Why Settle for Being Persuasive? Build Buy-In Instead.
Chances are, you’ve had to be persuasive before. It’s a natural part of collaboration, leadership, and just plain being on the team. Need to build a case for more marketing dollars? Need to appeal for another employee? Need to prove that one of your tactics isn’t working and present a better way?
Then you’ll need to be persuasive. But why stop there? Seeking buy-in — the fancy term for getting people behind something new — accomplishes goals and institutes real change better than a sales pitch ever could. But what are the hidden keys to building this precious commodity?
First, and most importantly, don’t confuse buy-in with selling. Yes, you’re making a pitch, but true buy-in invites participants to discuss and debate. That process, and it really is a process, moves your peers from bystanders to truly vested stakeholders. Real buy-in fosters a mutual respect that goes beyond simple compliance. The best approach is to present your ideas as drafts — something open to change — instead of foregone conclusions.
Along with that, you’ll have to recognize that this can be a long process. At MJM, we often present proposals first to one or two leaders, who will then invite more of their colleagues to hear the presentation a second time. We’ll answer questions over email and during meetings sometimes for weeks and even months before getting the green light to move forward with the proposed project. People need time to digest and synthesize information, and you’ll be well-served to be welcoming and responsive as they do that. Consider their questions and even their pushback as positive signs that they’ve taken your plans seriously.
Second, be clear and concise about the problem, how to solve it, and how to measure progress. This is vital for creating true alignment. While we may all speak the same language, we use and interpret it differently. Your peers and superiors hear your words and apply their own conclusions and connotations to them instinctually; their perception may be very different from what you intended. That means clarity is doubly important. Avoid esoteric or vague language when possible, and use concrete dates and metrics every time you can.
Finally, be prepared. Buy-in can’t be achieved without credibility, and credibility relies on preparation. Gathering relevant data, writing out basic next steps, and consulting others with more experience are just a few ways to position yourself as a knowledgeable guide and gain the buy-in you’re seeking.
There’s no need to build buy-in alone! Contact the experts at MJM for help communicating your company’s next big change.