How to sell your proposal creatively at work

Do you have trouble enrolling other people in your organization to support your new creative ideas and proposals? Then expend some time and thought into how to sell it effectively. Many of the people who review your proposal have a ‘habitual automatic No and love to give quick negative criticism, so put your proposal in a form that demonstrates that you carefully evaluated and developed the proposal before presentation. Stay creative.

Evaluate Your Proposal First

First examine your proposal’s merits. Consider effectiveness, feasibility, acceptability, and difficulty.

• Effectiveness.

Identify the problem you solved and list your proposal’s short and long-term advantages. For example, identify how your proposal will contribute to profits or improve work flow, working conditions, quality of the product or service, and methods of operation. Determine whether your proposal provides a temporary solution and whether it either partially or completely solves the problem.

Consider your proposal’s disadvantages. Identify possible ways in which the proposal might fail and develop ways to avoid or reduce these potential problems.

• Feasibility.

Consider whether your proposal can coexist with current policies, techniques, and objectives. Determine whether the necessary resources exist for successful implementation. Identify what new materials or processes, training programs, and changes your proposal requires. Estimate the cost of implementation, and the amount of time needed to present, gain acceptance for, and implement your proposal.


Write a clear, one page statement of the proposal that most people would understand and accept. Consider what factors might prevent people from accepting your proposal. While effectiveness and feasibility involve tangible matters, people often use intangible factors such as opinions, values, and feelings.

• Difficulty of Implementing.

The more people find your proposal difficult to implement, the greater the amount of time you must spend selling it, the larger the number of people you must persuade to accept it, and the more presentations that you must conduct in the selling process.


Assert that you want people to help develop your proposal, not reject it. Resistance to change rises when a person perceives a new proposal as a threat to security and status. For example, people may resist a decision to start a training program for creative triggers because it threatens old ideas and the comfortable status quo. Some may react with hostility because they fear they will not easily master or use new skills. Or they may believe your proposal threatens their status or questions their performance. To overcome this, make a list of everyone who might feel threatened by your proposal and how to reduce the perceived and real threat. Include how your proposal benefits each person.

Some people may even reject a new proposal because they did not develop it. Therefore, determine in advance:

• where your proposal can motivate rather than threaten.

• who would object.

• how to emphasize benefits and needs.

• the impact on people’s personal or financial status.

• where difficulties to understand or implement exist.

• where it affects existing professional relationships.

• whether it generates new challenges or responsibilities.

how to develop such opportunities.

Review your proposal’s advantages and disadvantages. Prepare answers to questions that may arise regarding the disadvantages. Make changes that assist in reducing the disadvantages.


Start your presentation with a general description, and then follow with a detailed explanation. For example, when you make a proposal to conduct workshops on creative thinking triggers, the general description might include a description of creative thinking triggers and the reason you to do it: to enhance profits by developing new products, patents, techniques, processes, or services. The detailed explanation might specify the content of the workshops; their dates and times, whether the workshops will occur immediately throughout the company or gradually by work groups and departments; and who has the responsibility for implementation.

If your proposal involves changes in techniques, authority, or responsibilities, consider how such changes will affect the people present. This, in turn, determines the overall approach of the presentation. People reject promising proposals because of an inappropriate approach when selling them.

Present your proposal in an understated manner. Avoid a hard sell approach. Over-enthusiasm, especially at the beginning of the presentation, can have a negative effect. In addition, avoid jargon or technical terms unless people understand them.

To correct defects in your presentation, rehearse before friends or colleagues. Even a minor flaw or an omitted point can result in quick negative criticism followed by rejection.

Visual aids clarify technical aspects and help people retain material. Recall rises with visual aids. Reinforce main points and benefits to key people. Keep your visual aids simple. Each chart or graph should cover only one idea. Unnecessary or poor visuals create a more negative impact than no visual aids at all.


Conflict becomes inevitable when selling a proposal, since everyone has a different viewpoint. Used effectively, conflict improves proposals by stimulating new ideas. However, it must be handled carefully or it can impair successful implementation.

Therefore avoid statements that lead to unnecessary conflict, such as stereotyping or pigeonholing people. On the other hand, openly discuss potential adversarial conditions based on different value systems or different needs.

There are four basic approaches to conflict resolution: win-lose, lose-win, lose-lose, and win-win.

Win-lose: In win-lose conflicts, you achieve your goals at the expense of others. Authority rule occurs when you promote your own interests without soliciting support from others. Majority rule occurs through voting when you expect a favorable vote. Minority rule occurs when you impose your ideas on others with the aid of a small, but influential group.

Use win-lose when you feel strongly about a particular proposal, when a one-time transaction does not involve a long-term relationship, or during a crisis when there is no time for consulting others.

Lose-win: With this method, you give in to suggestions of others. Use this method to obtain needed support and when you want harmony more than winning.

Lose-lose: This method involves compromise in which no one gets what they want; for example, using arbitration in which a third party arrives at a solution possibly detrimental to both sides, and during tradeoffs in which one side agrees to a number of points in exchange for concessions on other issues. Use lose-lose when no agreement seems possible otherwise.

Win-win: Use this method to manage conflict when you want all sides to feel they have won and treat the proposal as their own. Resolve conflict through consensus negotiation that achieves commitment to the proposal from all parties. See T. Gordon (1977) “Leader Effectiveness Training (L.E.T.)” for a classic account of this process.

In win-win, focus the obstacles to implementation on problems, rather than personalities. Solve the problems creatively with mutual agreements. Win-win succeeds when more time is first spent identifying the obstacles and defining problems than immediately seeking solutions.

Use win-win to (a) gather maximum input from everyone involved; (b) gain wide support during implementation of the proposal; and (c) develop long-term cooperation.

By enlisting participation early, you can persuade others to accept the proposal as their own. The win-win method consumes time well spent, since it results in a high degree of satisfaction and commitment to the proposal. This usually generates support from all involved.

You can help your proposal succeed by soliciting deficiencies and possible disadvantages from others, and then requesting help so faults can be corrected before implementation. When you enlist other people to plan and formulate the proposal, fewer problems and criticisms arise later.

The win-win method requires that you listen carefully, since comments from others will contain useful information. Respond by paraphrasing major points and summarizing what others have said.

An open attitude helps. When you push through a proposal, or appear annoyed with suggested alternatives, you can lose the support of others. Instead, incorporate the suggestions of others in your proposal whenever possible to insure win-win. Although win-win usually provides the best approach, successfully selling proposals requires learning to identify the appropriate method for the situation and using that method in a skilled manner.


Analyze your proposal from the viewpoint of positives and negatives; what you like about it and what can go wrong; weaknesses, deficiencies, improvements needed; and blocks and barriers during implementation that other people would use as reasons to reject your idea.

Then non-evaluatively list how to overcome or reduce the important negatives.


List what you like about your proposal.

Also list its strengths.


List every thing that go wrong.

Also list weaknesses, deficiencies, improvements needed, blocks & barriers.

Put all in the form of “How to” problem statements.

Non-Evaluatively List Ways to Reduce the Impact of Negatives on Your Proposal


• Summarize your proposal.

• Ways your new proposal can benefit other people.

• Ways your new proposal can benefit your peers (list their initials as you write).

• Ways your new proposal can benefit your superiors (list initials).

• Ways your new proposal can benefit your subordinates (list initials).

• Analyze Who Might Object (list initials).

• List who might feel threatened by your proposal.

• List the reasons this person might be threatened by your proposal.

• List ways you might reduce the threat to this person.

List how your proposal might benefit this person and why this person should want to help your proposal.



And checkout my book:


How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.” 



Edward Glassman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He led scores of problem-solving creativity meetings and creative thinking workshops-seminars for many large and small companies. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

His book: “Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

Another book of his: R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work” is also available.   CLICK here  OR HERE

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.