You have an idea for a new process or product, but how do you get buy-in from leadership to set your plans in motion? Enter: the pitch.
Whether you’re a business pitch pro or newbie, these tips on how to sell your ideas to management will help you get the green light.
- Know your audience and their goals.
First things first, find out who needs to hear about your new idea. Is it the C-Suite, middle managers or someone else? Next, identify your company’s goals and how your idea aligns with the company’s vision (it’s easier to pitch an idea that already fits your leaders’ agenda than to suggest one that doesn’t).
DO tell your leaders what led to the idea—frustration about inefficiencies, talking to a colleague at another company, researching industry trends, etc.—as this helps them understand it’s not just an idea you thought of in the shower (though it is a good place to clear your head and think), but one that’s solution-oriented.
- Don’t wait to figure out the details—think like a boss!
It’s easy to get so excited about a new idea that you run straight to your leader’s office to share, but slow down, partner! Your leader likely hears a fair share of half-baked ideas EVERY day. Take your proposal beyond simply being a brainstorm and turn it into a reality by fleshing out the details.
Think through all the possible challenges your leader might point out so you can be prepared to address their concerns (and it’ll show them that you’ve really thought through this plan). Once you identify potential barriers, problems and risks you could encounter (no plan is flawless), outline the steps you’ll take to address them.
As with any idea, there is some cost involved—money, staff time, tools, etc. Be sure to identify the resources you’ll need, develop a timeline (your leader will want to know how long it’ll be before they can expect to see results and when expenses will hit the books) and ask for the appropriate amount of resources. It’s better to be up front about what’s needed (and the positive impact it will have on the company) than to under-estimate to get your project approved. Nothing looks worse than asking for more right after you start.
- Warm them up to the idea.
Go ahead and snag that leader in the hallway, elevator or break room, but make sure you’re prepared and pick the right moment. Approaching leadership first thing on a Monday morning…yeah, not the best idea. Find a time that’s not so hectic. You have a minute (maybe two) to pique their interest with your elevator pitch, so summarize your work, project or findings without going into too much detail. Stick to the highpoints and express your opinion on why you think the idea is a winner and how it will benefit your leader and/or the company (don’t forget to include reasons to believe!). Most importantly, make sure you are solution-oriented. Then, tell your leader you’d love to share more and see if you can get on their schedule—or better yet, on the agenda of the next leadership team meeting to fully present your idea.
- Practice on a colleague.
Your colleagues will likely be your toughest critics, so let them have a sneak peek at your plan. They’ll give you honest feedback and show you where your plan is weak. They’ll also help you be better prepared to answer tough questions and defend your idea. You can also practice by recording a video, which gives you the opportunity to play it back and see where you can improve.
This practice session will help you find the right tone (not too serious, not too bubbly, with just the right amount of enthusiasm). Remember, your idea isn’t about you (or getting credit), it’s about making a positive change at your company that’s good for everyone.
- Think through the timeline.
Be sure to outline how you (and the company) can handle the workload your idea brings while still maintaining current production. This part is key—you don’t want to look like you have all the time in the world or your leaders will wonder what you’re really doing. Use stats to highlight typical slow periods for the company and how your project timeline fits in.
Develop various phases in the project—it’s easier for leaders to approve one phase of a project (and the costs that come with it) because there is less risk. Plus, a successful first phase makes it easier to get the next phases approved.
- Get them talking.
Leaders—and people in general—like to feel included in the decision-making process and you do that by inviting their feedback. Plus, if leaders start making suggestions it means they are warming up to the idea.
Be sure to stick to the allotted time (if you have 30 minutes, plan 10 minutes of content and 20 minutes for discussion/interruptions)—leaders are busy and your respect of their schedules will help them focus on your presentation and less on the clock.
DO bring a visual of some kind to your pitch. Aim for five to seven slides (here are some great presentation tips and templates), a quick one-pager (like this handy executive summary template) or even a poster to help leaders visualize your idea.
We’ve been in your shoes—from pitching our ideas to bosses at Fortune 500 companies to presenting our business to potential clients. We know what it takes to get a thumbs-up. Whether you need help outlining your ideas, or want someone to coach you along the way, we can help! Schedule a FREE consultation to talk strategy and build a plan for pitching your new idea.
Kayde Kempen is an associate marketing manager at Writing by Design. She has 7+ years of marketing communications experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Kayde has written hundreds of blog posts and e-blasts, both for Writing by Design and its clients, is the lead content writer for Writing by Design’s website/SEO clients, and assists with press releases, concept writing, script writing and more. Prior to joining the Writing by Design team in 2016, she was an associate marketing manager at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where she worked for five years and led nearly 90 website redesign projects, wrote for the University’s alumni magazine and news website, and wrote and managed a variety of print and digital marketing projects.