What do you do with your ideas? How do you get them traction? It used to be you made a sales pitch – to venture capitalists, to customers, to your boss.
But today young people are deconstructing the sales pitch – paring it down to its core information and parodying the BS that surrounds it.
The nail in the coffin of spin might have been last Tuesday, when Google purchased You Tube, and the twentysomething founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, made a home video to announce one of the most significant corporate acquisitions of the year to consumers.
The video starts out with the two of them talking about the benefits to the consumer – lines that may or may not have been scripted and sound a lot like spin. But then Hurley says of YouTube and Google, “Two kings have gotten together.” He appears to realize he has lost himself in generic salespeak, and he laughs.
Then someone says, “Just keep going.”
So he does. He makes a Burger King joke.
Among young people, there is a general dislike for the classic idea of sales. “Our company is not a sales-based organization,” says Siamak Taghaddos of GotVMail, a virtual phone service for small business. “Not in
the typical sense. We educate people. I’m a firm believer in letting someone make their own decision.”
Sales spin only works if you have a monopoly on the real information. In an era where information rules and everyone can get it whenever they want, there are scant opportunities to credibly slant the truth. Instead, you
just have to put it out there and hope it works.
Spin doctors on sales teams are out, and authentic communication is in. This is why many companies do not have a sales button on their web site, but they do have a blog. The blog is a way of getting out information in an authentic, efficient way, which is the best path to acceptance.
The power of authenticity for the new generation cannot be overstated. Guy Kawasaki, former Apple Computer evangelist and founder of Garage Technology Ventures, is a notable voice of authenticity on his blog, Signal Without Noise.
Most people with Kawasaki’s experience rely on their authority — the power of their reputation — to push through their ideas. Kawasaki, however, is not afraid to rely on authenticity — a dedication to providing genuine and useful information that has value to his audience.
As a blogger he initiates conversations with his readers rather than issue one-way declarations. His daily posts reflect an understanding that his resume is not as important as the power of the information he provides right now. The tacit agreement is paying off: in the pool of millions of blogs, his is one of the 50 most popular.
So what do you do to both act on your idea, and then be able to convey it effectively, with authenticity? Here are six things to consider.
1. Jettison the stupid stuff.
“Ninety percent of selling an idea is having a good idea,” says Kawasaki. “People think that the difficulty is marketing and sales. But if you have a good idea then you can really screw up in marketing and sales” and still succeed. So stop focusing on how you are going to pitch, and come up with the ideas that pitch themselves by
virtue of their genius.
2. Become the anti-salesman and slip under the radar.
One of the common complaints young people have about working in big companies is that no one listens to their ideas. Outside a company, entrepreneurs have a good idea and move on it. But inside a company there are customs and guidelines for starting new products. Kawasaki says, “Being an entrepreneur and an ‘intrapraneur’ are more similar than different. The key for an intrapraneur is not trying to get permission.” He concedes that you
will have to step on peoples’ toes, but you should do it only after you have a version of the product ready to go.
3. Start a conversation instead of a canned speech.
People are looking for information and have little tolerance for fluff. So if you want someone to believe in what you’re doing, be a good on your feet. “It comes down to being able to handle questions quickly and well,” says
Brian Wiegand, CEO of Jellyfish, a shopping search engine.
Because the Internet turns the idea of authority on it’s head, people want to contribute to a good idea instead of being handed a good idea. So when you want your idea to have traction, “let people add their ideas to your
own so they like the idea more,” says Wiegand.
4. Find people who need you.
Kim Ricketts creates book events at corporations. Like most good ideas, bringing authors to companies fills a need – in this case to give employees the chance to hear new thinkers. Ricketts also fills a void for publishers, who are looking for new ways to sell books. Her events are a great example of how good ideas gain traction quickly, with little or no marketing, because they answer a customer’s problem.
5. Focus on the information.
Often, an in-person sales pitch to a young person is like an IM message blinking on-screen to a baby boomer: Unwanted interruption of information processing.
If you’ve been selling for decades, tone it down, because you sound desperate to a new generation, and also a little dishonest. If you really have a good product, the facts will speak for themselves.
6. Be your true self.
Taghaddos says you should worry as much about yourself as your product. “Be authentic: Lay a foundation for a company and yourself. If you are how you want people to perceive you, then people will like you and they’ll buy your product. They’ll do it without any pressure.”