How to "Sell" Your Good Idea - SAVVY INTRAPRENEUR

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How to "Sell" Your Good Idea

By Karen Meek, senior communications strategist. 

Intrapreneurs are at no loss for great ideas on improving or inventing products and services. In many cases, innovation happens without company leaders knowing it should. That's because intrapreneurs find golden opportunities with or without being asked. But like some innovators, they may lack the ability to see their ideas move from a sketch on a paper napkin to full implementation.

If you have a great idea that would help foster customer service (both internal and external), streamline a production process, or make things simpler for others, here's how you can promote it.

Make a case that makes sense.
You may have an idea that you believe will work for the greater good, but will others share in your conviction? The more your idea reflects your company's goals and values, the better the chance you have to be heard. The more you think like the management, the more your idea will resonate with them. Prepare a proposal--it doesn't have to be as extensive as a white paper--that includes responses to the following questions:
  • What? Explain your idea in fairly good detail.
  • Why? Explain the problem your idea will l solve or the opportunity you think that the company should explore. Show some research that supports your theory, like survey results, analytical statistics, or customer feedback that makes a case for your idea. This also gets into "selling" the cause-and-effect benefits of your innovation.
  • When? Lay out a flow chart in graphics or words that outlines the research, development, testing, roll out, and completion (if there's to be an end) time frames. Most managers like to see spreadsheets that include time lines and associated costs in time and resources.
  • How? Explain how you propose to launch your solution and how it will affect other employees and customers. You might also consider adding a success measurement mechanism during implementation stages that will provide feedback for adjustments.
  • Who? Explain the audiences (employees, customers, prospects, investors, etc.) who will benefit from your product or service. Detail the feasibility for those audiences and how their performance or attitudes will be positively influenced.
Find advocates who will promote you. Innovative thinkers are sometimes loners. Without a contingency of supporters to help you further it, your idea may remain in your head or on the napkin. Do you have team or department members who think you have reason to pitch your idea? Perhaps they might want to get involved in the process.

Make sure your supporters are with you 100 percent. Steer clear of naysayers. If they don't condone your idea, politely let them know that you appreciate their sentiments and move on to others who are invested supporters. If you share your idea with someone who's less than truly invested, he or she may find ways to supplant you from pursuing it with decision makers.

Present your proposal when asked. When you've nailed your proposal as outlined above, let your manager or team leader know you'd like to present it to him or her. Pose your request with one or more benefits from your proposal. Let your manager decide the appropriate time. Here's an example:

"Sally, I understand how difficult it's been for everyone in the company to access benefits information on our intranet. I have a way to make the intranet easier to navigate and much more accessible for HR staff to post information on it. The training will be simple. Let me know when I can show you how it can be done."

Don't be discouraged if your manager doesn't respond quickly or favorably. They have their own agendas and time lines for accomplishing tasks. Avoid "going over the boss's head" because you're anxious. It's better to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to pitch your idea when you know that your audience is ready for it. Your manager may become a supporter who can move your proposal to higher ups.

Deliver on your promises. You need to be realistic about your solution to a problem to secure the the support you need to launch your idea. If you've shown concrete reasoning in your proposal, you're half-way on the road to success. Know that the "selling" of your idea is ongoing. Check often during the implementation phase for continued buy-in from management and customers. Be prepared to negotiate, improve, pull back, or revamp your initial assumptions.

Always offer thanks to everyone who helped you along the way, especially to those who gave you permission and support for implementing your great idea. Be humble in the limelight. Remember that your solutions or inventions are more about what you do for the company than what you do for yourself. So, don't get too puffed up when the kudos rolls in!

Good luck!

Karen Meek is a senior communications strategist. Follow her on Twitter @karenmeektweets

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