In the first half of my career, I worked in advertising, creating and pitching ideas to clients such as Mini Cooper and Godiva. I learned that it's easy to get buy-in for boring ideas, because they're not new or "risky." But fascinating ideas are a whole different game.

Why? Most people (especially conservative clients) fear creative ideas. By definition, new ideas feel unfamiliar -- even risky. Most people fear risk and work hard to avoid it. On the surface, it makes sense to avoid risk.

The problem is that today, in a disrupted market, risk doesn't work like that. Business isn't a coin with risk on one side and security on the other; it's a two-headed coin with risk on both sides. Not taking a risk is risky. And if you take a risk, well, that's risky too.

(Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.)

To combat the inevitable skeptics and naysayers, I'm sharing five go-to strategies to help your biggest, baddest ideas succeed.

1. Paint a Very Clear Picture in Your Audience's Mind

If your goal is to land a major account with a long-term relationship, how can you help everyone else visualize that specific goal? For instance, instead of promising an improvement in growth or profits, can you spell it out more explicitly? Can you create a clear image of what the future could look like a year from now? What does the company look like? What does the staffing and customer list look like? How about showing what your sales figures might look like in the year 2020?

2. Build the Most Rational Argument Possible

The biggest mistake I see is selling an untraditional idea with intangible evidence and ephemeral claims. Abstractions like "word of mouth" aren't enough by themselves. By removing as many variables as possible, and eliminating unknowns, you demonstrate control. Surround your idea with as much information as possible, including timelines, anticipated costs, potential partners. Hypothetical is OK at this stage, but be as specific as possible. However, "look how cool it is" isn't a strategy.

3. Show How You've Succeeded in a Comparable Situation

Substantiate your ideas with case studies. Build evidence and create parallels. Ideally, this validation will come from your own experience or your business.

4. Pinpoint Risks That Parallel Your Customer's Behavior

Demonstrate how bigger trends (such as the rise of Millennials, the pace of social media, or increased risk in urban areas) substantiate your point. Then, demonstrate how your proposed idea tracks alongside these bigger trends.

5. Help Your Audience Sell Up

Often, the person you're presenting to will have to get buy-in from someone else in the decision-making process. Help them do this by giving them the tools to sell it in. When assembling a presentation, make sure that it can stand on its own without you, so that the person you're selling to has the tools to defend it to other decision makers.

Today, the opposite of risk isn't security. The opposite of risk is getting run over by a big truck filled with the shipment of status quo while you dawdle in the middle of the road. But with a little tactical prep, you'll turbocharge your ideas--and growth.

Published on: Sep 22, 2017
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