People run businesses. Many of these people are the owners, stakeholders, and decision-makers who decide whether a business will cease operation or keep on ticking. It is crucial to have everyone in your company agree with one another to achieve a common goal. This requires a lot of talking and a lot of brainstorming. A lot of convincing and persuading.
Like many of you, I've been a member of the SaaS industry for long enough to have seen many things change. I've had the pleasure of working with many startups and other organizations striving to improve their on-demand businesses. One thing that's stuck with me throughout has been the challenge and opportunity to gain buy-in from key stakeholders.
There are a few simple ways that can get you buy-in from your key stakeholders:
Find out what they want and why.
When you're getting buy-in, finding out what people want and why they want it is essential. You should ask questions, listen carefully, and understand what they say before moving on. If you don't understand something, ask them to repeat themselves—don't interrupt them!
Let the person speak uninterrupted for a few minutes before jumping in with your ideas. When a group of people are involved in a conversation about something that affects their jobs or businesses, they need time to think through all the possible implications of any decision before moving forward. If you jump in too soon with your idea, they may feel pressured into agreeing just so that everyone can move on quickly—and that decision might not end up being what they really wanted at all!
Be prepared to have an executive overview ready to go.
The next step is to prepare an executive overview of your proposal. The key here is to explain the problem, provide a solution and then ask for help implementing it. An excellent way to start is by asking questions like:
- What are the top issues we currently face with our customers?
- How could we solve these problems?
- Who should be involved in creating the solution?
What are the benefits of implementing this solution? How could we measure success and ensure it's worth the effort? Don't forget to end with a call to action, like "I'd love your feedback on this idea. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns."
Have a strategy to take care of possible negative feedback.
When you're faced with negative feedback, there are several ways to respond. If you get defensive or emotional, the person giving the feedback will stop listening to what you're saying, and they'll be more likely to share their thoughts on why they disagree with your decision. The same holds true if you get personal or use illogical arguments (circular logic).
If someone tells you that they think your idea is flawed, avoid making any of these six mistakes:
- Don't get into an argument; instead, work towards understanding where they are coming from and how their perspective differs from yours.
- Don't be rude; don't try to change their mind for them to agree with everything about your approach and strategy.
- Don't be offensive; ask questions for both parties involved in this conversation to understand each other better and come up with solutions together (where appropriate).
- Don't be condescending; don't try shaming anyone who disagrees with your decisions or ideas just because it might somehow make things easier for them.
Bring in the right people at the right time.
Bringing in the right people at the right time is critical to getting buy-in from key stakeholders. It's so important that I want to emphasize it again: don't bring in people who don't need to be there. Don't bring in someone who isn't prepared to listen and learn. And don't bring people who won't be able to contribute.
If you want your entire team involved early on—and if you have a small enough team, this may still make sense—make sure they're all up-to-speed with what they're going through before inviting them into the conversation! If not, you risk wasting everyone's time by having a lot of uninformed discussions where no one knows what anyone else is talking about or why.
As you can see, there are many ways to get buy-in from your key stakeholders. While the strategies outlined here are not a comprehensive list of all possible approaches, they cover some of the most common ones and provide valuable tips for making them work for you.