If you are in business development and partnerships, at one point you’ll have to sell something that isn’t fully built yet. This typically happens in the earliest stages of a company, as well as in new product cycles.
I’ve seen the most success in selling something that isn’t ready when it is less about selling and more about information gathering. Your company is considering building a product or feature- you go out and talk to many clients/partners for said product/feature. If you get enough interest in it- you build it. As companies give you feedback on it (maybe you have a prototype, maybe you have a deck, maybe you just talk about it conceptually) you continue to take feedback and bake it into your ongoing selling process. For example, if you meet with company X at 1pm and they give you a great idea for a feature in the product, when you meet with company Y at 4pm, you should bring it up and get there take on it.
Bottom line: Selling something that isn’t ready yet isn’t easy, but if you strike the proper balance you can garner some early interest to capitalize on once your product is ready.
There are times when you need to sell your offering to third-parties. There are times when you need to sell internally, getting buy-in from decision makers, to get things done. Both take a certain amount of persuasion.
When you sell externally, if you have a big market, you’ll be successful when you’ve got a solid product that a respectable amount of companies want. It’s okay to strike out a few times. When selling internally, you usually get one shot to get them onboard.
Selling externally is obvious, it is the description of your job! The internal sell, however, can be overlooked and forgotten about. When pitching internally, make sure you are smart about who to pitch first. To get influencers on your side first, try to think about what is important to their aspect of the business and come to the final decision makers with many supporters. That is usually a surefire way to get something done; come in packs.