Selling in great ideas

There can be nothing more frustrating than having a great idea that colleagues or clients don't believe has merit.

There can be nothing more frustrating than having a great idea that colleagues or clients don't believe has merit. They fail to see the creativity, don't understand how the concept might work, or most damaging, they feel it holds no value for their business.

A good deal of the time, the problem lies in how the idea is being framed. In his book Six Thinking Hats, Edward de Bono describes a tool for group discussion and individual thinking that can be used to make sure an idea is solid before it's presented. Six individuals each wear a different “hat” - for instance: logical, questioning, emotional - and view the idea through that lens to make sure it is as strong as it can be so there are very few holes in the thinking. Because the idea has been looked at from all sides and the thought process vetted, the presenting team is better able to stand behind the proposed solution.

If the thinking is sound, then it's all in the selling. Marketing gurus have written reams about successful selling techniques, but there seem to be two that work quite well. The first revolves around the importance of taking your audience on the idea journey with you. Drew McLellan of the McLellan Marketing Group, explains in one of his blog posts that presenters need to “go back to the starting point and walk the (idea) path with (your audience),” showcasing the different options that were explored and why one idea kept showing up as the winner.

The second is about great storytelling. We are all drowning in the all too familiar marketing speak about the importance of engaging consumers and telling them great stories. However, we often forget that storytelling must be an integral part of selling in an idea or campaign. Mike Bosworth, co-founder of Story Leaders, explains how critical the story is in the selling because it helps connect “the buyer” emotionally. According to Bosworth, “Long after we forget data, we remember stories. People respond unconsciously to stories. When people hear, ‘once upon a time…' a part of their brain tells them, this is safe, it's just a story, I don't have to do anything. I can relax and enjoy the story. Paradoxically, at the same time, we also respond with, I better pay attention, I might need to remember this, it could be important”.

Obviously no one sells fairy tales outright, but if the story is told the right way, it often portends the perfect ending.

Margaret Booth is CEO of M Booth & Associates.

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