Do You Suck at Selling Your Ideas?

IdeaSellingBack in 2002, vacuum-cleaner firms were battling to sell machines for under $100 at big-box retailers. Englishman James Dyson entered the US market with the Dyson DC07, selling for $399.

Within a few years, Dyson was the market leader in sales volume, according to a recent article in The New Yorker. And today the company owns almost 25 percent of the vacuum-cleaner market.

How did Dyson do it? In addition to being a creative engineer, James Dyson knows something about selling ideas. Here are three takeaways from his sales success that you can apply when selling your next idea:

1. Tell a Personal Story.
Over and over again, Dyson told the story of cleaning his house and noticing how the vacuum cleaner quickly lost suction. Tearing the vacuum’s bag open, he found the filter clogged with dust and grime.

Realizing this clogged filter constricted airflow and reduced suction, Dyson soon began building prototypes of a vacuum that used centrifugal force instead of a bag to separate dirt from air. Because his machine was bagless, Dyson explained, it never loses suction.

What personal story can you use to introduce your next idea? Telling a compelling, concise episode about the birth of your idea can be a strong start — but only if, like Dyson’s story, it quickly identifies the problem and moves swiftly to a solution.

2. Create Emotional Experiences for Decision Makers.
Best Buy became the first national retailer to offer the DC07 after David Kielly, the chain’s merchandising manager, experienced the product. Kielly used the vacuum at home and became obsessed with watching the clear-plastic air bin fill with dirt and hair. He knew customers would have the same reaction and be willing to pay a higher price for this emotional experience.

Does your idea provide an emotional experience? If so, make sure decision makers share this experience. If the idea lacks an obvious visceral tug, think of ways to add elements of appropriate emotion during your presentation.

3. See What’s Behind Rejections.
When Dyson first developed his vacuum, he showed the idea to Electrolux executives. They immediately told him he would never be able to sell a vacuum cleaner without a bag.

But traditional vacuum-cleaner manufacturers were biased because bags are big business. They provide additional revenues, plus salespeople get another shot at customers returning to the vacuum-cleaner store for additional bags. Dyson disregarded Electrolux’s feedback and searched out other channels.

Are you accepting rejections at face value? Take time to analyze objections and study motives of decision makers. If rejections are valid, make changes to your idea. But if they arise from overblown egos or turf-protectors, see how you can work around such barriers.


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