In my work with clients I hear time and time again, “I want to get better at influencing stakeholders. I want to be able to easily persuade others to act on my ideas and recommendations.” And while this seems like a simple act, anyone who’s familiar with the art of influencing others knows it’s anything but simple … and those who’ve been successful at it know the key is to get others to do what you ask because they want to not because you said to.
In the spirit of helping you get better at influencing, here’s an easy to follow 6 Step Framework that has helped me and many of my clients boost their influencing ability.
Step #1: Set Your Goal
It’s important to get really clear on what you want your stakeholder(s) to think and/or do differently. It’s much easier to align your selling points to a specific end in mind; not to mention this step also helps you become clear and confident about what your ask really is.
Step #2: Analyze the Situation
This step is all about spending time understanding the other person(s) and the situation. This starts with stepping back and asking yourself several questions:
- How does the other person(s) feel about the situation – step into their shoes and look at it from their perspective?
- What loyalty do they have to what already exists?
- What interests, concerns or triggers might they have about making a change?
- How can you address these?
- Which of these are you willing to flex on?
- What could you say or do to possibly motivate them to act on your idea, proposal or recommendation?
- What should you NOT say or do because it may frustrate or distract them?
You might also consider talking to a trusted colleague and getting their perspective on the other person(s) and the situation. Sometimes we get so close to a situation and what our goals are that it can be difficult to answer the above questions and a trusted colleague (or two) can really help.
Step #3: Determine How to Best Present Your Idea
Based on my 20+ years of experience and hearing what’s worked well with my clients, I’ve learned of two primary options for presenting ideas; and picking which one is best for your situation really depends on what you learned in steps 1 and 2. The two primary options include:
- Using facts, data, logic and information that are relevant to the other person(s)
- Telling stories and painting a picture of what’s possible in the future
You may also consider whether or not either of the below could be helpful to leverage with #1 or #2 above when presenting your idea:
- Spending time with the other person to learn and understand what they really want; this is about listening to and engaging people for their perspective so you can identify a win/win
- Presenting your idea through the lens of a shared value, experience or aspiration that you’ve had with the other person(s); e.g. for example if you and the other person(s) aspire to a similar vision for a department talking to this when you present your facts and data could be very powerful
Step #4: Structuring the Conversation
This next step is all about structuring the conversation and determining where and when it should take place.
Let’s start with the easy stuff – where and when should the conversation take place. Think about this from the other person’s perspective and try to schedule the conversation at a time and place where they would feel comfortable. For example, let’s say you’re trying to get buy-in from your business unit president to launch a new product; consider the best time for this conversation; e.g. are there pre-set scheduled meetings for these types of discussions in the organization, is he/she more open minded in the morning, in the afternoon etc. Next consider where the best place to have the conversation would be; e.g. maybe a pre-set meeting location or possibly inviting him/her to lunch. Again, the goal here is to have the conversation at a time and place where the other person(s) are going to feel most comfortable.
Now for the conversation. If you haven’t already done so in Step #3, think about how you want to open the conversation; e.g. small talk, a quote, sharing something of interest to them etc. Once the conversation gets going, you’ll want to have thought about and planned for:
- What might you need to preface the conversation with?
- How is/are the other person(s) likely to respond?
- What questions and/or concerns are they likely to have?
- How will you address their questions and/or concerns?
- What clarity will you need to address their questions and/or concerns?
- How will you demonstrate that you truly understood their questions and/or concerns?
Step #5: Being Conscious Of and Planning for Undesirable Outcomes
It’s always best to be prepared for anything; or at least anything you can think of. In this step it’s advisable to spend some time thinking about what might go wrong in the conversation:
- What if you or the other person(s) is emotionally triggered – what will you do – how will you remain calm?
- What if you learn something you hadn’t considered – what will you do – how will you address it?
- How/when will you know the conversation is over and you didn’t achieve your goal?
- When might it be appropriate to table the conversation and re-group?
This is a critical step, you don’t want to be caught off-guard if and when things don’t go your way. If you’re prepared it’s much easier to remain calm and composed and end the conversation respectfully.
Step #6: Rehearse
Some things don’t really sound the way they do in your head, and you probably don’t want to find that out the hard way. It’s advisable to get a colleague or two to help you rehearse your conversation. This enables you to make any needed adjustments or changes and learn what tone to use and how to carry yourself.
Influencing others is tough, no doubt about it and no one situation is the same. So, do yourself a favor and plan for these conversations, use this framework and if you’d like to talk more about it feel free to contact me at: email@example.com.