Most people are chock full of truly great ideas that could help their companies grow and thrive, but sometimes they lack the ability to frame their ideas and recommendations to managers so that dreams can become reality. To avoid this tragic waste of creativity and innovation, let’s review five simple tips for effectively selling your trade show or event ideas internally which can help you present without being harpooned with questions you haven’t anticipated.
1. Define your idea in one easy to understand specific sentence. Saying things like “we should do more marketing!” or “we need a better way to do this” isn’t helpful for your manager. Be specific when you define your idea. You might say, “A modest presence at the XYZ trade show would help us reach at least half of the emerging market in half the time of doing so with conventional media.” Keep refining your idea until it’s concise and succinct. Then do the “Mom test” with three or four people. The “Mom test” means asking someone who has no understanding of your organization (like my Mom) what you have in mind. If she understands it, go to the next step. If you have to explain at length, maybe your idea is still too vague. Ask several people.
2. Do “five generations” of “if, then….” This is a simple means of projecting the long term impact of what you’re suggesting. It’s especially useful because your manager will be considering not just the immediate benefit, but the long term impact. For example, your idea might be “we should add two customer service representatives to make sure our service levels are high during the peak buying season.” Now ask, “what if…..” and for the purpose of illustration, let’s try “what if the peak season doesn’t materialize?” (Be ready with an answer). From your answer, keep projecting into the future four more times. For example, your answer might be, “If the season doesn’t materialize, we will train the people to work in telemarketing.” (What if…..) Keep doing this — and do it not just for negative outcomes, but positive ones, too — “what if it’s such a success we’re buried with orders? Can we handle that?” You get the idea!
3. Take a cue from sales professionals. Sell the benefits of your ideas, not the features. A feature is a characteristic of your idea. “It’s easy to implement and costs practically nothing” is a feature. Instead of saying that, explain the benefits. ” It’s easy to implement and costs practically nothing, and every company that has tried this has reported an increase in morale and a decline in employee turnover of five percent.” The benefit is what your manager needs to hear.
4. Quantify or estimate. Make your idea’s benefits more credible and acceptable by making the effort to quantify results. Sometimes you can’t quantify because it’s an idea that hasn’t been tried before. In that case, make a credible estimate (avoid exaggerating). Don’t say “this idea will reduce downtime significantly,” when you can say “when implemented correctly, this idea has the ability to reduce downtime by a third.” This shows your manager you care enough about your own idea to do the research and draw a line in the sand — signaling your commitment to the idea in the process.
5. Get inside your manager’s head. Your manager is charged with looking at the big picture, so if something benefits one department at the expense of the other, it’s likely not going to fly. Managers are chiefly concerned with things like increasing return on investment, maximizing the usefulness of their existing assets, reputation of the company, and creating value for the stockholders. Chances are really good that if your idea can be clearly linked to one of these benefits (or better yet, more than one), you’ll have a far better chance of succeeding.
Next time, we’ll talk about how to present your ideas (how to describe them and “sell” them persuasively to others. Look next time for more ideas!