NEWS-<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>Go ahead: Sell your idea to the higher-ups
One of employees' biggest complaints is that no one listens to their ideas. In a large part this is not becuase the ideas are bad, but becuse most employees don't properly sell their ideas to the company.
Selling an idea to an organization requires understanding how the decision makers operate, then tailoring your idea to the arcane decision-making process. Stop complaining about office politics and start leveraging them to sell your ideas.
A good example of how to sell an idea is this ad campaign run by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Whether you agree with the politics of the Center for Constitutional Rights, their approach is interesting:
"America's leading group of constitutional attorneys present the case for impeachment of George W. Bush exactly as it could be presented by the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate. Clearly and concisely, they delineate the four strongest charges against the president, citing precedence and evidence that you don't have to be an attorney to comprehend."
What's notable here is that the organization is trying to sell its idea by doing the work of the decision makers– in this case, the House of Representatives. This is the kind of campaigning you should do in your own organziation. When you have an idea, sell from the perspective of the people who can make or break the outcome. Think about what obstacles would stand in the way for the decision maker, and then make a plan to overcome them.
It's not easy to learn how to sell to an organization. Jeff Snipes, CEO of Ninth House, an online training company, says that one of their most popular types of training is how to navigate the corporate process. "People need to learn to take an innovative idea and build a business plan around it," he says.
Snipes talked about skills needed to get your ideas implemented, and, no surprise, it's all about emotional intelligence:
1. Solve a problem
The person who needs to give you approval has issues of her own. Everyone does. Getting someone to pay attention to your ideas is a sales issue. You're sellling your idea. The only way to sell something to someone is to solve a problem for them. You need to understand the needs of the person whose approval you need. If you can't figure out how you're helping that person, then you can't really sell your idea.
2. Package your idea
You'll get higher-level managers involved if your idea is aligned with the organization's strategic ideas. To get people to buy into your idea, you have to know what ideas they're focusing on themselves. Show them that you're presenting a plan to further their strategic goals.
3. Understand funding processes
Each organization has a different system for funding projects. But it's safe to say that every system is arcane in its own way. Ask a lot of people in a lot of departments to find out the best way to get funding for your idea. If you rely on someone else to get funding, then you run the risk of not getting approval, because someone doesn't want to deal with the financial implications of your idea. Taking care of a lot of this legwork and office politics yourself can go a long way toward getting approval.
While every company is different, the big-picture strategy for selling an idea is the same for most companies: a lot of rules hold true wherever you go. And even if you don't end up getting someone to implement your idea, the experience of trying to sell an idea through a large organization is good in and of itself.
Sales is hard, and selling ideas is harder. But, like most things in life, you get good at it by trying and learning from failure. So try it.