In the last edition, we discussed the six key actions needed to create win – win outcome. The key actions were:
- Plan the best approach.
- Establish mutual involvement in the situation.
- Explain your recommendation and its benefits.
- Ask for reactions and address concerns.
- Ask for the specific support you need and explain what you will do in return.
- Agree on an action plan.
Let us take each action step and see how to make it happen. When you are trying to win support for an idea, remember that any type of support needs a firm basis. Before you can influence someone successfully, you need to lay this framework by assessing the situation carefully and finding a way to meet the needs of everyone involved.
Decide what you want to accomplish.
When you are planning to influence someone, it is important to begin with the end in mind. What specific form of support are you looking for? It might help to visualize the end result you want and what it will take to achieve that result.
Identify the stakeholders and their needs.
When you know what you want to accomplish, you can determine whose support you will need. Consider the following questions:
- Whose help will you need to accomplish your desired outcome?
- Whom will your proposal affect?
- Who might significantly interfere with implementing your proposal?
Once you have determined whose support you will need, focus on one person at a time. Think about what motivates each person so you can match your proposal to his or her individual needs. Here is a list of some factors that tend to motivate people:
- Saving time
- Applying logic, data, or information
- Using power or authority
- Ensuring security and comfort
- Making or saving money
- Pleasing others
- Gaining recognition
- Gaining a sense of belonging
- Feeling needed
- Getting control over outcomes
- Having a chance to be creative
- Acting on practical considerations
- Improving workflow
- Reducing stress
- Increasing sales
- Reducing errors
Decide which benefits of your proposal you will stress based on what motivates the person you need to influence.
A good idea will have benefits in many areas. But since people are motivated by different things, a well-targeted presentation will stress the benefits the particular person cares about most.
Think about objections the person might have to your proposal.
By thinking ahead of time about the objections, concerns, and obstacles the person might raise, you will be better able to address them in a positive, problem-solving manner.
Determine the best way to approach the person.
In making your proposal, you want to show that you are meeting the person on his or her own ground. Give some thought to how he or she would want to be approached (e.g., face-to-face, by phone, or in an e-mail message).
Most people will not give you their full attention unless they see a need to do so. By demonstrating that both you and the other person have a stake in the situation, you will establish a reason for them to be receptive. Briefly, describe the situation and how it affects both of you. Be as specific as possible about the effects of the problem. Describe how it makes work for both of you less easy, more stressful, more costly, less satisfying, or more time-consuming.
People buy into ideas for their own reasons. Some will be interested in how your idea will benefit the organization; others will want to know how it will benefit them personally. In addition, since most people will wonder what your agenda is, they will want to know how your idea will benefit you. A good presentation of your idea will include benefits in all three areas.
Without input from the person you are influencing, you can aim for a win-win outcome, but you will never know if you are on target. What’s more, if you don’t deal with someone’s concerns, you may never get full buy-in. That’s why it’s important to make sure the person understands your proposal, to listen carefully to his or her comments, and to address his or her concerns. Make sure the person understands your proposal. Ask questions to check for understanding of your main points.
Use open-ended questions to ask for reactions to your idea or proposal. Ask for the person’s opinion of your proposal.
Probe for negative reactions to bring them to the surface so you can deal with them.
Do not jump to conclusions about what someone means; ask for a thorough explanation. Be sure you understand the person’s point of view before you address it.
Address each negative reaction with a positive attitude of mutual problem solving.
- Restate the concern, as you understand it.
- Clarify your proposal if you think a misunderstanding is the source of the concern.
- Offer any additional information that might alleviate the concern.
- Ask for suggestions on how to address the concern.
- Offer any suggestions of your own.
Many people find it difficult to ask for what they need since the answer might be “no”. Instead of being direct, they hint and wait for the other person to volunteer support. As a result, they rarely get what they need. The best way to gain people’s commitment is to be straightforward and specific about what you need them to do.
Be very specific about what you need (e.g., time, money, approvals, people, or certain project parameters).
People are more likely to be willing to give support if they see your own willingness to pitch in.
If you are asking the person to take on more work, offer to take on some of it yourself.
If you are asking for other resources, explain which of your own resources you will put toward your proposal.
Alternatively, you might be able to do something to make your idea more valuable from the other person’s point of view.
Once the other person promises support, you have almost reached your goal. But you still need the actual support. To help ensure that you get it, work with the person to develop a specific action plan.