will help your organization increase productivity and profits. The challenge is that it’s going to cost money and that is exactly what your executive team doesn’t want; they’ve been on a cost savings bender for a while. And though it seems like a slam dunk to you that if everyone on the team gets iPads, it will motivate them, save printing costs and make their jobs easier, you know the idea isn’t likely to be embraced.
What can you do to win them over?
First, whether your title includes the word “sales” or not, realize you are in it. Every one of us sells all the time. You can think of it as persuasion and influence, but what you’re doing is selling your idea to another.
Next, get positive. As soon as you put the idea into your head that something isn’t going to work, you’re almost always right. I’m not saying you’ll always win if you think you will, but you have a waaaay better chance.
Third, craft your story. What is the journey you want your decision makers to take with you? Help them to see where you are and where you could be. Evoke emotion with details. Don’t just give facts and figures.
Fourth, ignore what you want and focus only on what matters to them. And think about what matters to the committee you’re talking to. Before presenting to a CFO and his team, I was warned, “He isn’t interested in process, just return.” What a gift! I wanted them to understand the process but if it isn’t going to help the other person, forget it! In this case, the aspirational ROI was the story to tell (with support!).
Next, make the presentation more of a conversation than a monologue. Not only will this take the pressure off of you, you’ll learn more about their needs and if your idea is on track, or how it could be. Be specific when you ask for questions. After a key point, stop and say, “I’m wondering if you see that working,” “I’m curious if this sounds on track so far,” “Are there any parts of this idea that you feel you can support?” Rather than just say, “questions?”, start a conversation with them.
Finally, always ask for the next step. Before ending (or as the CFO is leaving the meeting earlier than you expected!), get commitment. You might ask, “What would you like the next step to be?” or say “I’m eager to help this company reach our potential and simply need your direction.”
Sales people are brave and when you’re selling internally, you need to be courageous too!