How to Pitch an Idea to Your Boss

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.

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 having those executives buy into your idea, you’ll have to do more than simply 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 Bill Gates can be persuaded by hundreds of pages of cold, hard data doesn’t mean the same approach will work with Richard Branson.

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

Many executives have a dominant behavior profile that can be very hard to understand and influence. Here are some important 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’ve dissected every data point and counter-argument regarding your proposal. Still, others are only concerned about how your idea will make them look in front of the Board of Directors.

Before you pitch an idea to your boss, find out what his or her motivations are more than anything else. If your boss is risk-averse, emphasize the reasons your idea isn’t as risky as it looks. If your boss likes to keep meetings short and direct, present the most important information as quickly and concisely as possible. If your boss is combative and doesn’t like to be contradicted, be as thorough and credible as you can 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 on the day you’ll pitch your idea to your boss or get them to sign a written document proving that they support your effort. You may have to do more than a little arm-twisting, however, so 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, in fact, 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 I be persuaded by this?”

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

Dave Schoenbeck
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