No matter what industry you’re in, it helps to know how to pitch a business idea to your boss. So when that terrific idea does hit you—the one that’ll change your company forever—you’ll know how to convince your boss to say “Yes!” and then champion the idea to his or her boss.
#1. Know your audience.
Never go into a pitch meeting until you’ve identified a few key factors.
For one, what kind of presentation approach will speak to your boss? Does she find financial figures and ROI persuasive? Or does she prefer to see the big picture? Or does she get down into the nitty-gritty details?
You should also know what her hot-button issues are based on what company problems she brings up all the time.
#2. Spell out the business plan.
Break your idea down to its bare bones and create a physical product—usually a handout, but you could also use a PowerPoint presentation or a video—that spells out the basics. This is where you can win points for being as open, clear, and honest as possible. List exactly what you’ll need to make the idea work, including:
You’ll be tempted to play down what you’ll need, but that can hurt you in the long run. You risk communicating to your boss that the idea isn’t worth pursuing. If it requires so little effort, it’ll likely produce a minimal effect. Try instead to show that the impact of your idea is worth the investment.
#3. Gather support.
Be careful: this isn’t so you can use that support as leverage against your boss. The last thing you want to do is go into a presentation, and when it doesn’t go well, you bust out with something like: “Well, Meg and Hank and Felice all loved the idea and are already onboard.” Do that, and to your boss it’ll look like you’re trying to circumvent her and go behind her back.
That probably won’t go over well.
Gathering support in this case involves talking to other possible stakeholders who might have some potential involvement in your idea. Give them a chance to hear you out and weigh in on the proposal. Listen when they point out possible problems with your initiative. They might even identify benefits you missed and will want to mention.
#4. Pick the right time to present your idea
Timing is everything. This is when knowing your audience really comes in handy, because for this, you need real-time intel on your boss’s frame of mind. Here are a few things to consider:
- How’s the company doing? Are the executives considering a big decision, or is your office getting hit with sweeping changes? If so, now might not be the time to bother your boss.
- How’s your boss doing? Is she feeling overloaded or stressed? Then back away. Slowly. Of course keep your foot in the door. Propose another time, preferably after the stress has passed and your boss has more time. Make sure he understands the delay is because you feel this idea is very important and deserving of his attention.
- How’s your boss doing personally? Be sensitive to any out-of-office issues your boss may be going through. Give him the space he needs and wait for the right moment.
#5. Get your boss involved in the idea.
Tailor your proposal to your boss so that when you go in front of her, the pitch meeting actually becomes a collaboration session. Give your boss a chance to weigh in on the matter. Ask her for feedback and suggestions. She’ll definitely have insights you probably haven’t considered. The more invested your boss feels in the process, the better advocate she’ll be for your idea when she takes it to her boss.
#6. Don’t be afraid to use FOMO.
FOMO is the fear of missing out, and it’s a very real problem for many people. Over 50 percent of people are worried that if they’re away from their social networks, they’ll miss out on a significant event or status update.
Your boss needs to have the same concern about your idea. The ideal situation is if you could show your boss how your competition is investing in an initiative similar to the one you’re proposing. The proper application of FOMO can motivate your boss to give your idea a good, long look.
Don’t let your good business ideas go to waste.
Your boss needs them. Your company needs them. Sometimes even a rejected initiative can spark an idea that really takes off. Following these tips, and knowing how to pitch a business idea to your boss, gives your ideas a fighting chance.