Selling Product Ideas Internally

Selling Product Ideas Internally

Before you can solve your customers problems with a great product offering you have to sell the idea internally to varied audiences with sometimes competing priorities. There is a lot of guidance for how to design, build, and go to market but for the sake of this post let's assume that if your product ships out will be a success, however you define that.

So how do you convince internal stakeholders of that! Let's talk about earning internal support for your concept so you get the opportunity to ship value to your users. While in theory everyone in your company is aligned to solve customer problems, in practice there are real competing motivations to overcome. The bottom line is that the benefits and advantages that excite your users likely do not evoke the same levels of delight for the teams building, marketing, and selling the product.

Here are some approaches that can help you build internal excitement to get a product concept off the ground.

Technical Design

Buy in from engineers, tech leads, and architects can be a great bottoms up way to lift a product concept. Show don't tell is a powerful concept and getting prototypes and proof of concepts and grassroots buzz can go a long way to forward motion. If you have a technical background this is much easier. Often times brainstorming the interesting challenging technical complexity of a product can be exciting. Tapping into often underutilized technical intellect to create solutions that are elegant and beautiful can be highly motivating. Designing technically differentiated products (even if the end users don't care about implementation) can be a spark that ignites engineer's passion.

Press Release

The press release is a great universal tool because it inherently is meant to persuade a wide audience -- we just tend to use it more for external stakeholders than internal. So before going deep into product requirements, draft a press release announcing the launch of your product. It can bring clarity to the customer problem and the impact of your solution. A press release needs to be short, concise, and compelling. If you can write an exciting press release that really frames the product well it can motivate a wide array of internal stakeholders. It's easy to consume, easy to share, and gives all the right one liners for the water cooler -- or slack channel.

A Business Model

Depending on your company makeup, most of your internal stake holders probably serve a business function. They are board members, investors, executives, finance, sales people. Depending on their function and background they may be most motivated by the business model that will grow the business, increase margin, or put more money in their pocket personally. Having a well articulated business model, even just a back of the napkin P&L and pro forma, can be a very exciting proposition that gets the conversation started. Coupled with a large market size and believable go to market strategy you can garner top down support to get to launch.

Show, Don't Tell

This is a universal tactic. You can lead with this one, you can interleave it as you continue to pitch and gain traction. Showing progress removes risk and makes the concept more real. You can build a prototype, you can pre-sell customers, you can run customer surveys, you can compute inferential statistics from existing products. Showing tangible traction validates assumptions and is a great way to make it easier for folks to come on board.

You want to be targeted and you want depth to be persuasive. PRDs, high level roadmaps, overview decks have their time and place. They are great for coordination when a product is in active development. But they aren't great tools for selling an idea - they are broad and since they speak to everyone they speak to no one.

In closing, I'd like to share two sales concepts that are burned into my head listen, listen, listen and no just means not now. Your internal stakeholders are just as important as your customers and you have to truly listen and empathize with them to make progress. And when they say "no" that doesn't mean forever; if you have a concept with merit then take the feedback, iterate, and look for the opportune time to present again.