Conveying the Cool: How to Sell an Idea That’s Ahead of it’s Time

Here’s a great question from one of our listeners, David:

If your work is truly cutting edge, how do you effectively market if people don’t even have the distinctions yet to “get it,” and you need to get their attention AND it takes a longer conversation to really open it up?

The art of conveying the cool (significance, importance, call it what you want) is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember.

Like other entrepreneurs and forward-thinkers, I have a tendency to look to “10-steps ahead,” which is a problem because:

  1. It adversely impacts my ability to be present, and
  2. Leads me to talk about things that are not a part of the popular vernacular…stuff that’s “ahead of its time.”

When your work is truly cutting edge, it can be hard to convey the significance of your labor to people who care less about “how” you got there, and more about how “being there” is going to rock their lives (or businesses).

As creators, we get massively excited about our work, and often times, what excites us more than anything is what famed physicist, Richard Feynman, called the “kick” of figuring the thing out.” It’s the mechanism, the puzzle, the science that pulls us from ahead and leads to visionary outcomes.

Unfortunately, that’s not what lights up most others. If you want to convey the importance of your visionary work, you need to translate it into terms that people care about.

Sell excitement around the outcome, rather than the mechanism.

Sure, you can identify the mechanism, but don’t harp on it. Shift quickly to explaining how your idea, company, etc. is going to improve the life of the individual(s) you’re speaking with in a mind-blowing, yet believable way. People buy into the self-driving car, not the vast array of groundbreaking servers and servos that drive it.

Excite people by relating your work to their tangible experience of transformational benefit. 

Meet people where they are, convey how your work will change their life in a meaningful, measurable way. Then, watch them get on the “let’s do this” train, even though they’ve got no idea what’s fueling the engine.

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