My entire professional life has involved selling ideas. Whether selling consulting services or pitching investors on new ideas needing funding the sales process has been a conversational discovery that never stops teaching lessons about life.
Selling an idea is hard work because well an idea is an intangible yet to become tangible so the challenge is to enable people to envision the idea, feel its outcomes, implications and the value the idea would create for others to use or consume. If you are successful in doing that and do it with enough people then your idea gains some momentum and interest.
The process of selling an idea never ends. It simply goes through new cycles but you learn to get better at it through every cycle. Many organizations and smart people make this too complicated by dissecting each iteration, interaction and over analyzing the observations to the point of creating the curse of knowledge.
The curse of knowledge is when you lose your audience in the details and slip into the intellectual jargon. We do this at the cost of losing the customer and the creativity that generated our original ideas.
In other words we got smart only to become dumb.
Dumb Things Down to Get Smart
Today being smart is a measure of what we do not necessarily by what we say. But if we say we will do something and don’t then we are considered dumb so in that case what we said and did wasn’t considered smart. On the other hand if we do something stupid and say we did and correct it then we are considered smart. So in that case what we said was smart which covered the stupid thing we did. Get it?
Here is what I’ve learned from some of the best when it comes to selling ideas by dumbing things down to get smart.
1) Keep It Short & Simple, Stupid
How does your idea relate to people and their problems in the most basic human terms? Don’t try to explain how you solved a problem by taking them on a long walk through the forest rather simply take them on a short journey and point out the most important trees.
Don’t be stupid and lose your audience with too much detail. What are the important relevant things that you’d like them to remember? Your challenge is to keep it short and simply.
2) Tell Them an Engaging Story
The media is filled with information, figures and sometimes facts. All of it is boring. Sometimes you’ll hear a short human interest story that grabs your attention and touches your heart.
Rather than just providing information about your idea why not tell a short story that engages the heart and mind while providing inspiration to the human soul. Make your story have a purpose and it will carry itself without any hype or promotion.
3) Aim for the Curiosity Gap
Good ideas start with a question in the form of a story, but don’t resolve the story right away. A good story launches you into a second and even a third story before wrapping up the first one. But the listener stays tuned along the way because they want to know how the first story ends. By opening what researchers call a curiosity gap or hole in the listener’s knowledge, they’ll likely follow your idea as long as you keep it short and simple, tell an engaging story and aim for the curiosity gap.
Keep doing 1, 2 and 3 until it is so dumb that you become smart.