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Don’t Just Tell Them — Make Your Case

Do you have a great idea, suggestion, or recommendation you want to offer to management? Those of us in market research or other “staff” functions often have a unique opportunity to do so.  So how do we do it effectively?

We see trends, activity, data, insights, etc. in the course of our work that we want to share with management.  In market research specifically, we are focused on understanding what the customer wants – more so than anyone else in the organization. This gives us the opportunity to offer insights that can be valuable to our company.

So how do we get our ideas up the chain?

Our first instinct in sharing our ideas is simply to tell the boss, CMO, or whomever we want to reach.  We may mention it in a staff meeting, hallway conversation, or even in the elevator.  It only makes sense to take those opportunities to share our ideas, thoughts, recommendations, right?

Unfortunately, this approach rarely works. Everyone is understaffed these days, even our management.  With too much to do and pressure from their own bosses, few leaders have extra time to consider new ideas, even if they’re good ones. Given that leaders and/or key decision-makers are pulled in many directions and face many pressures from their management, our chances of success with “ad hoc” recommendations are slim. Success is even more limited if the ideas don’t fit within management’s current priorities.

Sell, don’t tell

You can overcome this barrier with the right approach. First, understand that the person to whom you may talk is only the first stop. That person needs to take your idea and sell it to others up the chain, particularly if it means a change in direction or additional resources.

Consequently, your approach needs to be persuasive, well thought-out, and compelling. Collect the evidence, make the argument, and put it on paper.  Then set up time with your target and make your case for ideas and recommendation in which you believe.

There are many great sources that provide guidance for how to make your case.  One of my favorites is Andrew Abela’s “Advanced Presentations by Design.”  After returning from Abela’s workshop, I used his principles to create an organizational structure recommendation. I took it to the CMO, who liked it so much that she had both of us take it to the CEO.  We then had a third meeting that included the head of human resources.  The result? My recommended structure is still in place several years later.  That never would have happened if I had just cornered the CMO in the hallway.

Gaining buy-in for your ideas takes time and effort, so you can’t do this with everything. Pick and choose the ones you believe are best for the organization.  But remember, if we never do it, we will never be heard.

Be the thought leader

A side benefit of this thought-out approach is how it makes you look.  Not only will you increase the likelihood of getting your ideas across, you will be seen as a thought leader, someone to whom others should listen.

Give it a shot.  Make things happen!

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