The Language of Innovation Leaders – Selling Innovation The Right Way


During the process of innovation, selling your idea can be one of the biggest challenges. Once you go up several layers they begin to speak a different language.

The office of CEO is only two steps above director. That might not seem like much, but with those two steps, the language shifts a great deal. You have to really understand who the influencers are, and what they are looking for.

Ultimately the CEO and Innovation Officers are focused on inspiration and driving innovation – they may speak the language of innovation, but when they hear about new concepts or innovative products, they will often think in terms of their own parlance. It is important to understand what they are thinking about, what their considerations are, and why. Good ideas can be derailed simply because they weren’t compellingly communicated. How do you translate the value of an idea, product, or service as it moves up the organizational hierarchy?

Identify your audience(s):

According to Aaron Keller, Managing Principal of Capsule and former professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, “There are three different customers you’ll need to think about in relation to your idea”. Purchasers are those who make the decision or write the check, influencers are the individuals or groups who influence the purchasing decision, and the end users are the people who will directly interact with your product or service.


The first two audiences (purchasers and influencers) will be your biggest hurdle. You’ll want to make it easy for them to say yes, and hard to say no. In order sell your idea to the CEO, you need to start thinking like a CEO.

They will be thinking in terms of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s); profit, growth, ROI, capex, assets on hand that can be readily utilized, time to market, etc. Pushing the technical workings of your product or service is not going to sway them. In fact – you might find yourself terribly off topic.

Shane Atchison discusses how to speak the language of your CEO with his article, “7 Simple Ways to Get Inside Your CEO’s Head”. Speak plainly, be concise, and sell the idea, not yourself. Put your idea in the context of the entire business, link it to ongoing initiatives, and be willing to take risks. If you really think you have a great idea, take a leap of faith and contact your CEO directly, says Atchison.

Do you have an idea waiting for the right ears? Understand the purchasers, talk with the influencers, get guidance and/or coaching, and speak the language.

You can learn more about creating and sustaining innovation by reading “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival”.  – See more at: