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Strategies to get buy-in for your ideas

 |  By: Leisa Gill, Director of Client Experience


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Every day in businesses and nonprofits across the country, great ideas are born. Some have the potential to bring in more revenue, others can transform an entire organization, and some might even change the world.

But it is also true that every day many of these great ideas never see the light of day, or crash and burn without being fully put into action. There can be many reasons why, but one of the saddest, and most preventable, is because the idea’s author didn’t do an effective job of presenting it to the people who could take it to the next level.

The starting point for getting buy-in for your great idea is confidence.

You must feel comfortable with the idea, understand the challenges it presents and the wins it could achieve, and present in a manner the builds confidence from your audience. There are several ways to strengthen your own confidence, and communicate your idea effectively. This article goes into more detail on some of the most important.

Organization and preparedness

Confidence and organization/preparedness go hand in hand.  It is almost impossible to have the first without the second.  By being organized and prepared, your confidence is increased.  Have you ever gone to a meeting where the presenter just seemed scattered?  Remember how you felt as a member of the audience digesting the information?  Do your research and know how your idea will impact not only those in the room, but others at various levels. Telling a story with a clear beginning, middle and end can be very powerful in organizing your idea in your “buyer's” head.  Mapping your research to application and then to outcome tells a more comprehensive story and builds buy-in. It creates a picture of success.

I also highly suggest practicing your presentation.  Be aware of your body language, facial expressions and tone. Put yourself in the shoes of your listeners and jot down the questions they would be likely to ask, and then prepare answers. If you practice and prepare, there is less chance others can rattle you. There will always be people who intimidate us, but by being prepared and organized you can gain confidence in your ability to meet them head-on.


You have an idea.  You have done your research, are confident in it and now are preparing to present it to a group for consideration.  Before you take the presentation step, consider running it past others for feedback.  Personally, I like to choose people who are straightforward with their feedback, people who don’t hold back, perhaps at times are even considered the devil’s advocate.  This demographic of idea digesters help me think through objections and gain a more holistic approach to presenting.  I’ve also found that through this collaboration, they often become supporters of the idea, having had insight and provided input that in most situations makes the idea and its presentation better.

In a book called "Buy-In," John Kotter, a renowned author and professor of leadership and organizational change at Harvard Business School, says that over 70 percent of organizational change efforts (often great ideas) fail.  Why? Because executives do not get buy-in from various levels for their ideas and initiatives.  This underpins the reason for collaboration.  Who wants to do all the research, preparation and presentation only to experience failure because they didn’t realize how it might affect a particular person or team.

Having some critical minds, as well as open ones, taking part in the process can have a very positive effect on the outcome.  And don’t forget to communicate with them on your progress and the outcome. They may just become your greatest supporters for your next great idea.

Speak their language

This involves more than just knowing your audience, it involves walking in their shoes and speaking in terms most familiar to them.  Your audience will identify with your ideas faster and better understand how it applies to an issue or situation if the correct terminology is used. It is clear to see how your research plays a key role in this element of buy-in as well.

Sometimes timing is just off

So you have done your research, collaborated with others, prepped and presented, and your idea is still dismissed.  Know that there can always be others who have agendas that you are not aware of that can impact the acceptance of your idea.  Don’t give up hope.  Believing in your idea means you don’t dismiss it just because you were shot down by another person or a group.  This is how dreams are built and entrepreneurs drive innovation.  Keep at it — you may find that the only thing keeping your idea from adoption is timing.

Leisa Gill is director of client experience and leader of the Privately Held Business Segment at LBMC, a premiere Tennessee-based professional services firm. 

Originally printed in The Tennessean.