How to Sell Your Ideas to Others

If you want people to do something, you have to sell your ideas to them. Whether you want your child to clean their room, a co-worker to pitch in more, or even your boss to implement a new strategy, being able to sell your ideas is crucial.

Unfortunately, most people resort to telling or even yelling during these times. And those are the least effective ways to elicit real change or action in others. The good news is that there are three time-tested approaches for putting your ideas across that arouse interest and enthusiasm. So if you want to sell your ideas to others in a way that doesn’t alienate or come across as being bossy, here are three strategies to try.

1. Use a fishing pole.

Since it is very difficult to ram a hook into a fish’s mouth, the person fishing casts their pole temptingly near the fish. The fish is then enticed to come to the baited hook. The point: don’t appear too anxious to have your idea accepted; just bring it out where it can be seen.

People will accept your idea especially when they consider it their own. Say something like, “Have you considered this,” instead of, “This is the way.” Similarly, “Do you think this idea would work?” is better than, “Here’s what we should do!” Let others sell themselves on your idea; then they will stay sold.

2. Let the other person argue your case for you.

Present your own objections first. People feel compelled to react when an objection is raised. Ben Franklin said that the way to convince another is to state your case moderately and accurately. Then he suggested saying that you may be mistaken about it, which prompts your listener to convince you of the correctness of your position. On the other hand, if you present your idea in a tone of great confidence and arrogance, you may get an opponent.

Abraham Lincoln used a variation of this technique in selling his position to a jury. He argued both sides of the case. But there was always his subtle suggestion that his side was the logical one. An opposing lawyer once said that Lincoln made a better statement of his case to the jury than he could have made himself.

3. Ask; don’t tell.

Perhaps the most famous display of the “ask; don’t tell” technique was made by Patrick Henry. In his famous “Liberty or Death” speech, notice how he used this approach: “Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? Shall we lie supinely on our backs? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of slavery?”

If he had said all his points in statements instead of questions, the result would have been antagonism. Instead, he used questions to spur people to action.

Tip: Analyze your audience and the idea you want to sell to them. Then decide which of these three techniques would be the best to implement. When you use these strategies, you’ll be more apt to convince others to your way of thinking.