Don’t Run it Up the Flagpole to See Who Salutes

Machiavelli said, the leader who wants to make a change in the social order has the most difficult task of all. Those whose privileged positions will be eliminated come at the leader with spears sharpened. Those who will benefit from the new order wait quietly to see what happens. If you broadcast your idea in the early stages you will incite all your potential enemies while doing little to attract supporters.

Instead, speak first to your logical supporters one-on-one.

Get them on board. Let them advise you on how to make your idea more attractive and less scary to the next most-friendly level of potential allies. Keep going in one-on-one conversations, asking for advice, then asking for a little help, getting people on your side. Finally go to the people who have reason to resist the idea with the help of your friends. Listen with the intent of hearing whatever they say as an effort to help. Research their objections and thank them for the guidance.

Next Week

Next Monday’s post: The Risk of Not Doing It.”

Posts in this Series:

How to Sell Your Ideas

Express Gratitude

Avoid Triggering the Organizational Immune System

It’s Only a Test

Framing Ideas so they Get Support

Restarting the Clock

 

Gifford Pinchot III is an American entrepreneur, author, inventor, and President of Pinchot & Company. Gifford is credited with inventing the concept of and word “intrapreneur” in a paper that he and his wife, Elizabeth Pinchot, wrote in 1978 titled Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship. His first book, Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur (1985) presented an expansion of the intrapreneurship concept.
The Risk of Not Doing It

The reason for not doing an innovation is often the perceived risk of doing it. Somehow the large potential upside of a proposition does not weigh as heavily as the smaller potential downside.

You can see this in yourself.

Suppose you were offered a bet on an honest coin flip: You get $1 million dollars if it comes up heads, but have to pay $900,000 if it’s tails. I wouldn’t take the bet because winning a million dollars would not be nearly as good as losing $900,000 would be bad. For any given amount, losing it is worse than winning it.

For a manager, being known as the one who backed a major winner is not as good for their career as being known as the one who backed a significant loser is bad. This creates a built in headwind for all innovative ideas.

How can we handle this issue?

If you can make the risk of not doing it seem larger than the risk of doing it, which is often the case with disruptive innovations, then risk aversion is on your side. A new innovation that will disrupt the existing business can often be funded with an amount that does not challenge the survival of the business, while letting a competitor implement the disruptive innovation first may be the end of that business.

Making the argument that the risk of not doing it is greater than the risk of doing it is difficult because it does say, “This idea will radically change the business.” Denial is one easy answer, but not a good one. Now that we are in an age of frequent disruption, these arguments are getting easier to make.

As one wise executive put it: “I would rather eat my own lunch than have someone else eat it for me.”

Next Week

Next Monday’s post: “Handling Objections

Posts in this Series:

How to Sell Your Ideas

Express Gratitude

Avoid Triggering the Organizational Immune System

It’s Only a Test

Framing Ideas so they Get Support

Restarting the Clock

Don’t Run it up the Flagpole to See Who Salutes

 

Gifford Pinchot III is an American entrepreneur, author, inventor, and President of Pinchot & Company. Gifford is credited with inventing the concept of and word “intrapreneur” in a paper that he and his wife, Elizabeth Pinchot, wrote in 1978 titled Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship. His first book, Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur (1985) presented an expansion of the intrapreneurship concept.
Handling Objections

When you begin making the argument for an innovation you will find, as you do in almost any sales situation, that the prospect offers objections to your idea.

How do you handle this?

The first step is an attitude: If your prospect is raising objections to your idea it means that they are interested in your idea. The worst thing would be that they offer no objections because they are not even interested.

Get interested yourself. You have a conversation going. Treat objections as good news. Delve into them. Be genuinely curious, listening to understand, not to gather information to refute them. Point out that the objections are good questions.

Here are some questions you can ask to uncover what the prospect is thinking:

  • How do they do it today?
  • What are the problems?
  • How do they imagine the problem could be solved?
  • What has been tried before?
  • How do they feel about…?
  • Who is involved in the decision process?
  • Who are the key competitors and how are they seen?
  • Ask yourself what do I need to know to raise my certainty that we can make this sale? Don’t be self-serving in your questions. Be really curious.

Then, after really hearing deeply, show the reasons why those objections are not a reason for not buying your product or your idea. “Yes,” you might say, “We ran into those objections ourselves. And here is how our offering handles them. Or here is what other users do about that.”

If you can, look behind the objections.

What is the prospect actually afraid of that they are not saying?

It will be something very basic to human nature that a teenager could understand. It could be being disgraced if it does not work. It could be annoying some powerful person. In your answers to the objections, without accusing the prospect of having that concern, address the underlying concern as well as the question on the surface. It could be a story about another unnamed customer. This requires some intuition and tact, but particularly if you get a long string of objections it may be the way to proceed.

Often the problem is that the way the customer perceives the problem you are addressing is different than the way you do. You can figure out how what you are selling fits with their concept of the problem, or if it does not, you will have to get them to see the problem the way you do.

Next Week

Next Monday’s post: “The Complex Sale

Posts in this Series:

How to Sell Your Ideas

Express Gratitude

Avoid Triggering the Organizational Immune System

It’s Only a Test

Framing Ideas so they Get Support

Restarting the Clock

Don’t Run it up the Flagpole to See Who Salutes

The Risk of Not Doing It

 

Gifford Pinchot III is an American entrepreneur, author, inventor, and President of Pinchot & Company. Gifford is credited with inventing the concept of and word “intrapreneur” in a paper that he and his wife, Elizabeth Pinchot, wrote in 1978 titled Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship. His first book, Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur (1985) presented an expansion of the intrapreneurship concept.
The Complex Sale

In most significant innovations, one person cannot say yes by themselves. Not only do many staff groups and functions have a veto, but the big decision makers rely on advisors who can kill a deal even they have no authority of their own. Some of the people who need to be onboard include:

The Economic Buyer

  • Who pays the bill and/or gives final approval

The User Influencer

  • Who will supervise or use what you are selling
  • Who will judge the impact on their area
  • Who will let the economic buyer know whether they approve

The Technical Influencer who might be in:

  • Technology
  • Legal
  • Purchasing
  • HR, etc.
  • Those kind of people often have veto power

The Coach or Sponsor

  • Who guides you in finding and converting other influencers
  • Trusts you
  • Is credible
  • Wants your solution

*Adapted from The New Strategic Selling by Heiman and Sancheziut

The technology advisor to the economic buyer often has particularly interesting criterion. It is in their interest to be seen as ahead of the curve in understanding the new things coming down the pike. Therefore you serve their interests by working with them early on before many others have heard about your solution.

Paradoxically this means, for example, that they will appreciate seeing any new computer applications while they are still full of bugs, because that means they are seeing it before it becomes generally known. You are showing them respect by sharing with them before you would let others see your prototype. Doing so also means they have a chance to give you advice that will make the idea better.

Next Week

Next Monday’s post: We begin a series of influence techniques identified by Robert Cialdini. The first is “Public Declaration.”

Posts in this Series:

How to Sell Your Ideas

Express Gratitude

Avoid Triggering the Organizational Immune System

It’s Only a Test

Framing Ideas so they Get Support

Restarting the Clock

Don’t Run it up the Flagpole to See Who Salutes

The Risk of Not Doing It

Handling Objections

 

Gifford Pinchot III is an American entrepreneur, author, inventor, and President of Pinchot & Company. Gifford is credited with inventing the concept of and word “intrapreneur” in a paper that he and his wife, Elizabeth Pinchot, wrote in 1978 titled Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship. His first book, Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur (1985) presented an expansion of the intrapreneurship concept.
Public Declaration

In the first post in this overall series of blogs on “How to Sell Your Ideas,” I spoke about the human tendency to reduce cognitive dissonance by changing one’s beliefs to make everything fit together neatly. Robert Cialdini’s tool of public declaration is another example of this principle. If you can get someone to say something publicly, they will later tend to believe it.

Here is how this can work for you.

If you can get an important person to speak favorably about your project in public, they are far more likely to support it in the future. During the Clinton administration, when Pinchot & Company was working on reinventing the Forest Service, we got to a connection to Al Gore’s speechwriter — much easier than getting to talk to Al Gore. By getting the speechwriter to write an appreciation of our project into a Gore speech, he became more likely to support us, which was quite helpful later.

Working with influential people in preparation for a meeting in which the plusses and minuses of your idea will be discussed can have two kinds of impact:

  1. If they speak out in support of your idea they may sway others.
  2. Having supported your idea in a controversy, they are much more likely to support it in the future

Find ways to get people to stand up for your idea publicly.

Next Week

Next Monday’s post: “Social Proof

Posts in this Series:

How to Sell Your Ideas

Express Gratitude

Avoid Triggering the Organizational Immune System

It’s Only a Test

Framing Ideas so they Get Support

Restarting the Clock

Don’t Run it up the Flagpole to See Who Salutes

The Risk of Not Doing It

Handling Objections

The Complex Sale

 

Gifford Pinchot III is an American entrepreneur, author, inventor, and President of Pinchot & Company. Gifford is credited with inventing the concept of and word “intrapreneur” in a paper that he and his wife, Elizabeth Pinchot, wrote in 1978 titled Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship. His first book, Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur (1985) presented an expansion of the intrapreneurship concept.
Social Proof

Most people feel more comfortable adopting something if others are already doing it as well. This is social proof that it is a good idea. This bias to what others are already doing can cause a problem for new ideas.

The work around for this is to discover things that are somewhat like what you are doing. Then in the way you describe them and your offering, narrow the difference between them and you.

If you have the value system of most creative people, this making your idea seem less new and different hurts you. You want to say how incredibly original the idea you have come up with is. That makes you feel creatively fulfilled, but it is very bad strategy for gaining acceptance. Instead you say my idea is quite like this and this, except that we have taken something that works and made it better.

When I first came up with the ideas behind intrapreneuring I did not imagine that anyone was doing anything like it. I had suffered a business failure and needed a job. I just invented the rules, processes and conditions that I thought would make an intrapreneur like me happy inside a major company and figured out why it was in the best interest of the company to provide those rules and supports to their intrapreneurs. Free from the constraints of reality, I was able to flesh out what I thought would be the ideal scene.

Then came writing the book and selling the idea to real decision makers in major corporations. I spent several years studying real innovations looking for practices that implemented something like the principles I had imagined. It turned out that in many cases, while they were not formally in place as official principles, good managers had informally created the environments for the intrapreneurs who succeeded that closely resembled the principles, rules and procedures I imagined. The rights of the intrapreneur I imagined were not in place, but the effect of those rights was simulated by the trust between sponsors and intrapreneurs. So in the book, I described what people were doing and then named the principles behind them. I did not claim to have invented anything; I just claimed to have observed how effective corporate innovation actually works.

By describing intrapreneuring not as something I had invented, but something that I had observed, social proof kicked in. If this was how the winners were already doing it, then others wanted to on board. Intrapreneuring took off.

I was lucky that the principles I was looking for turn out in practice to be necessary to empower intrapreneurs and necessary to get cost effective innovation inside large firms. So far it appears there is not other way to do it. And I learned many tricks on how to make it work despite the lack of formal rules supporting intrapreneuring.

Once we installed the formal rules that intrapreneurs really need. And wow did it work. I long for another client with the courage to truly empower their intrapreneurs.

Find out what is like what you are proposing.

Study what makes it work in practice.

Explain your idea as an extension of what is already working.

Your idea will be far more acceptable, and, as a result of building off what has already been tested, it will be more practical as well.

Posts in this Series:

How to Sell Your Ideas

Express Gratitude

Avoid Triggering the Organizational Immune System

It’s Only a Test

Framing Ideas so they Get Support

Restarting the Clock

Don’t Run it up the Flagpole to See Who Salutes

The Risk of Not Doing It

Handling Objections

The Complex Sale 

Public Declaration

 

Gifford Pinchot III is an American entrepreneur, author, inventor, and President of Pinchot & Company. Gifford is credited with inventing the concept of and word “intrapreneur” in a paper that he and his wife, Elizabeth Pinchot, wrote in 1978 titled Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship. His first book, Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur (1985) presented an expansion of the intrapreneurship concept.

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