How to persuade and influence

Influencing skills can be learnt – start now

How to persuade and influence

Last week a leading Chief Procurement Officer said that up to 80 per cent of a CPO’s time is spent influencing internal stakeholders.  What does that mean for the ambitious procurement professional?   It means that besides having top class technical skills and experience, to get ahead you need to be a sales person as well.

Listen more, talk less 

Sales training includes advice on how to be an active listener.   As well as giving your full attention to the speaker, it is important that as an active listener you are also seen to be listening.  You can convey your Interest to the speaker by maintaining eye contact or uttering regular words of encouragement to continue.

By giving this ‘feedback”, the person speaking will communicate more easily, openly and honestly with you.  Inter-personal relationships with internal customers are always open for improvement, even if you have been trained repeatedly in “soft skills”.

You can develop a reputation for being approachable and for solving your users’ routine problems. Without stating the obvious, attitude speaks volumes.

The powers of persuasion 

It is important to position yourself as a credible, trustworthy and knowledgeable person if you want users to follow your way of thinking.  Understanding human nature and the principles of persuading and influencing can help create better working relationships.

Persuasion is presenting your case so that you can sway opinions or motivate a decision, usually by appealing to their emotions.   Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of the popular book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion talks about reciprocity. Your internal customers will feel better disposed to your overtures if you can give them something personalized or unexpected. They may even get to like you.  His six principles are beautifully explained in this info graphic drawn by Everreach.

Change management

Much of a CPO’s time is spent in managing change, traditionally not a mainstream procurement function.  Conventional wisdom says 20 per cent will embrace change, 60 per cent will go along with it, but 20 per cent will outright reject it.

Knowing how to handle the bottom 20 per cent can save you time, money and stress.  The implications of ignoring stakeholders that have a vested interest in a given solution cause extra work, aggravation and a poor result.  Remind yourself that they are always thinking of this acronym:  WIIFM  –  what’s in it for me?

Dale Carnegie wrote a classic in 1937 called How to Win Friends and Influence People which is still completely relevant today. He teaches the principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated. He also emphasises fundamental techniques for handling people without making them feel manipulated.

Knowing how to approach people and make them feel important is a skill that will work for you forever. Stakeholder management is developing into a core competency.