Fuel INjected In-house: Listen For When The Fat Lady Sings

Once You’ve Sold an Idea, Don’t Buy It Back.

by Sam Harrison

I once worked with an in-house designer who was great at pitching ideas. Mike was smart, articulate and passionate. But the poor guy didn’t know when to sit down.

Decision makers could whistle, cheer and wave signed approvals in his face, but Mike wouldn’t let that stop him. He kept right on talking – and the more he talked, the more those decision makers began to reconsider. Pretty soon, they’re asking more questions, raising more objections. And more than once, Mike walked out empty-handed.

After several painful we-had-‘em, then-lost-‘em episodes, Mike learned to quit when ahead. He grasped the notion of leaving the audience begging for more rather than begging for mercy.

“When you’ve sold the idea, stop,” says Don McNeill, president of Digital Kitchen. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard creative people go on and on. And eventually the process starts all over again.”

Instead, try these three steps:

1. Wrap up.

When you’ve finished your pitch, summarize. Move into options and next steps.

2. Ask up.

Assume the sale by asking a question, such as “What do you see as the next step?”

3. Listen up.

Be quiet and wait for the decision maker to speak. Stay silent and listen. Maybe you’ll get the go-ahead. Or maybe you’ll hear that one main objection or obstacle you must deal with to gain the decision maker’s approval.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was recently released by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.