Optimize Persuasiveness Series (1 of 4)

Author: Steven Zolman

Negotiation has been referred to by some as "The Art of Letting Them Have Your Way". Many clients fancy themselves as excellent negotiators.

Persuasion, however, is a different skill. Persuasion is a form of social influence. If Negotiation is the art of letting them have your way, persuasion is the process of guiding your counter-party towards the adoption of your idea, attitude, or position by rational and symbolic (though not always logical) measures.

Relationship based persuasion is usually strategically intended to win others over, not to defeat them. Thus it is very important to be able to see the topic from different angles in order to anticipate the reaction of others to a proposal.

To be successful in this pursuit, we recommend the following 4 steps:

  • Step 1: Survey your situation. This step includes an analysis of the situation of the persuader, his goals and the challenges he faces in his organization.
  • Step 2: Confront the five barriers. There are five obstacles that pose the greatest risks to a successful influence encounter: relationships, credibility, communication mismatches, belief systems, interest and needs. You must confront these issues and overcome them if you are to be successful.
  • Step 3: Make your pitch. People need solid reason to justify a decision, yet at the same time many decisions are taken on the basis of intuition. This step also deals with presentation skills.
  • Step 4: Secure your commitments. In order to safeguard the longtime success it is vital to deal with politics at the individual and organizational level.

Many clients we work with underplay or overplay their ability to persuade their supplier to bring them to their way of thinking. In this four part blog series, we will discuss the four most effective strategies we have seen clients use to optimize their persuasiveness with their suppliers.

Strategy 1: Unbundle gains, bundle losses

Optimize persuasiveness with your Suppliers.

  • Unbundle concessions and good news.
    • Suppose you have the ability to tell a Supplier that your ROI study came back favorable, and that you are now ready to sign the deal
      • Consider calling one day to say the ROI study came back favorable
      • Consider calling another day (after some time has lapsed) to say that you are now ready to sign the deal
      • You’re likely to make the Supplier happier if you share the good news over consecutive interactions
      • You may also have an opportunity to trade for something else of value each time you make a good announcement
        • Example:
          • Hey Bob, good news, the CFO blessed the ROI study we delivered. If you can ensure we will have the resources available we requested, I may be able to sign next week.
          • Hey Bob, more good news, based on your confirmed availability of Timmy, Joey and Susie, who we really like, we are now ready to sign the deal. I may be willing to pay the first payment at the start of the project instead of net 60 days, if you can provide me with a favorable net present value option in excess of our IRR.
        • In this scenario, your Supplier will see that things continue to progress in a positive direction, and will usually be only too willing to work with you to provide these minor concessions to keep the deal on the tracks and keep the good news coming in.
  • Bundle costs and burdens.
    • Request concessions in one comprehensive request rather than in several incremental ones. Break bad news in one fell swoop.
    • Unbundled Example:
      • Monday – Hey Bob, the ROI study was rejected by our CFO. I’ll fill you in on the details in our face-to-face next week.
      • Tuesday – Hey Bob, more feedback on the ROI study – the CFO didn’t like your team’s projections of top-line growth, let’s regroup next week.
      • Wednesday – Hey Bob, we’re going to need to extend your pre-sales teams efforts to develop this proposal – let’s chat more next week.
      • Thursday – Hey Bob, just got word from our implementation team that the systems will not be ready for the anticipated kick-off date, so we got some work to do here buddy.
      • Friday – Hey Bob, I’ve been getting some feedback from the team members that we may want to reconsider the resources we originally selected to come on site to do the implementation work. If you could bring some resumes of some more team members I would appreciate it.
      • Saturday – Hey Bob, sorry to bother you on a weekend, but our General Counsel called me today to tell me that they are not ready to do any legal review work and will therefore need to push this back.
      • Sunday – Hey Bob, quick update for our meeting tomorrow, our CEO says he’s not willing to sign any deal with you guys unless and until we can get all these issues worked out ahead of the planned start date.
      • By this time, your Supplier believes this deal is so far off the road and into the ditch that it is probably hopeless to continue to invest time and effort, and death is coming by 1,000 cuts. Your Supplier may see any continued investment as simply a waste of time and money and may therefore defect.
    • Bundled Example:
      • Wednesday – Hey Bob, we’ve had a bit of a setback today with the ROI study. Our CFO didn’t like our projections of top-line growth, and that’s going to require us to go back and rework some things. I’m going to need some continued assistance from your pre-sales solution engineering resources to help see us this through. This puts our start date in jeopardy by a few days, and therefore we may need to revisit which team members are coming on site for the project if you have resource constraints on your end. In addition, this will delay our legal review and push back our official sign-off on the deal until after our next board review meeting, which is 2 weeks out. Give me a call to discuss, and I can answer any questions you might have in an advance of our face-to-face meeting next week – where I expect we will resolve these issues.
      • This makes your Supplier’s losses more palatable (relative to the status quo) and they will see this as a single setback, rather than a sign of systemic problems that are more difficult to control and overcome.

By applying these two simple yet subtle rules (i) Unbundle concessions and good news and (ii) bundle costs and burdens, our Clients have been able to better control Supplier perceptions, manage Supplier relationships, and have been able to keep Suppliers actively participating in the success of their projects with minimal disruption.

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