Personally, I am very fond of strawberries and cream but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what the fish wanted. I didn't bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: "Wouldn't you like to have that?" Why not use the same approach when fishing for people? ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People
Selling ideas to stakeholders can be a difficult venture, especially when there are multiple interests and agendas. One of the key qualities of a good business analyst is the ability to influence others. Stakeholders at one point or the other, will need to be convinced of a particular course of action and it is up to the business analyst to do the convincing.
According to BABOK V2, Business Analysts exhibit leadership skills when they develop a vision of the desired future state that stakeholders are motivated to work towards.
This post contains tips you should bear in mind when persuading and influencing stakeholders.
1. Remember That Everyone Wants Something
Would you care about something if you got nothing in return? I know I wouldn't and most people feel the same way. When you present an idea to stakeholders, you have to show them (or explain) what is in it for them. Take time to understand stakeholder agendas (spoken and unspoken) so that you know how best to appeal to each stakeholder group. Each stakeholder has unique perceptions, values, motives and a set of concerns that should be addressed when interacting with them, if you want to get anywhere.
Stakeholder profiling can help to unveil information that will help you tailor the way you communicate benefits to suit each stakeholder group.
Also, prepare multiple versions of your pitch based on the stakeholder groups you have identified. For example, if you were speaking to call-center staff on the benefits of a solution, you would advertise benefits like an increase in performance rating/commission due to faster issue resolution but if you were speaking to executives, you would mention the dollar sign in your justification. Benefits should always be relevant to the audience you are addressing.
2. Start Early
Seek stakeholder consent and approval from the beginning of your project instead of waiting until formal approval/sign-off. In convincing stakeholders of a particular course of action, you’ll find it much easier to carry them along from the beginning than waiting until the project starts hanging upon their approval. This will save you time, prevent late changes and minimise opposition.
3. Stick To Facts
Most people won’t care how strongly you believe in a particular course of action until they see facts. Stick to facts drawn from an objective analysis of data. This will make it easier to bring them on board.
Benchmarking results can also help to convince stakeholders that you’re on the right track as far as the industry is concerned.
4. Have A Plan
In addition to highlighting the benefits of your project, show stakeholders an action plan of how the benefits will be realized. Provide a detailed timeline of activities with clearly established milestones.
5. Speak In Business Terms
In presenting your recommendation, only use language that the business can understand. Avoid the use of technical terms and jargons; they can easily make your proposition difficult to understand.
6. Know Your Onions
Your recommendation may seem like the ultimate truth but do not expect everyone to be amazed by what you are presenting and automatically see where you are coming from. You will have to work hard to convince them.
Stakeholders will typically have a lot of hard questions to ask and you need to have answers to their questions. Your powerful idea means nothing if you can't back it up with facts. Consequently, you should not be too hasty in making recommendations; cover all the bases before unleashing your idea to the world.
7. Lean On Someone
Let the “powerful” stakeholders know your idea in advance so that they can back you up when you meet others. You do not need to do everything on your own. Successful projects are usually the result of healthy collaboration so don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.
Convincing stakeholders is achievable if you approach it with knowledge, confidence and perseverance. While there is no guarantee that all the stakeholders will agree with your recommendation or that it will be implemented at all, the preparation you put into persuading them will certainly help them see things in a different light and guide the business in making the right decision.