Building bridges and selling ideas: they’re probably two of the most powerful skills to have in the workplace.
One is the superpower that fosters collaboration, connection, teamwork and connectivity. The other is the subtle art of influence, persuasion and creating trust; the ability to convince others to take a chance on you.
As someone who juggles competing priorities on a daily basis, at home and at work, you know how important it is to upskill yourself with these attributes. Managing to do so paves the way for progress, recognition and opportunity.
In this article, we’re going to look at the art of selling ideas at work. The direct sales professionals among you will be all too familiar with the idea. But for those of you that don’t work in sales, I’m going to show you the connection between selling ideas and gaining influence. We’ll also cover why now it’s more challenging than ever to get your audience engaged and share some tips on how to sell an idea well.
The importance of engagement when selling ideas
The first thing to understand about selling ideas is that it cannot work unless your audience is engaged in what you’re saying.
Whether it’s a product, an idea, a service, a business, or something entirely different, how you engage your audience when you’re communicating with them is vital.
Imagine you’re speaking to your team about a new strategy, or perhaps you approach the head of another department to discuss a proposal. If their eyes are glazed over, or they’re looking at their watch, they’re not engaged, they’re not seriously considering what you’re saying and it won’t take long for them to forget the details of the conversation entirely.
A full engaged audience member is someone who’s actively listening and responding to you. In a group situation, a fully engaged response might be a thoughtful nod of the head followed by some note-taking, or it might be a raised hand for a question.
In a one-on-one scenario, there’s freedom for dialogue and verbal exchange. An engaged response might be to interpret your communication in their own words, or asking specific questions about your idea. Rather than mere excuses or platitudes, these responses indicate that you’ve made an impact and your voice has been heard.
How to elevate your communication & pitching to get better engagement
Here are some tips on how to sell an idea successfully and increase your influence.
1. Let your passion shine through
Passion and energy are hugely engaging. You might think that Martin Luther King and Adolf Hitler have nothing in common. But if you’ve ever watched or listened to any of their speeches, perhaps you’ll agree with me that passion might be the one trait they share.
Call it religious fervour, antisemitic hatred, or pacifistic love, it’s all passion. When you’re selling your idea to others, you have to find the passion that’s connected with it and let it bring your communication to life. Whether it’s a passion for growing the business, helping others, or the idea itself, let it animate you.
2. Know your audience
This is always the first rule of impactful communication: understanding exactly who you’re talking to. You need to know what their fears, concerns, needs and desires are – the “what’s in it for them” – in order to make your idea appealing and put it on their agenda.
Do your research. Practice a bit of amateur psychology; try to find the thing that they want and connect your offer with it. Once you’ve found it, make your case then back off. The pushy selling approach is a huge no-no. The consultative sales approach lets your audience know you’ve got their best interests at heart, and leaves the ball in their court to make the right decision.
3. Use non-verbal communication
More than half of all communication is non-verbal. In fact, some research reports that it’s close to 90%. Whatever point you’re trying to get across, make sure your body is talking the same language as your mouth.
A relaxed but confident demeanour is what you should be aiming for; no crossed arms, hunched shoulders, or pointing fingers.
Smile! You don’t need to plaster a silly grin across your face as you discuss increasing your budget for the next financial year, but a pleasant, approachable facial expression is more likely to make a good impression than a frown or anxiously darting eyes.
4. Make it easy for them to say “yes”
When you’re selling ideas, whether it’s a product to a customer or a request to your manager, you have to make it easy for them to “buy”. In the world of commerce, this means putting in place multiple payment methods, interest-free payment plans, free trials and discounted offers.
In the context of selling ideas in the workplace, this means doing your research, laying the groundwork, coming up with a thorough business plan or proposal, investigating all avenues, doing due diligence and removing any barriers to success.
If you want to develop your influence further, sign up to our Mastering Communication workshop. You’ll be pitching your ideas and selling with confidence in no time.
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.
Alison Carter is a facilitator and coach at The Colin James Method® and Inner Profit Pty Ltd, a vibrant leadership development company in Australia. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant who has spent over 15 years in senior financial and communication roles. She now loves to share her passion for the design and delivery of effective and engaging communications.