Don’t Fall Into Destructive Influence
Whether your clients are internal or external, you work hard to understand their needs. You develop ideas and solutions to help them meet their needs. But then how do you then convince your clients that they should understand and appreciate your vision and support your proposal? Will you use constructive influence or destructive influence to convince them? (See our recent article, Influence – Constructive or Destructive, for descriptions of each.) Rather than answer this question directly I decided to have some fun with it. Here is a short tutorial on how not to influence your clients. Not to worry. These unfortunate methods point to strategies that do work.
Use the Vulcan Mind Meld
You may remember this one from Star Trek. Spock could merge his mind with others to directly share thoughts, making the transfer of knowledge and ideas virtually effortless. As great as this sounds, it has never worked for me – perhaps my fingers were at the wrong angle. Anyway, apparently some planning and effort is required to communicate and convince people about our ideas.
Just assume that anybody who hears your idea will automatically be as enthusiastic about it as you are, so you really don’t have to sell anybody. Your ideas should fly on their own merits. Wrong. Enthusiasm is a personal reaction that your ideas alone will not invoke. Some “connecting” with the audience is required.
If clients don’t immediately applaud and agree with your idea, make them wrong for it. Tell them what they don’t seem to understand, even though they should have gotten it the first time around. Repeat as necessary until they agree that you are right. Wrong again. Clients don’t like to be wrong either. Somehow convincing clients can’t be about right and wrong; there must be a path where we all win together.
Invoke Your Popularity
You are a well-liked individual. People appreciate your wit and humor, and they have a good time with you. You should have no problem sliding your idea in between a joke and a story, and using your popularity to get the rubber stamp of approval from clients. Well . . . few people are that popular. Besides, your popularity is about you – your clients are mostly interested in things that have to do with them and their business.
Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse
Can you tell I like movies? This immortal phrase comes, of course, from The Godfather. It has to do with a gun to the head, which can be a very influential thing. Figuratively speaking, it can come in several forms in the business world: “Do this or I will complain up the chain and make you look bad.” or “If you don’t go along with this I will use my personal influence with the CFO to get your budget cut.” The problem with this approach is that, while you may have the power to influence this way, people don’t like to be threatened and bullied. It may work once, but then you will have enemies. Brute force is not a consistent success strategy. It is the lowest form of influence. There are other more sophisticated forms of constructive influence that you must master. You are on the right track if you are building, not eroding, trust.
Now you know what not to do when selling your ideas to clients, and you may have picked up some strategies for how to approach it differently. If you would like some concrete tips on how to implement those strategies, check out the Skills Corner below. Or you can try the mind meld thing…
Skills Corner: Tips for Working Smart
Tips for Selling Clients on Your Ideas
Here are some positive tips for selling clients on your ideas, and implementing the strategies that emerged in our Feature Article above. To help make the connection, the strategies are restated in italics below.
Plan, Prepare, and Practice
Before you present your ideas lay the groundwork for a successful presentation. Get clear on what you want to accomplish. Map out your presentation to deliver a clear message while showing value, credibility, and expertise. Practice your presentation considering your setting and audience. Some planning and effort is required to communicate and convince people about our ideas.
Connect with your clients both intellectually and emotionally. Don’t just put your idea on the table. Connect it to your client’s world – what they care about and how you can help them – and strive to elicit a positive emotional response. To do this well, get to know your client if you don’t already. Some “connecting” with the audience is required.
Use your credibility and create common ground with clients as levers of persuasion. Then provide persuasive evidence to influence your client regarding your idea. Anticipate where your client might challenge your ideas or recommendations, and come up with strategies to overcome objections and persuade your client toward your point of view. Somehow convincing clients can’t be about right and wrong; there must be a path where we all win together.
Impact the Business
Focus the presentation of your idea on how it will create results that positively impact your client’s business. Your presentation should connect to important client issues and concerns. The ideas and recommendations you present should help your client achieve more strategic business results. Your clients are mostly interested in things that have to do with them and their business.
Trust is the foundation of positive influence. Practice building trust in every interaction with your client. Do what you say you are going to do. Your ideas have a much higher chance of acceptance when your clients trust you. This is especially true when your idea comes with some risk to your client (e.g., financial risk, implementation risk, risk to reputation, etc.). There are other more sophisticated forms of influence that you must master. You are on the right track if you are building, not eroding, trust.
These tips point you in the right direction, but if you or your people would like more in-depth training and practice in these skills, our High Impact Business Presentations™ workshop is a perfect fit. Or, contact us to discuss your specific needs.