It’s all people and it’s all relationships

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“The problem is with Accounts,” I said. It was early in my career and I was telling my boss why our purchasing proposal was stalled. I was worked up about how ‘Accounts’ were making our life difficult. He asked me a couple of times who the problem was with, but I was not listening. Finally, in exasperation he asked, “But who? What is their name?” “Oh, it’s Bill,” I responded. “Right, let’s think about Bill and what he wants,” my boss said. “There is no such thing as Accounts; organisations are just a collection of people. It’s all people and it’s all relationships,” he said. “We need to think about Bill and what’s in it for him to agree to what we want.”

Once we considered Bill and put our proposal in terms that were relevant to him, he became our partner instead of an adversary. To my surprise and delight he quickly approved the revised version. It was a valuable life lesson.

We have all done it; used a one size fits all approach to our stakeholders. We use the generic slide pack that we presented to our boss, to try to convince other stakeholders to support our proposal. But individual people are at the heart of every big objective. Each stakeholder will view our proposal through their own lens.

You may need to bring your team on board to support you. Perhaps you have to influence your key clients or your strategic suppliers. Each stakeholder needs a targeted approach if you want to bring people along with you. 

It also seems that what we say first is critically important in winning them over. That is the point that Robert Cialdini, makes in his latest book, Pre-Suasion. Dr Cialdini has spent his career researching the science of influence. He argues that what we say first, changes the way people experience what we present to them later. For example, asking your boss to provide advice on a plan, rather than give his or her opinions or expectations regarding it, puts them in a cooperative state of mind before they even experience the proposal. That makes them more favourable to it when they then later encounter it.

How could you better target your communication with your key stakeholders?

Best regards, Brian

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