Why can’t those people see that this is a Great Idea?

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “this is a great idea, why can’t those people see it?” If so, and if you failed to convince those people to support that idea, then I want to discuss how you can describe your ideas so others will understand and value them.

In a previous blog, my partner Joan talked about why being “smart” is overrated. One characteristic she described was how smart people become attached to their definition of the “best” or “right” answer. One of the primary reasons for this attachment is that they develop answers from their own viewpoint – using facts, assumptions, and interests that are relevant for them. Such solutions may be valuable for others, but you’ll only get people to use them IF you can sell your proposal to their viewpoint.

So, how do you sell a proposal to another person’s viewpoint?

First, make sure you address three critical questions people ask themselves before they choose to commit.

  • Is your proposal COMPELLING – does it concern an issue or interest that’s critical for me?
  • Is your proposal VALID – will it work the way you claim and will I achieve my interests?
  • Is your proposal IMPLEMENTABLE – do I understand what you want me to do, and do I believe that can I do it?

Second, provide information that enables the other person to make an independent decision.

  • DON’T rely on information the other person doesn’t understand (like technical jargon or standards).
  • DO use examples and cases that the other person can test.
  • DON’T make “trust me” claims (“trust me, I’ve been through this before, and I know what works”)
  • DO explain the cause and effect of your proposal (“here are the five steps and precisely how they will create the desired result”)

Finally, make sure to test your understanding of that person’s interest before you make your proposal. We teach people to follow this simple five-step script.

  1. Describe the issue or choice
    “I want to discuss a possible solution to our client’s problem”
  2. Stipulate and test the other person’s interests
    “With any solution for this client, I think you’re concerned about three key factors – (1) demonstrate direct impact on their goals, (2) stay within the budget they committed to their LT, and (3) make sure any solution can be scaled to other parts of their organization. Do I understand your interests correctly?”
  3. Make an offer and ask for the person’s commitment
    “Let me show you how my proposal should address your three factors for a good solution.” (link your proposal to their interests)
  4. Surface and understand resistance
    “I thought that this idea would work for you but obviously it doesn’t. Can you help me understand specifically why this idea doesn’t work for you? (ask questions to learn about other interests, or which question you failed to address)
  5. Create an action plan
    “Now that we have an agreement, let’s plan the next steps each of us needs to take.” (make sure that you have an action plan that the other person believes can be implemented)

If you use this simple approach, you should significantly increase the chance that you will get other people to adopt your proposals.


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