September 2005 Archives
I think this is an Investors Business Daily article.
Woo Your Skeptics With Credibility
Published on Monday, August 22, 2005
To win over skeptics, goes the traditional wisdom, you build an airtight case that's tough to rebut. And you begin with a general statement that's sure to elicit agreement.
Bad moves, says Samuel Bacharach, author of "Get Them on Your Side." Skeptics don't care about the strength of your case, and they may not fall for the let's-both-agree opening.
"The most common mistake in trying to persuade skeptics is to think if you've got a good argument, that's enough," he said. "Don't assume they'll see the wisdom of your idea and they'll trust you. You have to earn legitimacy first."
Use the what-how-why technique to gain credibility. Begin by explaining what you want to accomplish. Summarize your goal in the fewest words possible and speak in simple, jargon-free language.
Then describe how you want to achieve your goal. Conclude by letting skeptics know why you need them on your side.
If you want a skeptical colleague to endorse your growth strategy, you can say, "I want to grow sales by 25% a year, debt-free. I believe we can do this by increasing our customer retention rates and upgrading our target marketing. I need your support so that we can present a united front to our board and employees."
He added, "You must take the time to tell people why you need them in your corner." If you bark orders and demand compliance, skeptics will probably resist you.
Let resisters contribute ideas and propose alternatives to achieve your goal. Give them a chance to say no.
"Admit that you don't have all the answers," Bacharach said. "That makes you seem more legitimate in their eyes and signals your willingness to listen."
Like a shrewd negotiator, know when to walk away.
If you repeatedly meet strong resistance, stop hammering away at your goal and try an alternate strategy. By pressing too hard, Bacharach says that you risk "turning a resister into a saboteur."
"If you make too many tries to repeat and repackage your case, your ideas will look even weaker to the resister," he said. "It's better to just quit and go around the resister."
If you dislike a skeptic, don't let your personal feelings undermine your persuasiveness. Separate your animosity from your efforts to listen and seek a resister's opinion.
Ignore the stale advice of starting a conversation with a skeptic by gaining agreement over big issues, Bacharach says. It's better to raise a small issue at an operational level that you both acknowledge.
"We tend to talk about big issues all the time," he said. "But skeptics see past that." Just because you can both agree that the customer comes first won't get you very far in selling your idea.
It's smarter to cite poor results in a particular market sector, Bacharach says. That way, you forge agreement over something specific.
Then you can work together to tackle that narrow issue.
- Morey Stettner