Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 25;   June 23, 2004:

Selling Uphill: Before and After

by

Whether you're a CEO appealing to your Board of Directors, your stockholders or regulators, or a project champion appealing to a senior manager, you have to "sell uphill" from time to time. Persuading decision-makers who have some kind of power over us is a challenging task. How can we prepare the way for success now and in the future?

Karl knocked on the doorjamb. Sara looked up. "You were right," he said to Sara. She made a little circular motion with her right hand, which by now Karl recognized as "Come in, close the door, sit down." He did all that, sighed a deep sigh and said, "Wolf will be a problem."

"Say more," she said.

Uphill trek"Well, he's convinced that Metronome won't work, even if we try this extension. I think he wants to try the Marigold approach instead."

Sara looked thoughtful. "Good thing we found that out now. Marigold is a mess, and we can make sure everyone knows why before we even enter the room on Thursday. I love it!"

Karl and Sara are trying to make a case to decision-makers, and they're taking a very strategic approach. They're speaking to opinion leaders first, finding out where they stand, and learning how to strengthen the case they plan to make on Thursday.

If you plan to "sell uphill" soon, what can you do before and after your formal presentation to enhance your chances of success? Here are five tips.

People are persuaded in
part by the relationship
they have with
the persuader
Build relationship
Most people are persuaded in part by the relationships they have with the persuader. Are you known to the people you're trying to persuade? If not, reframe your objective from persuasion to relationship building. Think of the current effort not only as an attempt to persuade, but also as a chance to start building relationship.
Connect with opinion leaders
Often decision-makers rely on trusted advisers — opinion leaders. Build relationships with opinion leaders, keep them informed in advance, and listen carefully to their questions and suggestions.
Make your approach valuable in itself
Even if you fail to persuade, will you be imparting value? Will the time spent be valuable to all concerned? Make your case so informative, engaging, and stimulating that your audience will be eager to listen to you again sometime.
Give them something useful
Deliver something concrete that will make you memorable — a handout, a summary chart, an insight they can use in other contexts, or a quick-reference resource. Put your name on it.
Appreciate the listeners
Most of us thank our audiences when we're at the front of the room, but few of us take time afterward to express appreciation. That's actually good news, because it means that when you send a hand-written thank-you note the next day, you'll easily stand out.

If you are yourself a decision maker, and you'd like the champions and advocates in your organization to use some of these strategies, tell them about it. People are a lot more likely to deliver what you value if they know what it is. Go to top Top  Next issue: Selling Uphill: The Pitch  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A possibly difficult choiceComing April 21: Choice-Supportive Bias
Choice-supportive bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to evaluate our past choices as more fitting than they actually were. The erroneous judgments it produces can be especially costly to organizations interested in improving decision processes. Available here and by RSS on April 21.
Two people engaged in pair collaborationAnd on April 28: The Self-Explanation Effect
In the learning context, self-explanation is the act of explaining to oneself what one is learning. Self-explanation has been shown to increase the rate of acquiring mastery. The mystery is why we don't structure knowledge work to exploit this phenomenon. Available here and by RSS on April 28.

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Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

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