13 Strategies to Get Buy-In for Your Great Ideas [art of buy-in 3/3]

13 strategies for buy in title image

Photo Credit by Highway Agency

[alert style=”green”]This the final post in a 3 part series on the art of buy-in. Post 1 explained why some people almost always get their ideas shot down. Post 2 was a story about how I overcame the naysayers and got buy-in for my team dues idea . Post 3 outlines 13 specific strategies you can use to get your great ideas implemented.[/alert]

——- 7 strategies I used in my effort to get a team dues implemented —–

1) Build a base of supporters

For a good idea to be adopted by a group, it’s not enough for most people to be on board – you need a few very vocal supporters to champion your idea. As captain, I had some positional authority, but I knew it would be important to enlist the support of former captains and friendly teammates before the presentation even happened. Taking the time to have one on one conversations to sell your idea to people you trust within the group is time consuming but vital to ensuring your pitch to the full group is successful.

2) Prepare to address objections

This seems obvious, but people generally don’t prep enough for objections. If you just dismiss people’s viewpoints, they don’t feel respected and will be more likely to fight your proposal. In this case, I knew there were at least three objections I had to address and I took time to appropriately address each one.

  • We don’t spend that much money as a team – I built out a very detailed spreadsheet with our team’s expenses which meant it was harder to challenge the amount I was requesting
  • I don’t have money on me – More of a timing thing, I waited until the guys had received their per diem
  • I don’t want to overpay – I promised my teammates we would stick to the budget and if that if there was money leftover it would be returned to them

3) Neutralize nay sayers

Even after addressing objections in a way that will please most people, there are often still nay sayers who just refuse to change, don’t want to do anything or perhaps dislike you personally. Making sure that Eric and Luke wouldn’t shut down my idea in front of the group was a key strategy for getting team dues through. Depending on your situation, there are a couple tactics you can take to neutralize naysayers:

  • Try to win them over in a one on one – Sometimes nay sayers just want attention.  Other times, they have a genuine concern or misunderstanding.  When you meet in person, you can create a safe environment to speak honestly, identify the underlying issue, and figure out what to do — without the pressure of egos or an audience.
  • Have someone they trust/respect win them over – you might have the right message for the naysayer but perhaps they need a different messenger. If you can convince someone they trust to make the case for idea (see building base of supporters) they might be able to get through when you couldn’t.
  • Use peer pressure to force them in line – if you have enough support, you can make them look like the bad guys – the ones holding everyone back from pursuing this great idea and thus pressure them into going with your proposal. This isn’t always easy to do and it could backfire.  Plus, I had a feeling Eric and Luke would just dig their heels in.
  • Cut them a deal – I used this technique when I offered to let Eric and Luke pay individually.  This can be a risky move, because if people find out about the special treatment, they may doubt my integrity and overall motives.  Why do some people get a deal but others don’t? Do you have to suck up to Jason or make a ruckus to be exempt from rules in the future?  In this case, it was worth taking a chance because I felt like most people would understand.
  • Strong arm them into agreeing – this is typically a last resort move – threatening to make their life miserable or eject them from the group (if you have that authority) are blunt objects that can work but will definitely cause some collateral damage and are best avoided.

4) Show them you have their best interests in mind

People need to know that you care about them and aren’t proposing an idea that really only benefits you. The best way to do this is to have a track record of generous contributions to the group (and to remind them of this track record).

In my case, I mention talking to Susan, who was an administrator in the athletic department and tried to get our team more money (by increasing the number of days of per diem we got from 4 to 6 or 7, which is what we usually got). I wasn’t successful but I mentioned it as a reminder of “Hey, remember, I’m out there busting my butt so we can get more money. Keep that in mind when you think about this.”

Find a way to show people you care about them and want what’s best for them – it will help them trust you when you suggest something new.

5) Time it right

As comedians say – timing is everything. We had just receive our per diem (the food money for the week) from our coach so everyone had cash in their pockets. We had also recently gone on a camping trip where a variety of expenses had been fronted by different team members and people were trying to figure out who owed what.

I jumped in during this period of mild confusion and gave a clear simple proposal that built on the existing conversation about money/getting paid. Make sure to consider when the best time would be for suggesting your proposal. You want to capture their attention and catch them at a time when they’d be most amenable to this idea.

6) Make it easy for them to say “yes”

To build off this In my email to the team, I framed it not that they were paying $55 up front, but that they were already paying $25 for camping and they just needed to add another $30 and not worry about paying for anything all year. Once you decide what you want a group to do, try to simplify the process and make it as easy as possible for everyone else involved. The more work you do up front, the more likely they are to agree when the time comes to vote.

7) Don’t give up on good ideas

If your proposal doesn’t get buy-in the first time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad idea. It could be a bad idea, but that’s a different post altogether. Assuming that your idea is decent, it’s worthwhile to evaluate what went wrong in the buy-in process so you can either try again or apply the learnings to future instances. Why didn’t the idea get traction? What objections can you better address? How can you improve the timing of your proposal? Make a plan and try again. If your idea is truly a good one, then it’s worth fighting for – you just have to invest the time and effort to make it happen.

—— 5 additional buy-in strategies  ——-

8] Simple and Clear Proposal

In my case the proposal was already extremely simple – pay upfront so you don’t have to pay later. But in general, you often lose people because your idea is too complex. I’m not suggesting you treat your group like children, but invest some time in making sure your suggestion to the group is as crisp and understandable as possible. Write it down, edit, refine and practice before you deliver.

9) Co-create the solution with feedback

Often times the best ideas come from a group effort. Going beyond strategy number 1 (build a base of supporters) is an advanced tactic: enlist people within your group in the idea-creating process. Get their feedback on how you can best solve the problems of the group and not only will you often get better ideas, but you’ll have an even stronger champion who has emotional investment in making this idea work.

10) Help everyone feel the pain

Generally, ideas are about solving problems. When a group is small, everyone feels the same pains more or less, but as the group gets bigger, people get disconnected from each other. If your idea helps a certain subset that have a problem others don’t – try to find a way to make the pain real for everyone. Have an affected member share their story, or provide a visceral way for the group to understand the issue – thus making the need for a solution more compelling.

12) Find a common enemy

This is a tactic that works all too well, often for very destructive purposes, but it bears mentioning here. We are a tribal species and we respond well to “them” vs “us” arguments — think wars and terrorism. Whether it’s keeping up with another group, defending our honor or fighting some injustice – if you can tie a “common enemy” narrative to your idea, your chances of getting buy-in increase dramatically.

11) What’s in it for me

Let’s face it – people are often motivated by personal gain. Your boss is going to be a lot more interested in your idea if can make him look good to his boss and perhaps get a raise or promotion. Show people how adopting your idea will provide some benefit to them and make their lives better, easier, etc.

13) Tie it into a larger goal

This is the opposite of What’s in it for me – this is the vision strategy. While personal gain is nice, people are also motivated to do things for larger, more noble reasons. If you can make them feel like this idea is part of a larger goal or movement – like participating in this bake sale is going to help their school pay for new computers to help their kids learn and is a way to show your community engagement – a parent may be more inclined to get involved.


So those are my 13 strategies for getting buy-in. They are not the be all, end all for persuasion, but they cover a big swath of ground and should hopefully keep you busy for a while.

Remember: proposing new ideas is scary and most people are afraid of change. It’s almost always hard work to get a good idea adopted, even by the smartest and most well-intentioned of groups. Don’t get frustrated, get smart and get it done.

Additional Buy-In Resources

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, there are 3 books I highly recommend that cover this topic in more detail:

A Sense of Urgency by John P Kotter

Kotter is a Harvard Business School professor and uses a great fable to highlight a comprehensive approach to getting buy-in for a complex idea from a heterogenous group of people.

Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t by Jeffery Pfeffer

The more power you have, the easier it is for you to get people to buy-in to your ideas – plain and simple. Pfeffer is a Stanford Business School professor and tells it like it is with this honest look at power and how to get it.

The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource

Written by a man educated at the school of Hard Knocks, Gitomer provides a nitty-gritty down to earth guide on selling stuff – not just gadgets, but services, companies, yourself and your ideas.

Many thanks to Winnie Kao for reviewing an earlier version of this article

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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  1. Nice. I think the last three are especially strong. Politicians utilize the final three very well. I think the trick is figuring out how to do this with your idea.
    P.S. Oddly, your numbering is jumbled with 11 and 12 and with 7 strategies then additional ones up to 13 leaves 6 additional strategies not 5.

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