How to Sell People on Really Big Ideas

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I was recently talking to someone about his plans to launch a new concept focused around data analytics in the B2B space. He walked me through his models, his research, and all the great ideas he had around where he wanted to go.

I felt like he wasn’t going to be successful though, because he told it to me with his head down through most of the meeting in a monotone voice. He didn’t have the kind of jump-out-of-my seat enthusiasm, or passion behind his idea that made me say “Wow, this really is something different.” And sadly, when it comes to breaking people out of their patterns, passion matters more than ability.

Investors may say it’s all about the numbers, and that’s true, it’s table stakes. However, if an investor doesn’t think you can sell the product, or yourself, then getting the cash is going to be a long shot.

If you’ve ever been sold to, or sold something, you understand what I mean. The person that comes in with enthusiasm, whether it’s a TED talk or a sales pitch, will often time surpass people with more knowledge and abilities. If you’re telling me something is amazing, I want to feel like you’re amazed by it yourself. If you’re telling me something is revolutionary, I expect you’ll show that in your body language.

A failure to connect with your audience is often a question of your emotional state, of how you interact or don’t interact, and how much enthusiasm you’re able to communicate that gets other people to embrace that level of excitement as well.

Here are some tips then, on how to work on surfacing passion when it comes to launching something new and innovative–no matter how much of an introvert or extravert you are.

1. Develop questions, not lecture notes.

When it comes to one-on-one conversations on a concept no one in the room has heard before, don’t go in with a 50 slide PowerPoint deck. Instead, focus on preparing good questions ahead of time about their pain points and things that matter to them. If you have a stronger context around who you’re talking to, you’ll be able to adapt the pitch around the audience.

2. Don’t talk about the product / solution, talk about the problem you’re solving.

Anyone, from an investor to an executive to the person selling flowers on the corner, would give you a dollar if they knew they’d get two dollars back. Though there’s no such thing as a sure bet, it takes trust and confidence to get people to part with time or money. The only way you make that connection, is helping them see how they make two dollars by spending less, or making the money by helping them generate more. Assume they know more about their business than you do, and focus on solving the pain points that are in their way to save or generate revenue. If your product does neither of those things, you’re probably pitching the wrong person.

3. Numbers matter, but save it for the ask.

If you’re pitching investors, numbers are king. If you’re selling an executive on the benefits of your platform, you’re going to have to quantify that in some way. Passion does matter most, but it’s a non-starter if you don’t have numbers to back up what you’re saying.

4. Practice, practice, practice.

Passion often comes through when we are feeling our most confident. To get there, practice how it’s going to go. Get your questions down, your talking points committed to memory, and recite whatever good luck quotes, prayers, or mantras to feel relaxed enough to pivot in the moment.

If you do these things, you’ll not only connect with your audience more effectively but also feel better coming out of the meeting 9 times out of 10, which is a great feeling in and of itself.