Lessons for Creatives: Learn to Sell Your Ideas

The Hindsight Career Project 2021

One of the most important skills I’ve learned on the back of developing ideas for products and services is learning how to actually sell them. To teams. To clients. To customers.

You’re asking for the audience to listen, to hear you, to take a leap based on the case you present. You’re asking for them to invest their time and often money in your story, your idea.

You might use facts. You might use emotion. You might use jazz hands.

Early on in my career as a creative assistant I learned from my creative directors how to stand up in a room and sell. They showed me how to open strong with a story, bring forward an insight, establish eye contact and empathy, and then pitch the idea. I learned to use my voice and an understanding of their business problem and, despite my short stature, own the room.

Over time, presentations have become increasingly on the phone and now of course over Zoom. One trick in presenting remote is organizing your thoughts in advance to minimize your “ums.” For example, I’ve taught several art directors how to do this by suggesting they annotate layouts with numbers and notes to organize the presentations. This helps them seamlessly move from point to point—without an um. It’s magic.

Shooting our video series The Hindsight Career Project several years ago, chief creative officer Matt Eastwood hit the issue and the answer on the head in his lesson:

As Eastwood candidly explains and humbly admits, this can require professional help even as uncool as it might be. It’s a skill you can learn. Either way, I’ve found it requires a lot of practice.

One of my role models, David Ogilvy, started as a salesman for Aga cookers and, later as a copywriter, founded the iconic agency. In a statement that has outlived him, he famously made the stakes clear: “We Sell. Or Else.”

Marketing + content leader. Partner at Prophet. host: Rising & Cidiot podcasts. Author of career guidebook and memoir: bronzeseekssilver.com

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