Sometimes, it’s very challenging to sell ideas to management. That’s especially the case if you’re pitching something big.
Of course, you’ll find it even more difficult if you don’t know how to promote your concept in a large organization.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through how to effectively pitch an idea.
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When it comes to pitching an idea, you should approach it just as you would if you were selling anything else. Follow basic principles of marketing.
One of those principles is to anticipate objections.
Think about your corporate culture and the way the people you work with approach new ideas. Then, make a list of objections that you expect to hear.
That shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, you’ve worked with these people for some time. You should know by now what they’re like and what makes them bristle.
Once you’ve produced an exhaustive list of objections, create answers for each and every one of them. Taking that step does a couple of things for you.
First, it gives you verbal ammunition when people argue against your idea. You’ll have some counterpoints to their points.
But more than that, it will give your co-workers a sense of confidence because you’ll convince them that you’ve thought through the project. They’ll know that you’re not just pitching something that you haven’t evaluated from different angles.
How to Pitch an Idea: Run the Numbers
This is a big one. In fact, this might be the most important point in the whole guide.
You need to run the numbers.
Your big idea is going to cost money. You’ll look silly if you pitch something without explaining the costs associated with it.
Keep in mind: you’ll need both the bottom-line number as well as itemized expenses.
Why? Because if you’re in a meeting with busy executives, they might just want the final cost.
On the other hand, if you’re sitting down with co-workers and bean-counters who want to dive a little more deeply into the numbers, you’ll need to provide specific details.
Also, make sure you think about the costs from all angles. Consider the following expenses:
For good measure, you might also want to throw in a line item for unforeseen expenses.
Once you’ve itemized all your costs, it’s time to calculate some good news: the return.
Of course, keep in mind that the return is usually a forecast. In other words, it’s an attempt at predicting the future.
You probably won’t be 100% accurate in your prediction.
That’s okay, though. Executives who’ve been in business for a while understand that. They’ve seen their fair share of accurate and inaccurate forecasts.
Give them something realistic and they’ll respond well to it.
Also, if you think it will help, consider three forecasts: a best-case scenario, a worst-case scenario, and a likely scenario. If you can show that your idea still makes money with a worst-case scenario, you can sell it.
If it loses money in a worst-case scenario, then make the case that the risk is worth it because the likely scenario will be profitable.
Give Them the “How”
Next, as you pitch your idea, explain to your teammates exactly how you plan to implement the plan.
Answer questions like:
- Who needs to work on it?
- What’s the plan the organization needs to follow to make it happen?
- What, if any, facilities are needed?
- How will you promote it?
Put together an entire project plan. Make sure it includes action items for different roles.
By the way, when you go through the particulars of how you’ll fulfill your big idea, you’ll also get a better understanding of the cost. That will help you when it comes to running the numbers (see above).
You’ll also get a chance to see if your project is too expensive before you pitch it to anyone else. That could save you some embarrassment down the road.
Create a Timeline
Next, create a timeline. Let people know when things need to happen to make your idea successful.
Keep in mind: all projects need to have a starting point. From that starting point, map out a timeline that explains what’s happening at various milestones.
Put that timeline into an executive presentation and you should get a positive response.
Tell Them Why Your Idea Is the Best
If you’re in a large organization, chances are pretty good that you aren’t the only one pitching an idea. In other words, you’re competing for resources with some of your fellow employees.
That’s why you have to make your big plan stand out.
Why is your proposal superior to the others? If you can’t answer that question, you might have trouble selling it.
So if you know that other folks within your organization are pitching competing ideas, analyze them. Gather as much information as you can about finances, logistics, and potential return.
Then, you’ll have enough info to explain why your idea is better.
If your idea costs less and offers a higher return, for example, that’s a piece of information you’re going to want to share when you pitch it.
You might even want to create a table that lists your idea versus other ideas. In each cell in the table, explain why your idea beats some of the other proposals.
Make that table a slide in your presentation. That should help seal the deal.
Create an Executive Document Before You Pitch Your Idea
Next, create an executive document that explains your proposal in detail.
Unsurprisingly, you should begin your executive document with an executive summary. Include in that summary a high-level overview of your project and its benefits.
After that, include different sections. Each of those sections should correspond to one of the previous points from above.
In other words, you should have a section that answers objections, another one that explains the numbers, another one that explains the “how,” another one for the timeline, and yet another one that demonstrates why your proposal is superior to others.
Set up a Meeting
Next, you need to set up a meeting where you can pitch your idea.
You don’t just want to invite anybody to that meeting, though. Instead, invite the people who are the decision-makers within your organization.
It’s best to do the meeting in-person. I realize that in this digital age, it’s convenient to have Skype conferences and bridge lines, but it’s usually easier to persuade people when you’re in the same room with them.
Keep in mind: it’s at this meeting where you’ll need to answer the objections that others will raise. So make sure you have the answers to those objections memorized.
Finally, when you set up a meeting to pitch your great idea, it will show them that you’re serious about it. You’re demonstrating initiative.
Give Them a Timeline
Next, you need to give them a timeline.
No, this isn’t the same thing as the “Create a Timeline” point I made earlier. This is something different.
In this case, you need to give your management a timeline for making a decision.
That way, if they green-light your project early, you have plenty of time to plan a successful project.
Follow Through After You Pitch Your Idea
Once you’ve secured management approval, make sure you follow through on your project.
In other words, make sure you do it.
There’s not much that will hurt your reputation more than pitching a great idea, getting the go-ahead from your manager, and then not actually moving forward with it.
Also, as you’re going through the project, send updates to your team leadership. Let them know how things are progressing so they know what to expect later on.
In some cases, you might even need to get them involved when you hit roadblocks.
And yes, you undoubtedly will hit roadblocks. But don’t let them stop you from fulfilling your vision. Find a way to get through them and deliver on what you promised.
Wrapping Up How to Pitch Your Big Idea
Many great ideas die because the people who thought of them didn’t know how to make a good pitch to investors, managers, and co-workers. Fortunately, you don’t have to follow their example.
Pitch your project by following the steps I’ve listed above. You’ll get approval.
Then, go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to making the project a success.