How to Pitch an Idea to Your Boss

By April 27, 2017 January 6th, 2024 Articles on Leadership

Last Updated on January 6, 2024 by Dave Schoenbeck

how to pitch an idea to your boss

Your idea is brilliant in every way. It’s backed by facts, supported by industry experts, and can take your company to new heights if done right. The only thing left is to convince the “powers that be” to sign the dotted line.

The problem is, you’re not sure how to do the convincing.

On one hand, your boss has rejected hundreds of brilliant proposals over the years. On the other hand, he’s also green-lighted the same number of proposals within the same timeframe.

So what exactly makes your boss say “go” instead of “no”? Is it packing as many facts into your proposal as possible? Is it being as charming and persuasive as you can? Or is it something else?

To be sure, it helps to be when you pitch an idea to experienced senior executives. But if you want to boost your chances of those executives buying into your idea, you’ll have to do more than rely on your personal qualities.

Specifically, you have to:

1. Know your boss’ decision-making style.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you pitch an idea is to assume that all executives think the same.  Just because hundreds can persuade Bill Gates of pages of cold, complex data doesn’t mean the same approach will work with Richard Branson.

Luckily, you don’t have to know someone 100% to be powerfully persuasive. As long as you understand what makes your boss tick, you can tailor how you deliver your proposal.

Many executives have a dominant behavior profile that can be hard to understand and influence. Here are some essential tips on how to sell your ideas to your favorite field general boss.

2. Appeal to your boss’ interest.

Some bosses can be persuaded solely with charisma. Others won’t be satisfied until they dissect every data point and counter-argument regarding your proposal. Still, others are only concerned about how your idea will make them look before the Board of Directors.

Before you pitch an idea to your boss, find out their motivations more than anything else. If your boss is risk-averse, emphasize why your idea isn’t as risky as it looks. If your boss likes to keep meetings short and direct, present the most critical information as quickly and concisely as possible. If your boss is combative and doesn’t like being contradicted, be as thorough and credible as possible with your proposal, and hope for the best.

3. Get help from a “backer” trusted by your boss.

Sometimes, you need two heads to persuade one. If you know someone as close to your boss as Charlie Munger is to Warren Buffett, try to get that person on your side. Ask them to show up when you pitch your idea to your boss or get them to sign a written document proving that they support your effort. However, you may have to do more than a bit of arm-twisting to use this strategy with care.

4. Offer to send them a copy of your proposal.

Regardless of their personality type, all executives have one thing in common: they’re almost always busy. They’re so busy that they often forget the “little things” — like that one meeting with you, for example.

If you want them to take you seriously (or, at least, remember you), close your presentation with something like, “I’ll be forwarding my proposal to you this afternoon, along with what we’ve discussed today. Please have a look at it when you have the time.”

Don’t forget to be confident and consistent about following up afterward to reinforce your passion for your presentation.

To successfully pitch an idea to your boss, understand their decision-making style, appeal to their self-interest, and follow up. Put yourself in your boss’ shoes, give your proposal a second look, and ask yourself: “Would this persuade me?”

If you’d like to know more about influencing others, please fill out my contact form for a complimentary video coaching session.

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