Sometimes we have great ideas that could really make a difference. But unless they get heard, they don’t matter. The difference of whether your opinion gets heard and influences the decisions being made, has a lot less to do with whether you have great ideas than whether you know how to sell your ideas.
Yeah, I know. As soon as I said sell your ideas, your eyes glazed over. But selling your ideas isn’t what you think it is. Great salesmanship doesn’t involve hard ball sales tactics and manipulation. And it certainly doesn’t require the ability to smooth talk others into seeing things your way.
It is about the story you tell though. As soon as you open your mouth to offer your opinion the story begins. Let me tell you a story to demonstrate.
Bobby builds decks, and lately he has been a bit frustrated with his cordless drill. So one day the tool salesmen Jimmy drops by and Bobby complains to him about his drill. He tells Jimmy that his drill is way too slow, it almost chokes on the torque required to sink the screw and when his battery dies, his second battery is still not fully charged.
Jimmy’s eyes light up and he says: “Bobby, have I got the perfect solution for you today. I have a new drill that just came out. It delivers 480 lbs of torque and runs at 1,500 rpm. And it comes with two 18V 3.0 Ah batteries and charger. Best of all, it is on sale today.”
Bobby’s eyes get all squinty like they do when he thinks and he says: “yeah but that drill costs more than twice what mine cost. Maybe some other time.”
Jimmy packs up his stuff and leaves, muttering: “that dude should quit complaining if he won’t buy the solution.”
Well, as luck would have it, Bobby gets interrupted again that day by a second tool salesman. It is Jimmy’s competitor, Calvin. Bobby gives Calvin the same complaint about his current drill.
Calvin pulls out a drill from his tool truck, and shows it to Bobby. It’s the same drill that Jimmy had shown him. But Calvin tells a different story. He tells Bobby that this drill will screw in the screws as fast as he can feed it screws and that Bobby will hardly hear the drill torque. That is how strong it is. To top it off, the battery will last for half a day, and he would be able to charge eight batteries in the time it takes him to run down the charge of one.
Bobby takes out his wallet and buys the drill on the spot. See, Calvin answered all his concerns with the story he told. There were no objections to the price after that.
The first skill of great salesmanship is listening. Does that surprise you? It is true, the very best salesmen in the world are good communicators. And that may give them an edge over many of their peers. The far more important skill great salesmen posses though, is their willingness to listen.
It simply means that you pay enough attention to be aware of how your product solves the problems people have. When we share our opinions, the same is true. If we don’t take the time to tell them in a way that makes them relevant, they won’t matter. Not because they weren’t good and valuable, but because the story you told wasn’t relevant.
Making our opinions matter is about knowing what problems our ideas solve and how they solve them and then sharing them in that context. No hard ball tactics, no manipulation. Just relevance to needs and the context when sharing them.