Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success

When someone has a great idea -- a new product, a reorganization, a cost saving move or whatever -- what often happens is that they make a presentation to the decision maker in a meeting. This is actually one of the worst ways and makes rejection much more likely because it doesn't take into account human nature. Rarely do decision makers decide in isolation; usually they are influenced by the opinions of others. If everyone else in the room is shaking their heads as you speak this is going to have an impact on the final decision.

For this reason in workshops and one-to-one coaching I always combine practical speaking and presenting techniques with the essentials of influencing strategies and tactics, based on research in applied psychology and some tested methods that have proven very effective in the past.

But suppose you don't have time for a workshop right now. What can you learn in just five minutes reading that will help you become an effective influencer?  Here are three things you really need to know to influence your way to success.

1.  GET PEOPLE USED TO THE IDEA.  You might be thinking that it is best to keep your idea secret until the last minute when you make the presentation to the decision maker. This is actually the worst way because of a quirk of human nature. People are normally suspicious about things they are hearing about for the first time, but after a while they get more used to it and are more likely to accept it. They need time for reflection, to discuss with other people before they can say yes. This means you need to make sure the decision maker hears about your idea before you present it. For more about this see also The New Facebook Effect. and this note about using leaks.

2. BUILD SUPPORT. Identify all the stakeholders of your proposal and take some time to win some supporters and to neutralize the opposition. Give the supporters talking points they can use to promote your idea and use the people who are neutral to practice your pitch. Don't forget also to talk to the opponents. Sometimes they are only opposed to one part of your idea so you can rework it to make it more acceptable. In the worst case your opponents will at least reveal some of the arguments they might use against you, so you can prepare a response. It is in this part that you really need a strong network. For more about this see Three Keys to Networking.

3. TEST YOUR PITCH.  While you are evangelizing the idea and building a support network you should also be preparing and testing your pitch, Try it on friends first but try it on a few non-friends, too, who are more likely to see flaws. This doesn't mean you need to organize a formal presentation; it can be enough to just mention one day what you are thinking of and listen for the replies. When you have worked out the most effective way to pitch the idea then it is the time to make your presentation.  If you are presenting to a very senior person then check out also tips for presenting to the C suite.

If you have done all three steps and your idea really has some merit then you have a much greater chance of getting a yes decision. But when it doesn't work reflect on why it went wrong. Perhaps the idea simply wasn't good enough, or perhaps your influencing strategy failed, this time. Learn from the experience, reinforce your network and master the art of building support for your ideas because this will make a difference next time.

Workshops on Speaking & Influencing
This note is based on content from the lecture/workshop Speaking, Persuading and Influencing: Using Communication Skills to Achieve Results. Visit or contact Andrew Hennigan at or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81 for more details. 

Related Posts on Speaking and Influencing
Selling Your Ideas Influencing Your Way To Success
Three Simple Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Speaking
Writing and Speaking Lessons from a Primatologist
Nine and a Half Tips for Presenting to C.Suite Executives
Seven and a Half Things to do When Someone Asks You to Present Their Slides


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