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The 3 secrets to successfully selling your business idea

Having ‘that’ amazing business idea is exciting and we often expect others to feel the same enthusiasm for it. Which is a mistake. Instead we need to plan for people having little or no passion for our idea, imagine that our ‘revolutionary idea’ is the hundredth or thousandth ‘revolutionary idea’ they have seen and think that they will be looking for reasons not to buy, rather than reasons to buy in.

In other words we need to plan for failure. If we build our sales pitch with failure in mind we are far more likely to be able to navigate tough questions, make sure our idea stands out and importantly make it both easy and safe to buy.

The problem with a great deal of idea pitches is that we spend most of our time imagining success and not planning for rejection. Which means we fail to think Selfish, Scared and Stupid. Thinking Selfish, Scared and Stupid is about seeing things from the buyers point of view, understanding the fear associated with something new and making our idea stupidly easy to understand and buy.

  1. Think Selfish

Thinking Selfish is about focussing less on what you stand to gain from selling your idea and thinking more about what others stand to get. There are a couple of ways we can do this.

Know who it is you are really selling.

There is the end user of the product and then there is the person buying your idea and they are not always the same person. It is vital you understand the difference and then determine what they are truly purchasing, which brings us to our next point.

Know what it is they are truly buying.

This is about knowing what you are truly selling (hint, it isn’t your product or service, it is bigger than that). When cake mix was first invented it was not the overnight success we imagine. Women (by the way we are not stereotyping, it is just women did all the baking back then), rejected the mix because they did not feel part of the process. So the companies reformulated the mix and did something laughably simple, they removed the hydrolysed egg which meant women had to add a fresh egg to it. Which worked, almost no one scratch bakes anymore (unless they are on MasterChef). The thing is they weren’t selling cakes, they were selling care. Making a cake is an act of care, that was the critical ingredient. So think hard about what it is you are really selling and they are truly buying.

  1. Think Scared

To our survival brain ‘new’ in the environment means high alert until we determine whether or not it is a threat. The same is true for new ideas, unconsciously they make us anxious. So we need to make the new more familiar.

Link it to the known

No one wants to buy an unknown quantity. We want to buy into something that we believe will succeed. Which means buying into an idea that is like something else that really worked, but is still different enough to not be the same. Good metaphors are an extremely powerful tool to help with this. It is like mail only it is instant (because it is electronic), ie. email is far easier to buy than a revolutionary, unbelievable, never seen before, technological breakthrough in human communication.

  1. Think Stupid

Keep it simple.

If we want people to buy our idea it needs to be simple to understand. There are a couple of tests you can do to ensure it is simple enough.

Can it fit on a Post-it-Note? 

This is one of our favourite ways to ensure we have distilled something into an idea we can sell. People don’t buy complicated ideas they buy simple, easy to remember ones. (Detail is important, but it is just the proof it can work). It is easy to buy the idea of ‘A library that fits in your hand’.

The Six Year Old Test. 

Taking this test is simple, find  a young child around six years of age (if you don’t ‘own’ the child make sure you gain their parents’ permission otherwise thinks could go awry) and try and explain your idea to them. If they do not understand it then you have failed and need to simplify more.

Finally you need to think through all the reasons someone wouldn’t buy and try and eliminate them. Don’t kid yourself that they won’t notice because chances are they will.

Selling an idea is really about making an idea buyable by ensuring there is a reason for me to buy, I’m not afraid to buy and I can explain to someone else what it is I’m buying. If you can make your idea this buyable then you can definitely sell it.


About the Authors:

Dan Gregory: A behavioural researcher and strategist, as well as an author, educator, international speaker and social commentator, Dan Gregory specialises in behaviours and belief systems – what drives, motivates and influences us.  One of the most respected voices in the industry, Dan is a regular on ABC’s Gruen Planet and has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world: Coca-Cola, Unilever, Vodafone, MTV and News Ltd.

Kieran Flanagan: A behavioural researcher and strategist, author, educator and corporate coach, Kieran Flanagan is one of the only female Creative Directors in the world of MadMen and has won awards around the world for creativity and effectiveness. Kieran is a TEDx Sydney partner and speaks to audiences including the UN in Singapore and Coca-Cola. She is a passionate advocate for the commercial power of creativity and a return to more human engagement, cultures and leadership.

– Published by WILEY, Dan and Kieran’s new book Selfish, Scared & Stupid is available in paperback RRP $25.95 from www.selfishscaredandstupid.com.  

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