How to Sell your Idea to Management

How to Sell your Idea to Management
September 6, 2017

How to Sell your Idea to Management

We all know the way the story goes. An employee has an innovative idea that will benefit the organisation and decides to share the idea with management. The idea does not progress further than that conversation and the organisation carries on as usual but with a significant difference, one additional disgruntled employee.

How could the employee have avoided this situation?

Much like when start-ups pitch to investors, employees need to approach management like they are pitching their own start-up.

“There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them.” - Seth Godin

Within corporate world it isn’t just the execution that is missing, it is the ability to sell the idea before you get the opportunity to execute. Buy-in from management is crucial with any idea in the corporate environment.

Struggling to get sell your innovation idea to management? Developing a pitch is an effective way to communicate your idea and all the details underpinning it.

Before you start

Keep in mind that your leaders are busy and prefer to receive information in a clear and succinct manner. Follow this structure where it works for you - note that this is only a guide.

1. Summary Statement

Start your pitch off with a summary statement. Think of this as your elevator pitch. Make sure you include the following items in your summary statement:

  • Description of the product/service
  • Target customers
  • Key value of product/service
  • Main benefits
  • Current alternatives to your product/service

A useful structure for your summary statement is:

A [description of the product/service] for [target customers] that [key value of product/service] enabling [main benefits] unlike [current alternatives to your product/service].”

2. Problem Statement

Are you actually solving a problem? The problem needs to be clear and succinct. Take Linkedin as an example, their problem statement is quite clear and solving that problem has been the main reason for their success.

Linkedin problem statement: There is no effective, trusted way for professionals to find and transact with each other online.

3. Solution/Idea

What is the solution that you are pitching?

This solution needs to solve the problem statement identified. Do not progress unless your idea is easy to understand. Let’s take Airbnb for instance, their solution is pretty clear:

A web platform where users can rent out their space to host travelers to:

  • Save money (when traveling)
  • Make money (when hosting)
  • Share culture (local connection to the city)

4. Customer Insights

This is your chance to share key customer insights gathered to help support your idea. Management will be looking for validation that this solution is needed and there is no better way than to share real customer feedback.

Try and capture customer quotes where possible and even share photos or videos of your customer interactions to make it as real and as human as possible.

5. Prototype

“I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure.” James Dyson

Showcase something tangible to management. The easiest and fastest way to do this is via a prototype. Prototypes can take many different forms including a screen mock up, diagram, advertisement and even a lego model. You can find useful prototyping apps here.

If time is a concern, not to worry - prototypes are meant to be made quickly. Take Google for example, their first prototype for Google Glass was created in less than a day and started with a coat hanger.

6. Feedback and Learnings from prototype

Management wants to see that you have actually invested some time and effort into this idea. Start testing your prototype and your learnings and feedback from customers. This feedback may be positive or negative but ultimately it will drive you in the right direction.

As with your customer insights earlier, where possible capture quotes received from customers that tested the prototype.

7. Unknowns to explore further

“We crave explanations for most everything, but innovation and progress happen when we allow ourselves to embrace uncertainty.” Simon Sinek

Innovation is underpinned uncertainty. In the early days of selling an idea, it is normal not to have all the answers - this is completely normal! Outline the questions and assumptions that you want to investigate further.

8. The Ask

Finish your pitch strongly by outlining what you need to progress the idea further. What do you need to take that next step? Be as specific as possible but remember to also be realistic. Consider aspects such as money, time and access to skills. Don’t go in there and ask for $100,000! Remember, innovation is all about taking small incremental steps and learning and iterating as you go along.

Many great ideas from employees get shut down at large organisations. By following this eight step pitch the chances of receiving buy-in from management will increase. One of the biggest challenges facing corporates is how to succinctly summarise an idea and convince management to provide support to further progress the idea with the potential of it being the next groundbreaking innovation at your organisation.

Innovate or die.

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Shay Namdarian

Shay is the General Manager of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus. He has over 8 years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience, design thinking, innovation and digital transformation. He has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture.

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