Selling Your Ideas to Top Brass

Lean and mean; do more with less; squeezing profit margins. Until recently, you would have never heard such phrases uttered in a creative department.

But today, this is the language of doing business regardless of the department.

It might be culture shock for those in promotion, but one thing is for sure — cost-effectiveness has become a way of life. It’s no longer enough for creatives to create. They have to learn to navigate through the economic minefields that support the creative.

And an important factor in navigating the challenges of the “fiscal accountability” terrain is the ability to sell yourself and your ideas to top management. Learning to sell, especially when you’re not in sales, is a critical skill that everyone should have in their personal toolbox. Managers at all levels need to know how to get what they want from their organization.

Whether you want to launch a show, create a great stunt or re-engineer your department, the first step is always selling in the idea. Knowing how to sell — your idea, your creative, or anything else you deem important — to top management makes you more effective and thereby, more valuable to your company.

Discipline, focus and a targeted game plan are how it’s done. While creative work must be able to inspire thought while reaching the appropriate target, management wants to know just how much profit can be returned on the investment in your idea. Here are a few tips to help you become a better sales person:

  • Be clear and be prepared. As any Boy Scout will attest, these are words to live by. Have your materials ready; make your points clear, concise and well thought out. These days, everyone is moving at the speed of light (or so it seems) with competing priorities. Upper management will appreciate the time you save them by sticking to the facts and delivering them as key bullet points. Build your case, cut to the chase and get to the point with clear logic. Practice what you want to say in advance and be aware of any negatives going in so you are ready to reposition them as positives.
  • Make sure your agenda is good for the company. Put yourself in management’s shoes: Would you OK this idea? If management feels you understand their needs and goals, you’ll get a better response. Learn and understand the needs of the business; get a broader perspective on how your own area of business impacts the big picture.
    If your goals also solve the needs of management, it makes getting what both of you want that much easier.
  • Let cooperation replace competition. President Harry S. Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Put your focus on how the project advances the goals of the company, rather than focusing on who did what.
    Your pitch should be tied to the business — don’t personalize it. It’s not about your idea; it’s about what the company needs. Taking this tact is always better when it comes to getting someone to say “yes.”
  • Trust yourself and trust the process. You’ve thought this out. You know your concept is smart and attention-grabbing; you’ve come prepared and said what’s important. Now let them relax into a “yes.”

If your ideas reflected the best interests of all concerned, you’re in good shape. If not, be willing to listen, don’t take criticism personally and above all, be flexible.

Developing your ability to sell your ideas comes easy to some and is harder for others. But rest assured, if you believe in your idea, so will they.

Just ask best-selling author John Livesay, author of The 7 Most Powerful Selling Secrets: Soar Your Way to Success with Integrity, Passion and Joy. At next week’s PROMAX & BDA conference, I’ll be asking John for more of these sales secrets we all need to succeed in today’s changing and challenging workplace environment.