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3 Tips for Selling Initiatives Internally

By Joane Ramsey

3 Tips for Selling Initiatives Internally

How do you get your leadership team behind a training initiative? How do you know if your training is successful? What happens if you do not implement training that changes behavior? In Episode 30 of the Strategic Insights Podcast, Joane Ramsey and Tim Deuitch share strategies to deliver training success through successfully selling training initiatives across the organization and the leadership team.

Joane Ramsey: 00:01 Welcome to the Strategic Insights Podcast brought to you by Strategic Enhancement Group. I'm Joane Ramsey and I'm joined today by Tim Deuitch. Hello Tim.

Tim Deuitch: 00:09 Hi Joane.

Joane Ramsey: 00:11 I'm glad to have you here. Today, we'll be talking about a topic that is important to many of our clients, specifically internal clients. How do I sell my initiative internally? Many of our clients are either in training and development or human resources, and their job is to solve problems. But that comes with the territory of selling ideas internally to their bosses and to their colleagues. Tim, let's talk about what we have found in working with clients to be the case when selling initiatives internally.

Tim Deuitch: 00:45 One of the ways I sort of digest this topic or the way you just introduced it, Joane, is to say, well, how do we take this initiative from an independent set of tasks into an effort where everyone involved is fully aligned? I'll give you an example of sometimes the way it gets presented to me, is that a company will make contact with me and say, "You do training, we need training." And I ask, "Well, why?" Sometimes they are completely locked in and they say, "Here's what we're trying to do and accomplish, and here's where we fit in and everything." But other times, which is where you're coming from, is they simply say, "Well, we have a new initiative, so we need training that looks like X and Y." And I say, "Well, what's the new initiative for?" If they can't answer that question real well, it's a big red flag.

Joane Ramsey: 01:38 Isn't that so true, Tim, that it's so critical to be able to tie whatever initiative they're trying to accomplish or implement to what the business issue may be.

Tim Deuitch: 01:50 Absolutely.

Joane Ramsey: 01:50 So many times we see that piece missing. Can we talk a little bit about how we can address that?

Tim Deuitch: 01:58 I think the key is, first thing we do from our side is to help, and it's often folks in HR or training and development, we help them gain an understanding of, "What's the right approach?" If it's a training approach or if it's consult that has to happen first and so forth, "What's the right approach for what you're trying to get done?" Often they don't know that answer.

I'll give you an example from a prospect, actually, that I've been working with. They have a very clearly defined initiative that has come from the top. It's based in the fact that they are losing market share. The industry has a lot of change that goes on within it. But in their footprint where they do business, they are losing some market share and they need to do something about it. So without any question, training is a big piece and they want to get better in certain areas.

What we've identified when we're looking at how to have a successful initiative, we've identified the need for their managers to be better coaches. They don't have a strong coaching environment. What we're learning is that the HR department is really challenged to sell to managers, the importance of them building that muscle, really improving in that area. In order for them to get behind the effort, to really get behind it, they have to make sure that the managers now have a set of shared objectives in the actual rollout of the initiative and that they agree in the shared outcomes, the results that we're all after and the role they'll play in gaining that result.

Joane Ramsey: 03:46 Yes. That is so critical because what happens sometimes, and we come across this often, is how can we help somebody understand their perspective but also put themselves in their internal client's or stakeholder's shoes in order to make sure that they are aligning that vision to gain buy in and start making progress with the initiative?

I think one of the things that we should discuss today is give our audience a few tips on how to get that going and some of the things that would make it easier when selling an initiative internally. One of them is making sure that you are approaching your internal people as you would an external client. What I mean by that is make sure that you're being clear on your organization's problems and how to address it. Also putting yourself in your client's shoes. What does that look like?

Tim Deuitch: 04:45 Here's where I take what you're saying is, it's a mindset. That my job, if I'm going to sell this internally, is to understand what's in it for, and in the example I shared about managers becoming better coaches, what's in it for that manager to become a better coach? So in order for me to position it well and sell it well, I have to put myself in their shoes, as you said.

Joane Ramsey: 05:12 That's so right. It's important to also design this in a way that is a staged approach. Because if you go full on, sometimes people get shy about implementing something, that it comes across too strong. So having a staged approach and making sure that people are understanding what that looks like is just as important.

Also, I think a second point is to create a story and answer the question of, "Why do we need to change?" It is your key to success, especially with your initiative in touching comfort zones and addressing some change and transformation in the organization. It's important to answer that question of, "What happens if we do nothing?" It's important to get people thinking about that because a lot of times people are shy about implementing an initiative, but then when they are posed with the question of, "What if we do nothing?" They realize that the consequences of doing nothing can be very distressful for the organization.

Tim Deuitch: 06:14 That's a great point. I'll take it and advance us from that moment. We've asked them, "What happens if we do nothing? What will we look like?" Pretty much, they're going to say, "Well, things won't change a bit." So then the next move is, "All right, well, let's establish a shared vision of success." This is not a toss away need here when we're selling. This is about folks getting around the table, all the necessary players, get them literally around the table and crafting together what the shared outcome of this initiative would be and all the components they're in. It's not about giving somebody a task to craft a nice vision statement and we'll all nod in agreement. This is about everybody getting around the table. Shared visions done well are actually an extension of shared accountability.

Joane Ramsey: 07:06 That is a great point, Tim. I think when doing that it's also important that people understand clearly what the current state of the organization is and what the desired and future state of that will look like. How will this change the situation? How can that shared vision can be measured in terms of success and what that journey looks like? Because clearly, the journey is going to be unique to the organization.

Tim Deuitch: 07:32 It will. So, let's take that journey to its most pragmatic level. The next step is to time this out. Put the schedule out of the key activities and the timeline, the specific calendar that gives you the best chance to succeed. What's in that calendar, and it's more than just calendaring, it's actually in that calendar you want milestones. You want the reckoning moments where you can course correct as needed. What that does is it brings that shared accountability back. All the different players involved in rolling this initiative out will now understand that there are particular moments where their contribution is assessed as part of the whole. Extremely important.

Joane Ramsey: 08:22 Yes, and it keeps everybody accountable by having that in place. I think that's a great point. It also gives them a clear understanding of where they fit in and what's expected of them. At the end of the day put yourself in your internal stakeholder's shoes. One, approach your internal people as you would an external client. Two, create a story to answer the question, "Why do we need to change? Where are we coming from, and what's our perspective on that?" Three, focus on a shared vision of success. What's the impact? What does that look like? Four, define time and results. What's the time involved? What are the expectations, and what results are we looking to gain as a result of this initiative? Thank you for joining us today. If you have any questions or want to learn more, visit us at

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Published: August 26, 2020

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Joane Ramsey

Senior Performance Improvement Consultant

A native of Brazil, Joane first came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student with AFS. She returned to Brazil where she successfully ran and sold two different businesses. Returning to the US in 1992, Joane put her business ownership experience to work with a small manufacturing company running the day-to-day operations and facilitating sales with South American companies. She joined SEG in 1999, where her experience has helped her clients get the results they desired. Joane has a B.S. degree in business management from North Central College, where she majored in international business and Spanish.

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