1. Link the idea to its purpose.
Show or demonstrate why this specific idea will help to achieve the goal and/or eliminate the problem. This rule grows in exponential importance to the unusualness of the idea. In other words, the more bizarre the idea, the more you need to anchor it in reality.
2. Make influential friends.
Sooner than later, involve key internal/external people throughout the creative process. Does everyone agree on the goal? What are their expectations? What criteria will they use to judge the best ideas? Do they have any initial ideas (even if bad) which might suggest a tone or style? Can they help contribute to the creative brief? Can they join the brainstorm, or stop by after it’s finished? Can they help select or judge the ideas?
3. Sell the sizzle, not the meat.
Selling ideas is more than just conveying the words, no matter how eloquent the writer. The very best ideas need to experienced just as the intended audience might see it. Most of us can’t avoid using PowerPoint altogether (and no reason to, if you use it properly), but follow this guideline: use more pictures than words. Use mood boards or hire an artist or cartoonist to show the idea ‘in action.’ Make samples or hand-outs to put the idea in the hands of the person buying it.
4. Give it time.
Some ideas need to rise, like yeast in bread. Most ideas are rarely form perfectly from the start, and given the urgency of the situation or the passion of the brainstormer, many ideas are sold too early. They might need (more) research, or an expert needs to be engaged to help adapt an idea to a situation without homogenizing it. Often it’s better to sell an idea to one trusted and influential friend to get an initial reaction than to sell it too early to the widest possible audience.
5. Protect it.
From what? Criticism, politics, internal or personal agendas, inflexibility and assumptions. Or, in a word, negativity. This is an entire topic unto itself, one that you can read more here.
6. A Picture Is Worth …
I can’t speak enough about how important it is to sell ideas visually. Clinical research from a variety of areas show that people absorb information in a variety of ways. In his book Memory Techniques, James Manktelow (founder and former CEO of MindTools.com) says 65% of people learn visually, 30% learn through hearing, and 5% through simulation (kinaesthetic).
If you use PowerPoint – which has become the default communications method in most organisations today – then you must use it to its fullest potential. First and foremost, slides must be visual – one strong image (not several images). When appropriate, key words or text should be highlighted in colour to pop from the black text.
7. Make the idea tangible.
If there’s a #7 above, it would be to make the idea tangible. Don’t simply talk or show your idea. Find a way to make it touchable and interactive.
Any other suggestions to selling ideas? Please add to the comments below.