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How to sell an innovation idea

Every new innovation idea – and this is certainly true the more radical it is – has first of all to get Top Management’s awareness if it ever it is to be realized. In my consulting experience I had dozens of opportunities (or challenges, depending on how you want to see it) to sell an innovation idea to Top Managers.

My personal Best Practice that I distilled out of it has three steps:

  • Be aware of the commitment thresholds
  • Have a strong concept prepared
  • Tune in to the Top Manager’s agenda

Be aware of the commitment thresholds

To get commitment from a Top Manager to actively support your innovation idea you need to successfully master three steps. These build upon each other and in each of the steps your selling game could be over. These steps are:

  1. Identification – You first need to make sure that your internal customer – the Top Manager you are trying to sell this innovation idea – sees your idea as part of his agenda
  2. Attraction – You then want to make sure that he sees the benefits and opportunities despite all the implementation challenges your idea might have
  3. Conviction – And then you need to have thoroughly researched and conving facts at hand that will demonstrate your idea properly

Tune in to the Top Manager’s agenda

In the same way that an innovator needs to understand the customers who will use innovations he needs to understand the internal customers of innovation. What’s important to the Top Management?  What business imperatives are top of mind? What are the corporate goals around attainment of revenue growth, market share, and profitability? What board directives are to be satisfied? From where does Top Management perceive the greatest threats on the horizon to be coming?

Have a strong concept prepared

Very often innovators have a deep understanding of the technical nature of the innovations they are proposing. But often times they do not have the elevator pitch and the story line to sell the innovation idea to Top Management. In my experience, a strong concept would have at least xx components, each of them thoroughly thought through and with one key headline each:

  • Headline / slogan
  • Core idea
  • Benefit
  • Reason why
  • Uniqueness
  • Strategic fit
  • Key cornerstones for implementation