You’ve got the idea, but how to sell an idea is the problem. If you think your company could benefit from implementing uniforms, follow these steps.
Knowing how to sell an idea isn’t always intuitive, especially when pitching a company-wide change. You may work for a company where everyone wears business casual dress or follows general clothing guidelines, but you’ve seen other companies where the employees all wear uniforms — the same dresses, shirts and pants or shirts and skirts — and you like the way it looks and the impression it conveys. You think a uniform program that requires all employees to wear uniforms would help your company brand itself, enhance customer service and reduce employee clothing costs, as well as provide other benefits.
Before you try to sell your idea, make sure you’re fully prepared to face the tough questions. These seven steps will help you get on the right track.
1. Decide Who Will Make the Pitch
If you don’t have a senior position at your company, it might be challenging to have your voice be heard. If this is case, find someone who is in a position to pitch to the company and has a history of successful pitches — sell him or her on your uniform idea and ask to collaborate. Work with that person to make the initial pitch based on your research and presentation. If your senior management tends to discount individual suggestions, form a team and get their buy-in, then provide the suggestion as a group. If no credibility concerns exist, you can make the approach yourself.
2. Determine the Benefits
Different groups of people will be affected by the proposed change, including regular employees, supervisors and management. Do you think everyone should wear uniforms? If so, how will each group be affected? Should each group wear the same type of uniform or are there job duties that call for different types of uniforms? Ask these questions of the various groups to identify the numerous benefits each group will receive. Some advantages of a uniform program are there are no start-up costs, the company will save money on uniform purchases, uniform maintenance and repair costs, and enhance company brand and image.
3. Prepare for Resistance
Getting your boss to adopt your new idea involves more than just the idea. In some situations, higher management may disregard an employee’s suggestions but embrace them when an outside consultant makes the same recommendations. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, managing the first impression of your idea is important. This involves two components: positioning your idea and addressing the initial resistance. These are two activities that most outside consultants do very well. To do the same, summarize all the benefits in a clear and compelling manner. Next, briefly specify the disadvantages and state how to mitigate them.
4. Explain the ROI
In this step, you determine why the advantages outweigh the perceived disadvantages. This step enables you to address any initial and subsequent resistance that may arise. Once you understand why the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, be prepared to sell it in terms of how the whole team can win.
5. Provide a Breakdown of Any Associated Costs
What are the costs involved and who pays these costs — the company or the employee? What are the ongoing maintenance or laundering costs for the uniforms? Are these costs equal to or less than the current associated costs? If your proposed uniform program saves the company and employees money in addition to providing other benefits, your bosses are much more likely to adopt it.
6. Focus on Specifics
It’s important to be specific about the advantages, disadvantages, costs and savings. Vague comments such as “this will improve our branding” will have minimal impact. Statements such as “the use of uniforms has shown an X-percent improvement in brand recognition for companies in our industry” are much more specific and, therefore, much more relatable and impactful.
7. Prepare to Assist in the Implementation
Finally, you should be willing to help with the implementation. Offer to assist wherever possible. For instance, you may provide information and research on uniform vendors or talk to employees to make them more amenable to uniforms before an official announcement and rollout.
The ability to sell your bosses on a uniform program directly translates to an ability to sell your ideas for other improvements, projects, product offerings and more in the future.