Disney Creative Director Will Gay: How to Sell Your Ideas


You can't be truly innovative if no one signs off on your biggest ideas. As part of our Creative Team of the Future project, Disney creative director Will Gay shares some tips and insights on how to sell your ideas and win over decision makers.

It might take countless hours of brainstorming and problem solving to arrive at just the right idea for a creative project. But don't forget the other half of your job: pitching those big ideas to your boss or client.

"Selling your idea could be 40 or 50 percent of the whole thing," says Will Gay, creative director at Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group. "If you don't sell the idea, you never get the chance to create that beautiful thing or tell that great story."

So how exactly do you master the art of the sell? Gay shared some tips and insights he's gained in his career to sharpen your persuasive skills:

Focus on telling a story

It doesn't take lights, music or a jaw-dropping Prezi or PowerPoint presentation to sell an idea. "We've sold a couple of ideas here, really big things, by selling on a basic, simple level," Gay says. "We've done it with only a Sharpie and a giant Post-it notepad."

Instead of bells and whistles, practice telling stories focused on real people. A great story should start in one place and end in another – there's change, struggle or transformation.

Learn from great pitchmen and pitch women 

Take the time to study or observe what makes them so good. It might be a competitor, someone else in your office or a famous creative.

Gay watches pitches from outside agencies and even takes inspiration from Walt Disney. "Nobody did this like Walt," he says. "He convinced people to sell everything and mortgage everything to the hilt and then build Disneyland. Nobody had ever done anything like that before."

Read the room 

One quality Gay has noticed in great pitch people? They read the room and, if necessary, change direction mid-pitch. Observe body language, energy levels and general engagement. Then adjust your focus and approach as necessary. It might be as simple as engaging people with questions or noticing what makes everyone perk up.

Speak their language when you sell your ideas

"A lot of us artists and creators, we like to think, 'Well, why don't you get it? Can't you see it's awesome?'" Gay says. "We're very emotional, but the business side is very rational."

Take the time to tie your big idea back to key business goals using your audience's language. Pick up on key terms – whether it's ROI or conversions – and incorporate those points into your pitch.

Take them on your journey

Put the people you're pitching in your shoes by walking them through the process that led to your idea. "Show them you've thought about their business just as much as they have," Gay says. "And that you care about it and want it to work." This context gives your ideas more weight.

Each year, The Creative Group teams up with AIGA to find out what trends will impact creative teams in the near future. The latest Creative Team of the Future report explores how creative and technology teams can collaborate more effectively.

More tips on how to sell your ideas