Friday, May 20, 2011

Influencing Powerful People

Influencing Powerful People - Engage and Command the Attention of the Decision Makers to get What You Need to Succeed is the title of a book by Dirk Schlimm.

I was attracted to it partly because I need to influence powerful people and partly because I have my own views of how to do it. I have also been on the receiving end of trying to be influenced - sometimes well and sometimes in an irritating way.

I am also attracted a lot lately to influence because my role has become much more one of influencer (coach, mentor, board member etc) than actually the person who can "force" or "make" the decision. I have made it a study to try to figure out how to do this in situations where I may not even have a formal role or title.

The book has 17 rules for influencing powerful people. Things like "get ready for a potent mix of brilliance and drive"(that chapter is on understanding powerful people), "Master the Art of First Impressions" and "Practise Humility". Each rule is simply described including how to be more effective with that rule.

One of my favorite rules is "know what you are doing". Nothing gains or loses respect like it.

The final rule is "Powerful People Need People Who Don't Need Them". Many powerful people spend their days with people who want to sell to them, want a job, want something. It is relaxing sometimes to find people who are not "takers" all the time and choose to give or assist even when there is no immediate "want" in return.

Jim's rules of Influencing Powerful People (part my own and part inspired by Schlimm's book):

1 - Respect their time. I am not sure people understand how many emails, calls, meetings etc many powerful people have to deal with. Many of them got into their position by a herculean effort in handling the volume combined with processes and systems to deal with it. I know I used both.

I know my politeness has cost me hours of meetings (need to evolve my time management techniques more). Do not confuse politeness with interest.

2 - You can actually be selling to the wrong person in the company. I often recall someone practically begging for a meeting or almost tricking me into having one and they think they have hit paydirt. They make their pitch and sell their story to me. I then take the materials they provide and just send them on to the person who makes that decision. They lose the opportunity to make the pitch to the right person and all the right person has is some information but no sales pitch.

And in most cases, good leaders will not make decisions that their people should make (it took me a while to learn that one the hard way).

3 - No two people or organizations are the same. What works for one person will not for another. What one person views as a perk is a burden to another. For example, I do not particularly need a 3 hour dinner and would prefer something faster or even no dinner at all.

4 - You cannot know who will influence the sale. In many cases, it not the person with the title who needs to be "sold". All people of power rely on groups of people to assist them in making a decision. For this reason, I always "go multiprong" when making a large sale. Know the CEO but also know the receptionist, the VPs, the sales people and the tech support person etc.

5 - Solve problems. Powerful people have challenges. Knowing what they are can be the first step to your product or service solving them. Selling where there is no perception of a problem to solve is impossible.


At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Powerful People Need People that Don't need them"

I like that saying, it kind of reminds me of Wallstreet in 2008. "Powerful People need People", might be a substitute saying.

Your politeness has more than likely educated you beyond the common CEO. Listening to others, when others who considered themselves more important to do so, has likely earned you more respect and saved you loads of time because of the relationship you developed, more than managing your time could ever accomplish. Desiderata is a poem that comes to mind.

Sometimes, it changes peoples lives as we all should know, to listen, no matter whats going on.

Good review on the book. Enjoyed it.


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