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6 Tips to Persuade Stakeholders to Say "Yes" to Your Project

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"Advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art." -- Bill Bernbach, founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach, an ad agency

Starting a project is not always easy. It requires resources and changes the status quo, so there can be a lot of obstacles until you hear "yes" to a project.  

That's why you need to know how to effectively persuade your stakeholders to get on board with your project.

Dr. Alan H. Monroe's motivated sequence pattern, created in the 1930s, is useful for doing so:

1. Attention: Capture your stakeholders' attention with an interesting opening statement, or share a statistic related to your project.

2. Need: Identify the need that your project will address and share it with your stakeholders. The more information you have about the business needs, the better the chance your project is approved.    

3. Satisfaction: Let stakeholders know how your project will satisfy the identified business needs. In detail, describe the approach you'll use in your project to address the needs.

4. Visualize: Explain the 'perfect world' that will exist after the project has finished. Make it as vivid as possible -- explain how it looks, sounds and smells. Be very energetic and enthusiastic when you explain.

5. Action: Tell them what you need them to do. Let them know specifically what steps you are taking to achieve the vision you've just shared.

The sixth element I would add is to tell a story to help you make your point. It could be real or it could be fictional, but remember that people are more likely persuaded when they hear or read a story that transports them. If a story is told well, we get swept up and are less likely to notice things that don't match up with our everyday experiences.

Use your creativity -- find your own way to mix all of these elements and you can build a powerful tool to persuade even the most demanding stakeholder.

How do you reach and influence your stakeholders as people, not just businesspersons?

See more posts from Jorge Valdés Garciatorres.

See more posts about stakeholder management.

 

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4 Comments

All of the above tips are good but they are not enough. I think the most important tip is to understand each stakeholder's hidden agenda (they all have) and try to make it look like as if the project will satisfy the needs in that hidden agenda.

Stakeholders whose hidden agendas are not satisfied will usually create impediments that will block the project.

This approach was probably OK in the 1930's, but these days, it's project management 101. If you leave gaining approval for a project proposal or bid submission approval up to a final meeting or presentation, you deserve to have your project dis-approved.

As soon as you start working on a bid or proposal you should be marketing it through the decision makers, if you don't have access to them, then through their trusted advisers.

Your organization should have a robust review and approval process in place so that the final meeting is a mere formality, for a competitive tender it should be mostly about price.

I would suggest the above approach these days is more suited to a bid or proposal kick off meeting in order to rally support to gain resources to put your proposal together.

Jorge,
You are spot on. Project Managers have loads of responsibility and, usually, little or no authority to accomplish the project. The ability to create a clear and engaging vision, inspire others to adopt the vision, engage the team to focus, focus, focus on the desired outcome and relentlessly re-focus are essential talents.

Since team members are diverse in behavioral style, knowing how to identify their style, truly understand and appreciate their style, and adapt "your style" to theirs to communicate effectively are equally critical talents. We have to focus on the team members needs and not our own to make this really work.

Our best advice is to take the necessary time to know your team members. Are they aggressive and competitive, persuasive and polished, steady or fast paced, or detailed and systematic. These clues will give us all the information we need to communicate and engage effectively.

Thanks for opening this discussion.
John Hersey,
Johnhersey.com

Typically, to get stakeholders' attention, the "what's in it for me?" approach works well. WIIFM. When they perceive the outcome of a project in a light that benefits them, they feel connected. Usually this helps in getting their buy-in.

Realizing, of course, there are many stakeholders and many perceptions to manage, A LOT of interviewing and requirement gathering can be necessary.

It's important to listen emphatically to stakeholders if you want to take the WIIFM approach. After all, if you don't hear what their concerns are, you haven't a prayer of knowing what's in it for them. This process may feel a little like herding cats, and it is. But it's important.

One thing to be cautious of is over-promising. Once a project starts, managing expectations becomes key. It's much easier to do that if the expectations are realistic. And there is nothing worse than under-delivering.

And finally...DELIVER. Meeting the expectations is crucial to keeping stakeholders' attention. Well...keeping their attention in a good light, anyway.

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