- Recognize that it is your responsibility to SELL an idea, NOT someone else’s responsibility to BUY the concept. Good salespeople identify and relate to the needs of the buyer, not their own needs. While making a sale will obviously benefit the seller, a buyer must recognize why he or she will benefit from his or her decision to purchase before a sale will ever be consummated. Remain positive and upbeat, focusing on what YOU can do to “make things right” rather than upon what others could do to make things fail. Until you truly “sell” change, you will be but an implementer rather than an initiator. When you are in a position to contribute rather than to dictate (as many of us often find ourselves), focus on the results of your interaction rather than seeking praise, recognition, and credit for the idea.
- Consider how change will impact “the whole” rather than how it will meet your personal objectives. Since most people are hesitant to abandon the status quo, if you want something to be different than it is you must convince others that the promises and potential of change are better than the comforts of staying the same. If you wish to influence another’s actions you must clearly demonstrate how change will positively impact that individual, the organization, their environment, and their future. RATHER THAN imagining how much better your life might be or what personal gains change might provide, consider first how you might be able to influence the world around you so that all may benefit.
- Present a realistic cost-benefit analysis of your idea. Whether it be a major corporate decision, the way meetings are conducted, the prioritization of work or a family vacation, be prepared to have a realistic discussion on the cost of change as well as the results of change. Recognize that “cost” can be financial investment, “ego” adjustment, letting go of something that has become second nature or emotional upheaval so there is no one path that will lead to the acceptance of change. Acknowledge that implementing your idea will often means someone else’s idea was not used BUT discuss how the two (three or four) concepts might be blended to create one solution that is potentially more effective than any single idea. Whenever anything has changed in history, the benefits of change have outweighed the costs. It is your job to clearly communicate this if you expect to be heard (and wish your words to influence behavior that initiates action).
- Treat managers (or anyone else) to whom you are communicating with the same respect and courtesy you would treat a customer (OR would like to receive yourself). Recognizing that your manager IS your customer when presenting an idea or concept will help you to be a better salesperson. Within your personal relationships, “dictating” might be a quick remedy…but selling (rather than telling) and discussing (rather than imposing) will be much more effective over the long run. The trouble with always telling others what to do and how to do it is that eventually nobody may be left that chooses to listen.
- When a conclusion is reached, whether or not you fully agree with it, adopt the final decision as your own. Ineffective influencers will “own” decisions with which they agree and “credit others” with the ones they may not have wholeheartedly supported. Remember that you will not always “win” when influencing upwards, but you will gain tremendous credibility if, after all the discussions and debates, you own any solution that is not illegal, unethical, or immoral. We can always live to fight another day as long as we do not impale ourselves upon the sword of principle today. Fully embracing an initial direction DOES NOT commit us to the same straight and narrow path forever. Seeking continuous improvement will allow for the modification of an idea, concept, or direction as we move towards a final result AND provides change and (potentially) new beginnings within our relationships.
- NEVER advance an idea without having a sincere belief it will make a difference (NOR fail to advance an idea based on who may ultimately receive the credit). If we lose sight of the result of our ideas, focusing instead on getting credit for the concept, we often discredit others to make ourselves come out on top. When we consciously make others feel that they are right or responsible, rather than continually elevating ourselves into a role of infallibility, our ideas have a better chance of being implemented. Ensuring that the best results are realized (rather than trying to get others to realize that ONLY your ideas are significant) will provide for more meaningful long-term rewards.
- Rather than focusing on what has (or has not) happened, focus on what has yet to occur. Far too many individuals are haunted by what went wrong rather than what went right. When we focus on what failed, we often lose sight of what may have led to a positive – the things that would never have occurred had we not taken our initial tentative steps (that may have failed) in an effort to bring ideas to fruition. When we focus on what did not happen (often beating ourselves up for what we did wrong rather than what we might have done right EVEN IF it did not work) it is difficult to consider what could be done differently to alter the process as we work to influence final results. When accepting “what is” as being finality, how can we ever realize “what could be” in our work, our attitudes, or our relationships?
Until we learn to sell our ideas (thoughts and feelings) rather than expecting others to simply buy them from us (without discussion, debate, or input), our knowledge, abilities or best intentions will never influence others to initiate action that will result in positive (or long lasting) change.