It’s not enough to have good ideas. In order to turn those ideas into realities for your organization, you need to persuade others that the ideas deserve the time, money, and energy required for implementation. You can win support and influence people by practicing some or all of the techniques that follow.
Like a well-rehearsed trial attorney facing a jury or a skilled president facing the press corps, influential managers have anticipated reactions and the decision makers likely to have those reactions. But you have to go beyond realizing what is likely to happen when you make your proposal and actually fashion the response you would give to the reactions you foresee.
There will be times when you hear something that sounds like an attack on your proposal. And it very well may be an attack. But it may also be a simple question or a request for clarification. Learn to frame the question or comment in a more positive light as you repeat it for the others to hear or think about.
- Converting comments to questions:
A variation on the paraphrase theme is to offer a mild challenge by asking a question in response to a statement made by someone in your audience. If you are met with a bald declaration like, “We tried this four years ago and it failed,” you might ask, “Did it really fail? Or was it put on hold because Susan was transferred to Europe before she could launch it?”
- Citing a higher authority:
Successful persuaders, like professionals in every industry, have their own tricks of the trade. One of those is citing a higher authority. So if you remember the CEO of your firm had written a letter several months ago urging employees to think outside the box, and if you are being criticized for a proposal that is somewhat unorthodox, you could refer to that letter for indirect support. Few people would dare contradict a dictum that originates in the highest circles.
- Going out on a verbal limb:
Within the animal kingdom, the survivors have acquired a range of requisite behaviors. They have learned to adapt themselves to different threats in order to stay alive. By extension, you’d probably agree that different folks need different strokes. But have you managed to alter your language or alter your approach, depending on the personalities of key decision makers?
- Asking what constitutes satisfaction:
You’ve made your proposal. Now you are fielding questions about it, some of which have an adversarial ring to them. Instead of becoming defensive, try turning the tables. Ask the relentless naysayer any of these questions, “What would you like me to say?” “What would lead you to declare this a workable option?” “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” “What would satisfy you?”
- Citing precedents:
No matter how good you are, no matter how good your idea is, it needs all the support you can gather. An excellent source of support is the past. If there are precedents for the concept you are proposing—either in your own organization or in related industries—cite them. If you can, you can profit from having half the battle already fought by others who were successful in overcoming opposition. Their proven track record can be employed by you as you work to influence others to adopt your idea.