The art of selling an idea

Art of selling an idea

Great leaders present their ideas as well as they lead people.

Great modern leaders are followed rather than obeyed. The time of command and control military style leadership in the work place is well behind us. There are many reasons why staff follow a certain leader but one of the most important is the ability to convince a team that you know best. Managers who cannot sell ideas find it hard to get their team to push in the same direction as they fail to create vital value alignment and staff buy in. Convincing people that you know best is needed both with macro factors: the mission of the company and your role as leader, as well as with micro daily attitudes of staff about their daily work. Each and every day managers are selling their opinion to staff in order to enable their team to be more productive.

Every day managers are selling ideas in order to push their team to be as productive as possible.

The 7 KRAs (Key Result Areas) of selling an idea are:

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A clever manager recruits staff that share the values of the team and those likewise should match the purpose of the work. As a manager you definitely should not be looking for “yes” people, staff who agree with all and follow like puppets, as they can never be autonomous and are unlikely to use initiative. Likewise you don’t want personalities that are all the same, as this will not give your team the flexibility it needs to face new and different challenges. What you do want however is people who share similar values and character as when you have that it will be easier to create productive team work. Shared team values make it easier for a leader to sell their idea, to convince their team of the direction to be taken and necessarily sacrifices to be overcome.

It is easier to sell an idea to a team of people with shared values.

Team bond and spirit is an equally important component to cohesive work teams. A leader should be respected over liked and your team must feel they are represented by you, that you take their work interests into consideration when you make decisions, in short they must trust you. This doesn’t of course mean you take those personal interests more into consideration than work objectives but it does mean you strive to create win / win environments with work objectives being achieved without disregarding your staff’s work and personal needs. It is easier to sell a tough decision to your team when you have a history of giving back as well as taking, when you have proven you respect emotional bank. Many managers are short sighted and wear out their team whilst pushing for one goal, however such an approach will make it almost impossible to re-sell another tough idea in the future. Effective work leadership is different to politics as you don’t need to pamper to popularity and hence be focused on short term “popular” decisions, you can rather think more long term, making the needed tough decisions in long term interest, but to do this your team must trust in your leadership character.

It is much easier for your team to understand why a tough decision was needed when you have already earned their trust.

The “why factor” is essential to bringing people on board to follow your ideas. Staff may halfheartedly follow decisions they don’t understand but they will never put their heart and soul into them if they don’t understand why they matter or are needed, which is why explaining the need of your decisions is vital. Explaining effectively the why of a decision or idea, begins first with identifying the “need”, i.e. the problem your decision or idea is solving. This is why values and mission matter in companies as having these well established gives an umbrella to fit your “need” inside of, i.e. if you work in education for example it is simple to identify “need” as almost anything connected to allowing us to educate students more effectively. This “why factor” should also include solutions to current issues, i.e. “why” you are proposing a change to a procedure is because we are attending clients too slowly and need to improve in that area and linking it back to shared mission and values will always make it more convincing.

Identifying the need behind your decision will enable you to convince people why they are right to believe in your idea.

People believe in what is seen to be strongly believed in which is why how you present an idea does matter. First and foremost you must yourself believe in the need of what you are proposing as if you don’t you will not be convincing. This is why, if you were passing on a decision from above or from another department, it is essential that you have first come round to understanding enough why that decision is needed and have found your own way of believing in it. Secondly, in most scenarios of selling an idea, passion and energy does matter in convincing people that the idea is not only needed but is the solution to the problems your team is facing. Likewise showing your vision for the idea is important, as people will often accept short term hardships, when they can visualize the long term benefits. Likewise a presentation of an idea shouldn’t shy away from identifying possible challenges as the only way your team will keep following your idea, is if they trust you and a key component of trust in leadership is outlining clear expectations, both positive and negative ones. Most of all your presentation of the idea must convince your team that this idea or decision fits with the shared values and purpose that your team follows as this allows everyone to feel the idea is partly theirs.

If you present your idea right, your team will emulate your own belief and passion.

Even after you have presented your idea to your team, there will still naturally be some objections and a good leader will be prepared for these. No decision or idea will have all good parts, as often a good long term decision will need short term sacrifices. This is where using the power of the why (i.e. why it is worth it and needed) backed up by the trust your team has in you and delivered with you power of persuasion is weighed up against these objections. As said it is best to be prepared with the ideal being to list what could be possible problem areas and thinking about how these could be: a.) shown to be unlikely to be issues, b.) countered by a certain action or preparation or c.) proven to be worth the strain cause of the long term benefit of the change. Common objections often brought up are: unsure benefit, worry about extra workload, team not ready to change, effort not worth gain etc… Two things are essential to counter these: firstly avoid being taken by surprise by these objections and secondly plan to bring them up yourself, as it is better to face these head on and counter the argument in a open forum than have staff complaining privately about these issues behind your back.

A great leader is prepared to deal with possible objections towards their ideas.

Once you have won over your audience doing the above, it is important to close the agreement. What this means is you may have convinced your doubters of the value of the idea in that moment, but you need to find a more permanent way of confirming all are in agreement and thus taking forward the teamwork on the idea. Usually this involves some written form summarizing the change going to be put in place and mentioning all what was discussed including the “why factors” identified and objections dismissed. By doing this, you present your idea now as everyone’s idea adding to the power of persuasion, this is especially the case if you did a good job in making sure the idea aligned to the shared team values. Finally the value of effectively selling an idea should be applied to future decisions you need to make. If you managed to win over followers to your idea and most importantly made the change a success, more people will want to follow your suggestions and decisions in the future. and there is no harm in reminding of your past successes in the right moments as this buy in will make the next process quicker and easier.

All persuasive ideas should end with a written formal agreement so that your team now see themselves as being part of that idea.

Great leaders don’t command people, they rather inspire followers. They win over people to their vision and gain trust from their team that they know best. They turn their own ideas, into team projects and inspire people to believe in their leadership.

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