How to sell ideas without the hard sell

 Dave Birss , writer, speaker, advisor

27 JUNE 2019

This is a direct transcript of the YouTube video. Which may explain why it reads a bit strangely in places. That’s just the natural strangeness of my babbling. But hopefully the message still makes sense.


Hello, I’m Dave Birss. And today I’m going to be telling you how you can sell ideas more effectively.

So first of all welcome to my new video series. For those of you who have no idea who I am, my name is Dave Birss. I write books like this one here: How To Get To Great Ideas.

And I’m planning to bring out videos on a regular basis to be able to explain to you how you can have better ideas, how you can make these ideas happen, how you can have a company that properly innovates and actually makes the most of innovation. And I’m going to get started with this series by talking about how you can actually sell ideas.

Now, I spent 20 years in the advertising industry and there was a myth that I heard again and again and it used to really annoy me. People would say:

“You know, a great idea sells itself.”

That is such bullsh*t.

They used that as an excuse not to prepare for presentations.

There was a computer pioneer called Howard H. Aitken, who in the 1960s said:

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If it’s original, you’ll have to ram it down people’s throats.”

So that’s what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about how you can ram your ideas more effectively down people’s throats. No, no, no! It’s about how you can be more persuasive. How you can have a better chance of actually getting people to believe in your ideas, to understand your ideas, even, and to be able to go “Yeah, I’m going to get behind that.”

This is the first part of three videos on this. This is going to be talking about the preparation: how it starts at the very beginning before a job begins. The second part is about how to actually plan and prepare a presentation itself. And the third part’s going to be about how to deliver the presentation. Each of these videos will have, maybe, three tips in it. So let’s get started with this video.

Here’s tip number one:



I recommend that you define the criteria that you’re going to judge things by at the very beginning together with the decision makers. One of the things it helps to do is it helps to set realistic expectations about the project. I’ve found that over the years a lot of people can have incredibly unrealistic expectations. As a writer, people seem to expect that I could almost write a magical combination of words that persuade people to want to buy their product. Of course, that’s nonsense because we don’t live in Narnia. 

So what you need to do at the beginning of the project is to find three to five criteria. And these criteria come in useful throughout the process. So at the beginning in helping make sure that the client is actually realistic about what it is that you can deliver. Then threw the idea-generation process to keep people on track – to make sure they know that they’re actually solving the problem that needs to be solved. And then at the end, most importantly, when it comes to presenting your ideas to the client you’re going to use these criteria. You’re going to remind them of the criteria that you agreed at the very beginning of the process. And that is going to help them see that you have knocked out the park yet again.



The second point I want to talk about is ‘be specific but not too specific’. There’s a happy middle ground here. So you need to be specific in terms of “this is the problem and this is the outcome that we would like”. So this is ‘State A’ and this is ‘State B’. But don’t go so far as to define how you want the problem solved, if you can.

I know that there are certain things, certain industries – if you’re a PR agency, then that’s the way you’re going to solve it – with PR. If you’re a design agency you’re going to use design. If you’re a digital building company you’re going to use digital.

So I know there is a certain amount of that – but don’t over-define how you want the problem solved. You’re unlikely to get good results unless you do this (get your definition just right).



And the last point I want to make is to make sure you understand who your decision makers are. And by that, it’s not just what their name is and what their job title is. I mean what motivates them.

Understand what they would hate. Understand what it is that would make them go “Yeah, that is great”. If you understand what their agendas and motivations are you’ll have a far better chance of actually selling your ideas to them.

Because when you’re selling ideas it’s not about saying “Here’s what we’ve got. Do you want to buy it.?” It’s about going “We understand what you need and we have delivered on that”.

That’s what good selling is. So don’t skimp on this. The better you understand the decision makers the bigger chance you have of meeting their needs and having them buying your ideas.



OK. This is the part where I point to some stuff that I think will help you with your ideas. It might be something I’ve created. It might be something someone else has created. And this week I want to introduce you to ‘The Game Of Creativity’ that was created by Matt Vojacek in Columbus, Ohio.

He’s got a new version on its way but this is the first one; this is Volume 1. These are absolutely beautiful, gorgeously designed. Now Matt is a filmmaker. He creates videos – brand videos – and he was using these himself to help him with ideas. So here we go. These are just gorgeous pieces of design. What you do is you work out what the problem is you’re trying to solve – so what your brief is – and then you pick two random and you see what it is that these help you with.

So wood and solid colours. So what would they help us with when we’re trying to solve a problem?

Well done Matt. These are very enjoyable. I use these from time to time myself. You can pick up your own copy of these at The URL is in the information below. 

Thanks for watching. If you like this then please give it the thumbs up. If you’re not subscribed already, please subscribe. There’s plenty more of these videos coming. And if you’ve got any comments on this please put them below. I want to read them – I want to hear what you have to say about this. I’m going to be back with part two of this series of videos which will be explaining more about how you can sell your ideas more successfully.

But that’s all from me for just now. Big love to your beautiful brain.