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Influencing Senior Management

Strong beliefs win strong men, and then make them stronger.
WALTER BAGEHOT

Having great ideas can prove frustrating, especially if you don't have the ability to sell them to someone who has the power to approve implementation. Here's how to persuade those above you to accept your ideas:

  1. Prepare thoroughly before you meet. The more important and controversial the idea, the more you need to be prepared.

  2. Be frank with yourself. Do you really care about the issue? Can you project enthusiasm? If not, be realistic about the outcome.

  3. Get as many backup facts as you can. Your opinion is more important to you than it is to others. The more data you have, the more rational you can be and the greater will be your influence.

  4. Anticipate senior management's reaction to your proposal. Prepare effective responses to any resistance. Rehearse your presentation with an associate, if possible. Have written documentation to support key aspects of your proposal.

  5. Collect ideas from those to whom you will be selling your idea. Incorporate these ideas into your pitch. This will earn you some measure of buy-in before you start.

  6. Greet people warmly. A firm handshake that lingers a second longer than usual gives the impression that you will like the other person.

  7. Present your ideas concisely. You will not have ages to convince people. Managers' time is valuable and their attention spans are short. If you can't convince them in five to seven minutes, you probably will never convince them. If their interest grows and they have more questions, the discussion will go beyond your anticipated time.

  8. Speak the language of the people with whom you are dealing. Find out what the issues of the day are. For example, if cost-saving is important, show how your idea will save money. If quality is the issue, show how your idea can reduce errors or customer returns.

  9. Never make exaggerated claims that can be proven false or promises you cannot fulfil.

  10. Give compliments whenever they are due. Genuine compliments disarm people and spark their interest in having further discussions with you.

  11. Look optimistic and upbeat. Smile often. People are more receptive to ideas presented in friendly conversation that those presented in doom-and-gloom interchanges.

  12. Show interest in their reactions. This will indicate your determination to satisfy them.

  13. If you are unable to get approval at your first meeting, ask for a follow-up session. Find out what obstacles remain before you can get the go-ahead. Collect any additional information that may be required to fully satisfy your managers.

  14. Thank people for their time in a memo. Confirm the issues that need to be dealt with prior to approval.

  15. Don't let outstanding issues drag on. Show your enthusiasm by dealing with such issues quickly.


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