Success Secrets: Selling Your Ideas, by Suzanne Bates

Wouldn't you like to know how to persuade others and, in the process, get what you really want?  Persuasion is both an art and a science. The secret is to find out what others want, and then learn some essential skills of persuasion.

Assume that you have an initiative that is mission-critical, but you're encountering a lot of resistance. You're proposing change, it costs money, and it isn't absolutely guaranteed to work. Sound familiar?

As Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish poet and novelist, once said, "Everyone lives by selling something." If you want to lead an organization you must learn to sell. Building support for your ideas, winning converts, and getting things done are largely dependent on your sales skills.

Quick question: What's the most important word in selling?

Answer: The word "why."

You must learn why people would want or need to buy your idea, concept, program, service, initiative or new, new thing. If you do not know about them--their problems, needs and views--you will never successfully sell your ideas, period. People tune out when they know you're only focused on what you want. They tune in when they sense that you have an interest in them as well.

Another question: What's everybody's favorite topic?

Answer: Themselves!

People want to hear about themselves. They want to hear about their projects, initiatives, goals, timelines, challenges and interests. Unless you have factored their concerns into your presentation, go back to the drawing board. Don't show up at the meeting until you've sat in their seats or walked in their shoes for awhile. Actually imagine yourself on their team, working in their office, managing their project. Remember, this is not about you and what you need. It's not about how great your ideas are. It's not even about what's good for the company. Face it--a lot of people really don't care. What they care about is getting through their day, meeting their quotas, hitting their deadlines and making their bosses happy.

So remember, your talk should focus not on you and your idea, but on:

  • Their problems
  • Their hopes
  • Their dreams
  • Their goals
  • Their needs
  • Their timetable
  • Their budget
  • Their success

How do you learn about their problems, hopes, dreams and goals? It's pretty simple. You ask! Long before you give a presentation, make the effort to meet informally, by phone or in person, to ask questions and gain some understanding of your prospects' concerns. At the very least, take any information you already have and extrapolate their highest priorities.

People appreciate it when you take the time to sit down with them, learn about what's going on in their world, and understand what they're up against. If they are going to buy into your proposal, they must first feel comfortable with you, believing that you're on their team and that you are sensitive to their needs. Anyone who can influence a decision, get it approved, or implement it has a choice--support you, ignore you, or undermine you later.

Here are some questions you can ask to find out what you need to know:

  • What is your goal?
  • What is most important to you?
  • What are your priorities?
  • How do you need it to work?
  • When could we make it happen?
  • What are the budgetary considerations?
  • What are your human resources?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What does an ideal solution look like to you?
  • What would make this a success for you and your group?

What do you do with this information? Incorporate it into your presentation! You might even mention the great opportunity you had to meet with a key group member and learn about the group's concerns. Then, when you outline what you're going to discuss, address those specific issues, confirming that those issues are also priorities for you. With that reassurance, your prospects will relax and be more receptive to your ideas.

Of course, one of the greatest benefits to doing this homework is that prior to presenting any plan or initiative in the future, you'll be more likely to take others' needs and priorities into account from the very beginning. You'll go through fewer revisions, receive fewer objections, and be applauded for thinking of the big picture. Those are outcomes that get you noticed and win you rave reviews!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (February Issue 2005, Volume 1, Issue 4). Copyright 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Suzanne Bates is a speaker, media personality, business consultant, executive coach, and author of McGraw-Hill's new book, Speak Like A CEO: Secrets for Commanding Attention & Getting Results. Read more about her work at www.speaklikeaceo.com. Suzanne may be reached by email at Suzanne@bates-communications.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

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