CEO Tips on Selling your Ideas (part 1): Joe Costello & Aart de Geus

Have you heard the saying “In a strong company, the best ideas win”?

The reality is that it takes more than a great idea. It takes the ability to get folks to listen, understand and agree with you.  Adding to this, business execution is so complicated today that even the strongest individual contributor has dependencies.

So I asked 4 highly successful CEOs, whose companies I had worked for in some way, for their insights on persuasiveness and selling ideas.

Tips from CEOs Aart de Geus and Joe Costello‘s are below, followed by part 2 with tips from Wally Rhines and Dean Drako.

Joe Costello, Chairman, Metrics

Start with a clear end in mind

Start every presentation with a clear end in mind. The end in mind for any presentation is the experience you want to create for your audience. That means that every presentation must be customized for the unique audience in front of you. You must think through exactly who the audience is, where they are coming from, how you can most efficiently connect with them.

Get people to see things differently

In general the goal of a presentation is to get people to see something new or to see things differently.  People come into your presentation with an existing world view. You need to find ways to literally jolt them into a new way of seeing the world. It can sometimes be compelling facts or information, but the best way that I have found is to tell a story because it helps the audience get out of their own mental loops. They can be drawn in. Humor is also helpful because it is often the easiest way to get people to see the logical inconsistencies in the world that they accept.

Bring all of you to the discussion

Bring all of you to the presentation and put it all out there. Don’t hold back. Passion is contagious and will help get your audience engaged and open to your message. If you are not passionate about your message, how can you expect the audience to be interested? You are leading them. Be inspiring.

Aart de Geus, Founder & CEO, Synopsys

Speak from the heart

Be genuine & truthful

Add a fresh insight


Gloria Nichols does CMO and strategic marketing program consulting for technology startups. She has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a BS in Engineering from Stanford University.