How to Sell Your Idea to Senior Management

Business Ideas_Featured on have an idea you know will work, but how do you convince other people in your organization to get on board? Getting buy-in from key stakeholders can often be challenging, even if your idea has clear benefits. In an experiment highlighted in the Harvard Business Review, managers were more likely to discard the very same ideas that made customers excited.

Innovative ideas can seem unfeasible at first, especially if they entail large-scale changes that will alter the status quo. But by doing your homework and gathering the right evidence to support your thesis, you can make a much more persuasive case and increase your chances of being heard. Using third-party analysis and industry data is essential to making a rational, defensible argument — and that’s where market research can help take your pitch to the next level.

According to Bryan Mattimore, author of Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs, market research “can create enthusiasm and commitment from senior management to support internally and ultimately launch high-potential concepts.” Providing an objective, outside perspective can help mitigate perceived risks and shift the odds in your favor.

Even with the relevant research to back up your idea, it’s important to have a thoughtful, strategic approach when suggesting possible changes. Keep these guidelines in mind when putting together your pitch.

Customize Your Message and Approach

Understand your organization’s goals, who the main decision makers are, and what they care about. Be sensitive to any deadlines that may be involved (such as with a new product launch), and find the right moment to offer your ideas. If a topic is trending, you might be in a good position to benefit from added momentum.

While office norms differ, it is often helpful to run your ideas by people through casual conversations to test the waters initially, and then ramp up to give formal presentations to key stakeholders when the time is right, according to recent research. Tap your network and find people who will advocate for your idea along with you.

Describe Your Idea in Clear, Simple Terms

When presenting your idea, simplicity is the key. According to David Burkus, author of the forthcoming book Under New Management, “If you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny. In the same way, if you have to spend significant time explaining how your idea will work, it’s never going to win people over.”

One way to cut through the confusion is to use an analogy. Compare your idea to a known quantity, stating “It’s the X for Y” — such as it’s “the Flickr for video” or “the Wikpedia for lawyers.” This is why comparing startups to Uber is so ubiquitous these days; it gets people’s attention by linking an untested concept to a successful, recognizable model.

In addition to using an analogy, think of ways to connect your idea to existing strategies within your company to help reduce the amount of resistance you may encounter. How can your idea be framed as a natural extension of what your company is already doing well? If your idea makes sense within the context of current management priorities, it could get fast tracked, rather than being rejected altogether.

Demonstrate the Relative Advantage

Next, show how your idea is better than the existing standard. Use examples from similar companies to support your concept, and consider bringing in outside experts to strengthen your case. Off-the-shelf market research reports can help corroborate your findings and show you where you might need to investigate further in the future.

When speaking to different stakeholders, emphasize the key business benefits, and frame your idea as an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Stay solution oriented and create a sense of optimism — empowering others to feel a sense of control over the situation can also help you get buy-in.

Be sure to highlight only the most important points during your presentation. David Santee, the president of True North Market Insights, has experience working with senior executives from a variety of Fortune 500 companies. “Make sure the insights are pithy and to the point,” he says on his blog. In discussions that follow your pitch, be prepared to defend your point of view and anticipate where people might disagree with you. “It is this discussion where your knowledge and understanding can shine,” Santee adds.

Identify a Possible Pilot Project

Ideas that can be tried on a small scale are often more likely to be adopted. If your idea requires a huge upfront investment and significant effort and coordination among different teams, people may be less open to the risks involved.

See if you can test your idea first through a pilot project. In some cases, a custom market research project can also provide the evidence you need to determine if the risks and costs are worthwhile. Find ways to experiment with your idea on a smaller scale before committing to wholesale changes.

Where to Learn More

Download's free eBook "How to Succeed Using Market Research" to learn practical strategies that will help you navigate the market research process from start to finish. With the right data in hand and a strategic approach, you will be better prepared to make a compelling pitch for your new idea.

How to Succeed Using Market Research eBook from

Sarah Schmidt
Managing Editor

Topics: Market Research Strategy How To's