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Know your endgame

Have the right research in hand to sell your ideas

by on
in Dealing with Bosses,Office Management

Want to bowl over your boss with your brilliant analysis? I’ve got three words of advice for you: prepare, prepare, prepare.

I don’t mean rehearse how you’ll pitch your idea. That’s for conceited fools.

Sure, what you say matters—to a point. But it’s more important that you do a little advance work to uncover what’s really bothering your boss. Then you can plan what to say when you’re greeted with “Hang on a second” or “Are you crazy?”

Know what you want

When you take the plunge and propose a big idea, know the outcome you want in advance. Draft an action plan so that you’re not just flapping your gums. Don’t leave a CEO wondering, “Yeah, so what are you asking me for?”

Talk is cheap. You must know why you’re speaking up and what result you want.

Here’s how I tested myself before I barnstormed the boss: I would come up with a one-sentence answer that I wanted to hear from my boss. It might be, “Why don’t you run an experiment and show me?”

By imagining what I wanted my boss to say when I was done, I could build a more focused argument. I tossed away anything that didn’t reinforce my core message.

Another tactic is to ask yourself, “When I stop talking, how will things be different?” The answer will help you see the consequences of your idea so you can follow through.

‘I knew you’d say that’

When I was in sales, I learned that the No. 1 secret of top producers was their talent for anticipating a prospect’s objections. They loved it when people said no.

Same goes when you’re putting it all on the line in front of the brass. Isolate in advance what their concerns are going to be. Rank them. Prioritize them. Figure out exactly what might make your bosses too worried or scared or reluctant.

Now fit your great ideas into their way of thinking. If they’re obsessed with expenses, come armed with mountains of research to show that your proposal will cut 10 percent and possibly 25 percent from overhead costs. Prove it!

You’ll know you’ve done yeoman work when you can make your pitch, listen to each of the boss’s interruptions and think, “Ha! I knew you’d say that.”

Set yourself up for success

Don’t drop a bombshell on an unsuspecting boss. If your ideas seem outlandish or come out of nowhere, you’ll be waved away like a fly.

In the weeks before you speak up, lay the groundwork. Plant a few hints about what you’re working on. Pose some enticing “what if” scenarios; that shows you’re thinking big.

Don’t reveal too much, too soon. If you come right out and promise the moon, you’ll overhype yourself.

Play it safe by using humor. It worked for me. To pave the way for my next killer idea, I would joke around with my boss. Whenever he complained about something, I’d say, “One day I’ll walk in here and solve that problem.” He’d shoot back, “OK, when?” We’d both laugh, but I was preparing for the real thing.

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