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5 Tips on how to pitch an idea to your boss

how to pitch an idea

That lightbulb has gone off, and you have a cracker. Your idea is going to revolutionise how your team operate and deliver even better results.

You just need to get someone to sign off on the budget, the workforce, the restructuring, and so it goes on.

Okay, you might not need to completely restructure the whole business. But if you have a great idea, the likelihood is you will need to pitch it to a senior leader in the business, and for many, that is not a welcome prospect.

However, it is well within your ability to deliver a confident pitch and get the result you want. Here are some lessons from members of our leadership team that might help you on your way.

Don't fail to plan

It seems pretty obvious, but you need to put in the leg work. You can practise and practise your presentation delivery and nail that, but if you’ve not got the facts and figures to answer the inevitable questions, you will fall at the first hurdle.

So here are a few of the five ideas you need to think about in your pitch preparation.  

What does it cost?

The first question you need to answer is simple. It is undoubtedly high on your CEO or MD’s list, ‘what will this cost, and what will the return be?’

You might not be privy to all the figures you need, but it is incumbent on you to find out. You are not just pitching the concept; you are pitching yourself as the person who will lead this, and the CEO needs to be confident that you won’t leave any stone unturned.

Predicting a return isn’t always easy, and it puts a lot of people off pitching ideas, but if you are confident in your vision, you will find a way to link it to the core business objectives and show its value to the business.


Be clear in your ask

Everyone’s time is tight, the CEO especially. So when you are going in to present, be very clear in what you ask them to do.

Is this a fully costed plan that just needs sign off and can go into action tomorrow? Or are you asking them to let you scope out the potential for an idea, and you will come back with concepts and costs? Make the most of their time and be confident with your request.

Also, do you fully understand the roles played by each of the C-Suite members?

Does the CEO sign off on all new projects? Does the CEO also sign off on any supporting budget, or is that the purview of the CFO? If you are going to need more resource for your project, is this something that a COO would have to be involved with? Are decisions like this devolved, or does a committee decide on them?

Find out how this works before you request the meeting so all the key players are in the room and there is as little repetition as possible.

Understand your audience

As with any presentation, you must understand your audience, and you know exactly how best to communicate to them. Some CEO’s may have come from a technical background and relish the facts and figures that accompany your pitch. They might require them as they know your field inside out and see it as an essential part of the decision making.

Some CEO’s or MD’s might prefer an executive summary with the key facts and an outline of the recommendations and potential options. If you mix these up, you will likely find a pretty negative response.

The likelihood is, there will be some middle ground to tread where you provide sufficient information to build your case and have the data on hand to back up any assertion you make.

Think bigger picture

As one of the team, it isn’t always your concern to think about how the various other departments feel and if what you are doing is having any bearing on them at all.

However, that is precisely the role of the CEO, and it is crucial that, in your proposal, you are mindful of the impact a successful pitch might have on the rest of the team.

Will you take resources away from other departments? Will you benefit from a reapportioning of budgets? Is your pitch up against another department? What will happen to team morale if you win and they don’t?

While you are not CEO and don’t have the concerns they have, it will factor in their decision making, and any insight or support you can offer around this will help.


Stand up and be counted

Whether it is the first time or you regularly pitch ideas to your CEO, there is very often a feeling of trepidation. You must overcome this and recognise that your ideas have merit.

It is not easy to magically find the confidence required to nail a pitch if that is not you. But it is important to remember, your CEO has likely been in a similar position and will understand the fear you will be feeling. You should also have faith in the process. If you are confident in the data and convinced by the concept, then be confident in yourself. The worst they can say is no.

Aim high

No business has survived without innovation and evolution. Nothing stays the same, and in a world where IR4.0 is adapting the working world as we know it, many CEO’s will welcome new ideas and concepts.

If they encourage an open, inclusive culture, you will almost feel obliged to pitch your ideas as part of your everyday responsibilities.

Be clear in what you are asking for, be confident in yourself and your data and understand who you need to ask to ensure you get the right result in your next pitch.