Selling Your Ideas & Visions

Why You’re Not Getting that Raise: Selling Your Ideas and Yourself

By Barry Maher

As I keep saying, you’ve got to sell yourself, your ideas and your proposals much like you might sell a product. The problem is that you can’t really sell a product.

The best salesperson in the country can’t sell a product. Nobody can. What you can sell are solutions. You uncover needs and prove value and sell solutions to those who have those needs.

When clients hire me as a consultant or a speaker, I always keep in mind that they aren’t really buying me. They’re buying the belief that I’m going to make them money. That I’m going to improve productivity and the bottom line. That I’m going to make them look good. And that people—particularly their superiors—are going to think that they made the best possible use of the funds they were allocated.

Let’s say you’d like a raise. You might be able to sell the boss on the idea simply by meeting pre-set goals and specifying exactly what you’ve done for him and the company since your last pay increase. Normally bosses don’t have to be told that it’s in their interest to keep productive people producing and to keep their best people happy. But sometimes they do.

Everybody in the accounting department knew Angela was indispensable, her boss included. Angela deserved a raise. But getting her one would have taken a major effort on his part. He’d have had to bring it to his boss then fight on up the line. So Angela never asked him for a pay increase. Instead she told him how much she loved working in accounting. And how she’d love to be able to make her career there. The problem she had—which instantly became his problem—was that the head of credit had been talking up a position in his department. A much better paying position.

Starting almost immediately and continuing over the next few months, Angela’s boss found her several raises along with a promotion in grade. A year later she was making 33 percent more money for the exact same job. Her boss told her, “I wanted to make sure you were making so much you could never afford to leave.”

She didn’t sell herself. She didn’t sell fairness. She didn’t sell her need for a raise. She sold a solution to her boss’s problem.

You don’t want a bigger office because you’re a power-mad empire builder. You want it because it would improve your productivity—and the department’s—by giving you the meeting space you need. Or because you’re bringing in clients who’ll feel slighted if forced to deal with someone the company values so little they don’t even provide them with a decent office. Or at least a door.

You’re not selling your re-allocation proposal. You’re selling security and peace of mind. You’re selling the opportunity for your boss and her boss to look good and make their numbers and make points with their superiors, and ultimately receive higher evaluations, bigger raises and faster promotions.

And you use this same type of strategy when you’re selling to a subordinate or a peer.

Show the people you’re dealing with how what you’re proposing will make their life or job or numbers better, more convenient, more cost-efficient. Show what it will do for the impression others—particularly their superiors—have of them. Provide them with reassurance, perhaps explaining how similar plans have worked for others.

In other words, prove value.

“I was being sexually hassled and harassed—sexually harassled—by a hygienically-challenged co-worker,” a female aerospace worker reports. “My boss bathed a little more often, but beyond that he wasn’t much more enlightened than the harassler. So instead of going to him with a complaint for him to cram into his forget file, I tried to show him how this kind of thing was interfering with team building, wasting company’s time and screwing up the goals he needed to meet for that promotion he’d been struggling for.”

Did the woman have a right to complain?  Absolutely. But selling the boss on the idea that stopping the harassment was in his own best interest worked far better than any complaint would have.

She was not complaining, she was creating a need. In this particular case, it was a need the boss didn’t realize he had: the need to keep the harassler from messing up his team and his goals.

Concentrate on the what’s-in-it-for-them and the what’s-in-it-for-you will usually take care of itself.

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