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How to Sell ANY Idea in 7 Effective Steps

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Selling is one of the hardest and most important skills a professional can have. Luckily, there are some helpful science-backed tips that can help you sell any idea. In this post, I’m going to show you how to sell your product or service in 8 effective steps (and go over what not to do).

Vitamin vs. Painkiller

Here is the first concept you need to know. The difference between a vitamin and a painkiller. 

Vitamins are ideas or solutions that offer long-term benefits and are considered “nice to have” rather than urgent. They are preventive in nature, providing ongoing value and enhancing overall well-being.

However, vitamins can be challenging to prioritize and act upon because they often lack a sense of urgency or immediate need. People may acknowledge the importance of vitamins, but they struggle to find the motivation or energy to fully embrace them.

It’s like taking a daily vitamin supplement—we know it’s good for us, but it can be difficult to consistently incorporate it into our routines.

On the other hand, painkillers are ideas or solutions that address immediate pain points or urgent problems. They provide relief, solve acute challenges, and offer tangible benefits that people actively seek out.

Painkillers grab attention because they provide quick solutions to pressing needs, just like reaching for pain medication when experiencing a headache. Painkillers have a sense of urgency attached to them, making people more motivated and receptive to taking action.

To make your ideas more persuasive, strive to position them as painkillers rather than vitamins. 

Create a Persona

How well do you know the person or organization you’re selling to? An HBR study found 2 key factors to better selling: empathy and ego drive. Empathy is how well you can relate to someone, and ego drive is how much you want to succeed. Let’s cover empathy first in actionable tips.

If you don’t know the person, ask yourself:

  • What is their name?
  • How old are they?
  • What is their personality like?
  • What are their goals and challenges?

If you don’t have someone specific in mind, it might be helpful to create a persona. For example, your ideal customer might be someone like this:

  • Name: Sarah
  • Age: 35
  • Profession: Sales Professional
  • Characteristics: Tech-savvy, driven, detail-oriented
  • Goals: Optimize business processes, boost efficiency and productivity
  • Software Preferences: User-friendly, scalable, CRM integration
  • Challenges: Finding a software solution that meets specific needs
  • Value: Personalized support, thorough documentation, responsive customer service

Next, ask yourself these 2 important questions:

  1. What needs does he/she have that can be fulfilled by your product or service?
  2. How will making a purchase help them achieve their goals and concerns in life?

Once you have a clear picture of the person, you can start thinking about how to market your product or service to them. Ask yourself: How do they like to be communicated with (email? text message? social media post)? When is the best time for them to receive information from me? Is there anything specific that would make them want to hear from me (news about a new product or service, upcoming sale)?

Know Thy Competition (and how to stand out!)

It’s important to know the market, competition, and customer before you even start thinking about how to sell an idea. You want to be able to make a strong argument for why your product is better than the others on the market—and, most importantly, you want to internalize why your product or service is GREAT and worth selling in the first place.

For example, let’s say you’re selling a brand new fizzy drink on the likes of Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola.

It’s time to showcase why your own soda is the true titan of the soda realm. Highlight the key differentiators that make it stand out from both Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola:

  • Is it a fusion of exotic fruits that tantalizes taste buds like never before?
  • Does it boast a healthier, all-natural formula that caters to modern preferences?
  • Or perhaps it offers an innovative packaging design that enhances convenience and sustainability?

Delve into the unique attributes of your imaginary soda, emphasizing its superior qualities and unrivaled value proposition. Whether it’s a secret ingredient, a revolutionary flavor combination, or a refreshing twist on tradition, let your readers envision a soda experience that surpasses their wildest expectations.

Remember, the goal is not to belittle the competition but to position your idea as the pinnacle of innovation and customer satisfaction. By knowing your competition inside out, you can effectively communicate how your imaginary soda rises above the rest, enticing consumers with a beverage that offers a truly exceptional and unforgettable experience.

Explain Like They’re Five

A review of the language used by 19 presidential candidates found that simpler language resonates with voters—not complex language.

So if you’re trying to get your product heard, use easier-to-understand language.

For example, check out this technical description of a mindfulness app versus a more simple one:

  • Technical Explanation: Our mindfulness app leverages a sophisticated blend of neurofeedback algorithms, biofeedback sensors, and guided meditation techniques to help users achieve a state of deep relaxation and mental clarity. Through real-time brainwave analysis and heart rate variability monitoring, the app provides personalized feedback on users’ physiological responses, enabling them to optimize their mindfulness practice for enhanced stress reduction, focus, and emotional well-being. The app’s comprehensive library of guided meditations caters to different goals and experience levels, ensuring a tailored mindfulness journey for each user.
  • Simplified Explanation: Imagine having a pocket-sized zen master guiding you towards inner peace and a calmer mind. Our mindfulness app does just that! With its soothing meditations and personalized feedback, it helps you reduce stress, improve focus, and find balance in your busy life. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced practitioner, our app is like a trusted friend, supporting you on your mindfulness journey. Say hello to a calmer you with our incredible mindfulness app!

Action Step: Try simplifying your technical description with an app like Explain Like I’m Five. This’ll help you get your ideas heard with less cognitive load.

Leverage Social Proof

When it comes to selling ideas, understanding the principles of persuasion can make all the difference. One fascinating fact that can significantly enhance your persuasive abilities is the concept of social proof. Backed by research from esteemed psychology expert Robert Cialdini, social proof has proven to be a powerful tool in the art of persuasion. By utilizing testimonials and storytelling, you can capture your audience and increase the likelihood of idea adoption.

Let’s see how to do just that:

  • Testimonials: Collecting testimonials is a powerful way to build credibility and persuade others to embrace your idea. Reach out to satisfied customers and request their feedback and endorsement. Look for influential figures in your industry who can provide testimonials, either through written statements or video testimonials. For example, check out how we leverage testimonials over on our People School landing page. And if you want to check out more…
pointing in photos

Master Your People Skills

  • Create a Memorable Presence
  • Communicate with Confidence
  • Achieve Your Goals

Have a question about the presentation or People School? Email Science of People support.

  • Storytelling with feeling: Craft compelling stories that highlight the real-life experiences of individuals or organizations who have successfully embraced your idea. For instance, if you’re selling a financial planning service, share a story about how your idea helped a family achieve their financial goals and secure their future. Use vivid details, specific challenges, and measurable outcomes to make the story relatable and impactful. 

Pro Tip: While social proof is great, we always value honesty above all else. It’s not a good idea to fabricate your social proof—instead, if you’re just starting out, incorporate social proof when you’ve first gained enough credibility.

Offer a Trial or Pilot Program

Imagine giving someone a taste of your idea without them having to commit to the full experience right away. Offering a trial or pilot program is like inviting them to dip their toes into the pool before taking a refreshing dive. By providing interested parties with a limited-time opportunity to test your idea’s benefits, you mitigate the perceived risk associated with adoption. 

For example, companies like Hulu and Planet Fitness might offer free trials so the user can test them out before committing.

This approach builds trust and confidence as they witness the value firsthand. Just like how a sample at an ice cream shop can make you a loyal customer, a trial program can turn skeptics into enthusiastic supporters!

Provide a Visual Prototype

Sometimes, words alone are not enough to convey the brilliance of your idea. That’s where a visual prototype comes to the rescue.

Imagine having a sneak peek into the future by creating a visual representation or prototype of your idea. Whether it’s a captivating mock-up, an engaging demo video, or an interactive presentation, a visual prototype makes your idea tangible and captivating.

Even the biggest companies like Apple do this:

Steve Jobs conference

Action Step: Take it up a notch visually. Use a tool like Canva to design your prototype, or create a simple presentation to present your idea.

How to Sell an Idea FAQs

How can I sell my idea for money?

Selling your ideas for money is the process of getting paid for your creativity. This can be done in person, via email, and on the phone. There are many different ways to do this, but try to start with a good pitch. You should be able to explain what you’re selling in one sentence or less—the shorter, the better!
Think about how you would describe it if someone asked what it was over coffee (or whatever). You should also have an elevator pitch ready; this is like a longer version of that first sentence, which gets into more detail about what exactly your product does and why people might want it in their lives/businesses/etc.

How do I sell my ideas to others?

You can sell your ideas to others using many different ways. You can clearly articulate the value of your idea by explaining how it solves a problem, improves efficiency, or creates opportunities, all the while using simple language so people can easily understand. You can also tailor your message to resonate with your audience by understanding their perspective, needs, and motivations. Customize your pitch to address their specific concerns and demonstrate how your idea aligns with their goals. Lastly, you can build a strong case by providing compelling evidence and facts using visual data. Use data, research, or case studies to validate the feasibility and potential success of your idea.

Can I get paid for my ideas?

The short answer is yes, you can get paid for your ideas. The long answer is that some ideas are worth more than others, and there are several ways to capitalize on them. Here are some examples:
You can sell your idea as a product or service directly to a company that wants it. This might be in the form of an invention or artwork you created, software code written by yourself or a team at work/school/university, etc., or even just working as an employee for someone else who needs help with their business plan (or something else).
If the idea isn’t exactly ready yet but seems like it has potential, then maybe try pitching it first before actually creating anything—this way, the person would pay less but still benefits from having access to whatever knowledge they need before investing any money into development costs, etc.

Sealing the Deal

Keep these ideas in mind when selling your own idea:

  • Offer a Trial or Pilot Program: Provide a limited-time opportunity for potential customers to experience your idea firsthand, building trust and providing real-world evidence of its value.
  • Showcase Data and Metrics: Support your idea with relevant data, metrics, and case studies to demonstrate its tangible impact and return on investment.
  • Provide a Visual Prototype: Create a visual representation or prototype of your idea to help stakeholders better understand and engage with it.
  • Create a Persona: Develop a detailed profile of your target audience to tailor your marketing efforts and effectively resonate with them.
  • Know Thy Competition: Research competitors, identify key differentiators, and communicate how your idea surpasses the competition.
  • Explain Like They’re Five: Use simple language to explain your idea, avoiding complex jargon or technical terms.
  • Leverage Social Proof: Utilize testimonials and storytelling to build credibility and persuade others to embrace your idea.

Now that you’re ready let’s check out some more great selling tips—by none other than Mark Cuban himself: Learn How to Sell from Mark Cuban’s INCREDIBLE Sales Pitch

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