Are they buying what you’re selling?

Employees are constantly asked to change—to create change, inspire change, lead change and accept change. Coming up with innovative new ideas can be the most valuable assets we have to offer our employers, but before we can bring those ideas to life we must convince these stakeholders that we know what we’re talking about.

To instill the kind of confidence that compels others to buy into our ideas and take risks with us, we must learn to better interpret our audience and translate correctly what people are saying (or, just as important, what they’re not saying). Understanding where people are coming from is the first step to getting them on our side.

Build Your Political Competence

You may have the greatest ideas, but if you don’t know how to sell them to your team—both the decision-makers and those who can help with idea implementation—then your ideas are likely to fail.

Political competence is the ability to read between the lines—to understand what you can and cannot control, when you need to take action, who will likely resist your agenda, who will be on your side, and how to build partnerships and strong ties with people so they will support your ideas. Start by identifying:

> Your company’s culture: Is it conservative, casual, hierarchical, flat, open to new ideas, etc.?

> Your team members’ motivations: How can you earn their trust and build stronger relationships?

> Your company’s influential people: Who would be willing to champion your ideas? Build relationships with those who have the power to move an idea forward, the courage to speak out and the respect of others.

Prepare to Read the Room

The goal is to anticipate how your ideas will be received before you present them, to anticipate reactions and know who’s in your corner from the start. To do that:

Find out whom you’ll need to win over. Determine the personality types of those in the room and how best to communicate with them.

Ask yourself: Who will be most affected by your ideas? What would be common objections? With this particular group, is it better to be direct, collaborative or authoritative?

Become an undercover detective. Learn more about your stakeholders’ goals. You can’t influence people unless you can make the case for how your ideas will help them accomplish their objectives.

Ask yourself: What are their goals, and how do they prefer to achieve them? Do they share your goals but not your approach? If they share your approach but not the end goal (which could be very challenging), how can you tie your ideas into results you know they want to achieve? Do they want some situation to be different? Do they want improvement? Do they want stability?

Know what they want to hear. You want to continuously build your credibility—to show people that you have done your homework, possess the right expertise and have access to information they don’t.

Ask yourself: What are some possible objections to my ideas, and what information could I provide to justify my plan?

Invest time in crafting a convincing WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) statement based specifically on their needs. People must know the payoff for supporting your ideas and how it will contribute to creating success for both the business and themselves.

Hear What They’re Not Saying

Often the things people don’t say send an even clearer message than what they do. When you know how to read body language, you know whether you’re on the right track or if you need to change your approach. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to interpret these nonverbal cues.

Are they disengaged, distracted or just plain not listening? Distracted behaviors include (but certainly are not limited to): looking at phones, tapping feet, doodling on paper, holding their heads up with their hands or staring off into space.

Are they opposed? Crossed arms, clenched jaws, balled fists, rigid facial expressions and any other defensive postures can be signs they disagree with you.

Are they skeptical? When people place coffee mugs across from their dominant arm, they are blocking off the center of their chests, which shows resistance.

Are they evaluating? Chin stroking as well as raising an index finger vertically up the cheek are signals that you need to sell a stronger value proposition.

Bottom line: When you can read people, you stand a far greater chance of influencing them.

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Roz Usheroff

Roz Usheroff is a leadership, image and branding specialist, entertaining and educating diverse audiences across continents with her insights and vision on what it takes to achieve leadership and corporate success. Roz leads her clients to maximize on their talents, attract followers and distinguish themselves in their industry. More Articles by This Author »