How to Sell Your Ideas

Ideas don’t sell themselves — no matter how
good they are.
If you want to create the kinds of creative
and marketing campaigns you’re always
talking about with your colleagues — you
know, the ones that push the limits of your
team, show off your skills, and provide those
impressive results your clients want — then
you need to get better at convincing others
of the value of your ideas. It’s time to
embrace the persuasive skills of a
To get your clients to say “yes” more often,
follow these tips to increase your persuasive
How to Sell Your Ideas
1) Make the other person
According to Oren Klaff, author of Pitch
Anything, the person you’re trying to
convince has to feel at ease before you
begin presenting your idea. Otherwise, you’ll
never stand a chance.
“In the vast majority of cases, they don’t
[feel at ease] because they don’t know how
long they’re going to be stuck listening to
you, and you’re a stranger,” wrote Klaff in
the book. “Most people just don’t want to sit
through an hour-long pitch. To put them at
ease, I have a simple solution: It’s called the
time-constraint pattern.”
In other words, he tells the persone exactly
how long his pitch is going to be before he
gives it. Here’s an example from
Klaff: “‘Guys, let’s get started. I’ve only got
about 20 minutes to give you the big idea,
which will leave us some time to talk it over
before I have to get out of here.'”
Presenters need to master attention and
time, not the details, by respecting an
audience’s limits, he says. This approach
also plays into anticipation, which will drive
your clients to remain focused because they
know how long they have to wait for the big
idea and the conclusion of the meeting.
2) Use data to back it up.
The person you’re talking to may want be in
a great position to invest, but they don’t
want to spend their resources on just
anything — and especially not the wrong
idea. It’s your job to convince them that
your idea is the right and best idea for
getting the results they want.
Data is one of the best ways to make it
easy for the client to say “yes.” With data
from either previous tests you ran on the
client’s behalf, another brand’s successful
marketing experiment, or your previous
clients’ results, you can easily prove the
value and the potential ROI from the
investment in the idea.
By providing data, you are also increasing
the trust between you and the client, and it
gives her the information she needs to
convince her bosses this is the right
decision. (To get you started, here are some
of the best tools for gathering accurate and
compelling data.)
3) Provide case studies.
If you pair data with highlights from a case
study, you’ll be an even more powerful
persuader and a more credible presenter.
According to Agency Management Institute,
one of the biggest influencers in the agency
selection process is industry expertise, and
case studies are the perfect vehicle for
showcasing past successes and your in-
depth knowledge of the client’s industry or
Case studies are influential throughout the
entire buying process because they show
that you can do what you say you can do.
They help someone better understand what
it might be like to work with your team,
the quality of the work you create, the
results previous clients have experienced,
and your processes.
By providing folks with access to case
studies — either in the proposal or during a
pitch — you can increase your credibility and
help the client to imagine what it would be
like to work with your firm.
4) Pitch it like you’re telling a
No one really wants to sit through a pitch.
They want ideas, they want to be convinced,
and they want to know that you understand
their business and what it needs. But being
subjected to a 100-slide PowerPoint
presentation is not anyone’s definition of
Instead of relying on densely packed slides
full of steps, ideas, data points, forget the
slides — or include only the most essential
ones — and pitch the idea by telling
a narrative . Captivate their attention through
a story.
This most likely means you need an
experience with their brand. It could be as
simple as describing your visit to the retail
location or retelling a story you uncovered by
interviewing the brand’s customer service
rep. Put them in a frame of mind that
readies them for the solution. Build tension,
describe interesting characters, and highlight
the challenge. Then provide the answer and
all the supporting research, information, or
Want more tips on how to sell your
ideas? Listen to this episode of The
Growth Show featuring Nancy Duarte
and Patti Sanchez, co-authors of
5) Focus on them.
There are too many late nights to count.
You spent hours and hours coming up with
idea after idea. There were discussions that
bordered on arguments. People gave up time
with their families and friends to make this
person a priority.
But they don’t care. They’re only really
concerned with them and their company’s
needs, their job, how they’re going to look to
their manager or CEO, and so on. You are
there to bring them an idea that will make
them look good. Your job is to convince
them that you or your team can help them
achieve their goals within a certain budget
and timeframe.
While you might think detailing all the hours
and effort you put into the idea/concept/
pitch shows your dedication and
commitment, it’s irrelevant and distracting.
No one cares how long it took you to come
to a solution — as long as there is a
solution, and it’s the right one.
6) Make it simple.
In one study, researchers replaced shorter
words with longer words in college essays.
Participants then rated the essays based on
how intelligent they thought the authors
were. They found that those who used
shorter words — more simple language —
were perceived as being more intelligent.
Using shorter words, more straightforward
language, and explaining things simply and
clearly makes people seem more likeable
and smart.
Don’t assume that using complex, jargon-
filled language is going to either impress the
client or confuse them into buying something
they don’t understand.
As David Ogilvy said, “The customer is not a
moron. She’s your wife.”
7) Lead them to the answer.
Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion gives
hundreds of inbound marketing workshops
and speeches each year. And he believes
that presenters need a better understanding
of how people process information and
come to a decision.
An approach he uses in workshops is
called the Columbus Principle , which is the
idea that “everyone wants to feel like they
are the one that discovered America.”
You ask people question after question after
question that slowly leads the person to the
right answer. People want to make their own
decisions — but by employing this strategy,
you can help to guide their thought process
and instead of telling, you lead them to
understanding that your solution is the right
Remember: When you try to make a hard
sale, people naturally try to come up with
reasons why something wouldn’t work or
why this isn’t a good idea. With this
approach, people are more likely to embrace
the idea because they think they discovered
it (albeit through your guidance, of course).


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