The purpose of a business presentation — any type of business presentation — is to win buy-in for an idea. You don’t simply present information for its own sake. You want people to do something: to give you their feedback; to implement your proposal or to allow you to implement it; to give you the money, time, or personnel to continue your project; to hire you or to buy your product or service; to contribute their own efforts or expertise.
So, in effect, every business presentation is also a sales presentation. There may not be an exchange of money for goods or services, but there is still an exchange: you give something and they give something in return.
5 Tips for Winning Buy-In for an Idea
- Be a credible advocate.
Your idea will not and cannot speak for itself. It needs you to present and represent it. If you’re not willing to back your idea up with your time and effort and, more importantly, with your reputation, it stands no chance of being adopted or implemented. It is only as credible as you are, and conversely you are only as credible as your idea is. Be fair and honest and aboveboard, but don’t pretend or try to be impartial or objective.
- Build alliances.
The best ideas don’t always win on their merit. (You know that already, don’t you?) Sometimes, good ideas get shot down and inferior ideas get the thumbs up because of office politics, turf warfare, or interpersonal grudges. So be savvy. Before you even schedule a presentation figure out whose support you need and how best to secure it. And develop a strategy for winning over or, at least, disarming those who might oppose your proposal.
- See it from their perspective.
Of course, you have a personal stake in your presentation. (If you don’t want something from the people you’re presenting to, why are wasting your time and theirs?) But the only way you will get what you want from them is by showing them how they will get what they want. So show them how your idea will help them solve a problem or achieve a goal that matters to them. This presumes, of course, that you know them well enough to understand their agendas.
- Follow up.
Selling an idea doesn’t begin and end with a presentation. You do much of your work beforehand: doing your research, building alliances, creating and rehearsing your presentation. And you do a lot of work afterward: strengthening commitments, answering objections, and (sometimes) gaining final approval.
Whether you win or lose, you owe it to yourself (and your team if you worked with one) to learn from your effort by performing an after-action review. Were there any surprises? What worked well? Why? What didn’t work? Why not? What would you do differently next time?
Selling an idea isn’t the same thing as selling a product of service, although it’s similar. It’s really about helping people understand what you’re proposing and how it will benefit them or their organization. In some ways it’s easy. It doesn’t involve twisting arms or selling your soul. But in some ways it’s hard. It does require you to figure out what you want people to do and why they would want to do it.