Before we plan how to persuade someone, it can be useful to first consider why they should listen to us. To ask ourselves questions like; What is their opinion of us?; How well would they receive a message from us?; How do they view our role?; Is their mind open to us? Would they value our opinion on this subject?; Who does influence them & why?
Before we start to try to influence them on an area, it can be a smart move to try to influence them on us first of all. Some call it the difference between the message and the messenger. First make sure they are influenced about the messenger and only then try to deliver our message. So how can we do this?
Third Party – if you have a contact or champion who considers you positively and who would be prepared to support you, this would be a great strategy. You ask them to say to your target something like ‘You know Sophie in corporate has got some excellent ideas on strategy and how to drive more value out of this firm, you could do a lot worse than listen to her’. Should work every time and now your target is listening because they respect the opinion of your champion.
Network – This is where you use your network outside the firm as a lever to get the partner interested. So it might go something like, ‘I know I only have 2 years experience in this firm, but I have a good network of colleagues across some of the top firms in this practice area and I’ve got some ideas I think you might be interested in hearing…’ There is logic in this argument and there is also the temptation of finding out what other firms are up to.
Role – This is where you use the definition of your role to logically position your value. So this one might go, ‘As part of the BD team for this practice area obviously it’s my job to help deliver what the firm needs, but it’s also my role to identify opportunities for improving things; as such I have a number of ideas which could have significant impact…’
These are just three ideas of how to make sure they accept us before we try to influence them. And even if this is not required every time, by using this approach we make sure the foundations of our arguments are very strong. In this way we ensure they have accepted the messenger before we deliver the message.