Ways to sell your ideas to decision makers

Bindu Sridhar
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In the era of knowledge workers, the best ideas and path breaking innovations are usually initiated from lower down the hierarchy. You may you have a great proposal, sound advice or constructive suggestion to offer that could change things around the organisation, but unless you own the company or are in a position to call the shots, you are going to have to run from pillar to post convincing, cajoling and winning people over to your side to get it implemented.

It may be a trifle ironic, but the power honchos and decision makers in the organisation are not necessarily the best or smartest people around. Moreover they are pressed for time and resources and probably subject to an overload of ideas and information on a daily basis. It would be unrealistic to expect them to go down on their knees and nod their heads in enthusiasm for your plan even if it is positively brilliant.

Influencing people in power and winning them over to your side is not much different from marketing a product to a customer. The responsibility to sell is yours and the option to buy it, is theirs. This is one truth we have to accept. Blaming the decision makers for not buying in will cut no ice with anybody.

Sell the premise:To influence how a decision swings, you have to make a great case for your idea. Frame the arguments from the point of view of the decision makers in the company. If you can convince the decision makers of the need for your idea, you can sell them the idea quite easily. Why should your idea matter to the business? What are the benefits it brings? What will the organisation lose by not implementing it?

Present right:The decision makers will probably have no in-depth knowledge about what you are going to say. You need to present it to them in a form they can understand. Keep it simple. Give factual proof and accurate information in support of your views. Present your arguments in a well defined manner with clearly spelt out recommendations and requirements. Leave nothing to chance. Thoroughly evaluate the proposal from the point of view of the decision makers and plug any gaps or shortcomings, so that they have no reason to say “no” to your proposal.

People may want the same thing for different reasons. Look at how you can align interests and get more people to support your cause. For example if someone has a pet cause that you could support or collaborate along your own project offer to do so in exchange for support for your own. Others may need to be convinced about how their own unit or department would benefit. Yet others would be interested in the competitive edge or savings that the proposal could create. You may need to use different strategies to get different people on board. Lobbying and quid-pro-quo are all frequently used as part of the process of influencing decisions so long as they are in good faith and within the ambit of ethics and law.

Time it well:Wait until you are sure that you will be able to get the support of most key people before you push forward the proposal officially. Long before you make any official moves, you need to send out feelers and chat up with stakeholders informally to understand what their position is. If you can identify issues and iron out any wrinkles well before you actually make any proposal, getting their buy in will be a piece of cake.

The ability to convince and influence people with the decision making authority plays a central role in determining just how much of your ideas become translated into reality. You will need to plan, strategise and time your actions with sagacity if you hope to influence decisions and get them to swing in your favour.

Bindu Sridhar




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