Big ideas can help you sell complex solutions. Here’s how to get a buyer to understand a changing market.

Thomas P.M. Barnett is a geopolitical analyst, strategist, speaker and writer. The way he thinks and presents his ideas–which are sometimes highly controversial–to his audience is fascinating.

Big ideas are key to selling, Barnett argues. But the key is to make these ideas digestible–and to help potential customers think about an inevitable future. Barnett offers a few tips for selling a complex and innovative solution to an audience of buyers that may not be ready for it.

1. Reframe Challenging Ideas

Sometimes you need to push people to consider new ideas. The change you’re talking about may simply be inconceivable to your buyer; you’re going to need to frame it in terms he or she can understand.

Focus on some long-term structural inevitability–something that we just know is going to happen. You’re really trying to show them the benefit of early moving. You’re trying to emphasize that when you’re talking about an inevitability, there’s a price tag now and there’s a price tag as you get closer–and the price tag now is almost always far less, sometimes exponentially less, than the price tag as you get very close to the inevitability.

2. Point Out the Early Movers

To get a customer thinking about the future, point out the early movers to watch: start-ups, technologically adventurous types, companies making bolder bets on the long-range futures from the financial communities, people who are thinking in terms of big infrastructure bets. Then get your customer to think about possible competitors who are thinking faster along these lines.

If you start pointing out the advantages that are accruing to these players by early action, you can start to change the mindset.

3. Imagine the Future

Help your customers imagine themselves operating and succeeding in that future. Associate yourself with early movers, with the start-ups, with the guerrillas, and the insurgents. Whether it’s greed or desire for a better life, your customers are more likely to adapt to the behavior they see working.

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