When it comes to positioning well with clients to set your bids up for success, strong influencing skills are key.
Thoughtful influencing not only ensures that you get the information and insight you need for your submission but it also helps you get the best from your team and stakeholders which is crucial for success.
It’s three years since I took off my uniform for the last time as a Regular Soldier in the British Army and stepped into the commercial world. Since then I’ve been applying my knowledge and understanding of how people work and how to influence them to the commercial sector. When I first left, I didn’t know what a P&L account or an RFP was along with all the other terminology used in the corporate world. Three years on and I’ve seen and learnt a lot and in this guest blog for The Bid Toolkit, I’ll look at a few of the things I’ve noticed so far.
People Think They Know Their Stakeholders Better Than They Do
At Applied Influence Group we use a simple model to think about those we wish to influence. Amongst other things, it makes you think about the type of person the stakeholder is, what their attitudes and beliefs are, what they are interested in and what they like and dislike.
Invariably when we get our clients to apply the model to a stakeholder, they are surprised at how little they know, sometimes about critical stakeholders. Working with one client, we quickly established that a stakeholder who they had been focusing all their efforts on was an interim appointment and was moving to a different organisation imminently. Many of our clients realise that they know nothing about their stakeholders outside of a narrow business perspective.
When we work with teams, we also regularly find out that one member of the team knows something which the remainder of team were unaware of.
Understanding your stakeholders well and sharing this knowledge across your team significantly increases your chances of successfully influencing them. It allows for stronger rapport, builds trust and allows you to phrase your messaging in a way that will resonate much more with them.
Most Influence Challenges Involve Internal Stakeholders
Many of our clients engage us to help them with improving their success with their clients. Almost always when we begin to apply our methodology to their challenge, we discover that internal influence challenges represent as significant an obstacle to success as client-facing challenges.
These internal challenges may revolve around winning support for a proposal at the appropriate level, getting people to accept a short term negative impact on their own part of the business for significant longer term gain for the wider business or just getting people to contribute effectively to a team issue.
Some of these issues are down to organisational design, others to perverse incentives, while some are a result of organisations expecting their people to do more than they are capable of with the resources at hand.
Ignoring internal influence challenges or accepting ‘that’s the way it is’ rather than attempting to influence the situation can have significant client-facing impacts.
A Focus on Role and Position Rather Than Influence When Looking at an Issue
When looking at complex situations with multiple stakeholders, many of our clients remain focused on the position or role that someone holds rather than the impact they can have on a challenge. In one example, a client had several members of their own organisation embedded within a client delivering on existing work but had made no attempt to get them to assist with an influence
campaign as they had relatively low-level appointments. They’d failed to understand that these people had regular access to deliver influence messages across the organisation that they were seeking to influence.
Another example we regularly see is clients talking about their challenges with getting appointments with key stakeholders but spending little time trying to build relationships with the Executive Assistants who can make this happen.
Thinking more widely about who can have a positive impact on your situation and how you can influence them increases your chances of success.
Missing the Wider Context
Failing to identify aspects of a situation that are affecting decision-making has led to some of our clients struggling to be successful with what seems to be a very solid proposal. Multiple factors outside of the business case can affect the decision-making process.
As an example, a change of personnel at the C-Suite level may make a decision-maker less confident in taking the calculated risk of doing something new until the internal dynamics at the senior level has settled down.
Sometimes these factors may be highly personal, sometimes they may be related to strategic changes within a large organisation. In our experience, these factors are often known but the impacts of them on individual or group decision-making have not been thought through fully.
Understand what is affecting those who need to make a decision and adapt your approach accordingly.
Ignoring the Personal Perspective of the stakeholder
We all have our own mix of desires and fears that shape our personal way of viewing things. If we can understand what these are within the people that we want to influence, then we can phrase our messages in a way that speak to these desires and address their fears. Describing a sound business case in a way that makes sense to someone at an individual level increases its relevance and potency. Someone may have a strong desire for order whilst someone else may be driven by status – the same business message can be phrased differently to speak to both of these.
When dealing with a panel of individuals, a careful assessment of these desires and fears can ensure that different parts of your influence message resonate with different individuals.
Align your sound business case with an individual’s desires and fears and it will make emotional sense as well as rational sense.
Want to know more about gaining a competitive advantage through elite influence? Join us on the 11th September when Dan Connors will be joining us as a keynote speaker at Bids and Procurement LIVE!
Our series of LIVE! events bring together bidding and procurement professionals in a relaxed environment to drive greater mutual understanding and sharing of best practice. As part of this we will also have panel discussions around Wellbeing in the workplace and bid libraries giving attendees the opportunity to get involved in the discussion and share their thoughts and ask our expert panels and burning questions they have.
Tickets cost just £25 (+ vat) and include breakfast for more info and to secure your spot click here.