When it comes to new ideas and nontraditional approaches, it's almost a given that people will express doubt. Ask any entrepreneur or inventor and they'll tell you the startling number of times they've been told by naysayers that they either couldn't do something or that their idea or company wouldn't work.
As a longtime inventor and entrepreneur, I'm no stranger to skepticism regarding new business ventures. However, the brightest entrepreneurs know that the best way to stop the skeptics is to prove them wrong.
If you listen closely enough to what people say, naysaying can actually be broken down into three stages--and you can overcome each stage with a fair amount of perseverance and grit.
When you navigate all three, the skeptics will have nothing left to say, and you'll have created value for your company.
Stage 1: "That's impossible."
When you begin to piece together a new venture or invention, you're likely starting with an idea or vision. Because people generally doubt what they don't know or can't conceptualize, they will often tell you "That's impossible" or "That idea's crazy."
Doubt about the unknown is part of human nature. We rely on our senses to tell us something is concrete and real. When you take away the things that we can see, hear, feel, taste, or smell, it becomes harder for people to believe in them.
However, entrepreneurs and inventors often have an ability to visualize a new type of product or company, or an idea. With deep expertise on market needs, and with a new idea for how that need can be addressed, they are ahead of the curve. This often creates a disconnect with others who don't share that same vision; all they see is a dreamer with a wacky idea.
To get through the first stage of naysaying--the "That's impossible" stage--you have to show them your idea is possible by executing it. This is easier said than done, of course, and may require multiple tries. Keep working and remain disciplined--you'll get there. But you're not done yet. You haven't yet created real value.
Stage 2: "Anyone can do that."
So you've realized your idea. You proved everyone wrong and invented the thing that they said was impossible. Get ready for the second phase of naysaying: "Anyone can do that." This can be frustrating--after all, you're the one who put in the time and effort to create your innovation. If it's a good idea, there will always be people who are disappointed you beat them to it. This gets tougher, particularly when it's the same person who just told you, "That's impossible."
However, there is also a way to prove that no one else can do what you have done. By filing for intellectual property protection (patents, trademarks, or copyrights), you can actually obtain a legal document that states that, in fact, not anyone could do it (or thought to do it).
Patents and other types of IP protections also prevent others from stealing your idea. By filing a patent, you tell the world how to make your invention and that you are the sole owner and inventor of this technology. No one can reproduce it without your permission, and now you have legal proof of invention to shut down the skeptics.
Stage 3: "Nobody will buy it."
Now it's time to bring your product to market--whether you're launching a consumer product or getting investors to fund your business. Enter the third and final stage of naysaying, when people doubt your ability to sell your idea, product, or business plan.
This may ultimately be the hardest naysaying to overcome. At the "Nobody will buy it" stage, you must come up with a plan to market and sell your product. This involves determining your target audience, setting business and sales goals, and establishing a timeline of when and how to expand your customer base.
It may seem old-fashioned, but going out and meeting with your potential customers or investors can give you insight into what they're looking for in a product or company. Honest conversations around their hesitations, their expectations, and how the product will fit into their lives can help you develop messaging, work out kinks, and understand what matters to them.
However, the key to selling any product or business idea is that you must allow people to see the value of the invention. Explain why your product would make their lives easier and solve for key issues. If you can persuade people to buy what you're selling, you've effectively navigated the three realms of naysaying and have built real value.
Throughout the different stages, the most important thing is to stay positive. Embarking on a new venture is both a scary and wonderful adventure that you're going to want to enjoy every minute of. Don't get distracted by naysayers--be open to criticism and differing opinions, but also know how to tune out negativity and skepticism. Believe and invest in what you're doing--you'll prove them wrong in no time.