Image by Omi Sido from Pixabay
June 3, 2021

Anna’s adventures in making a bigger impact (chapter 3 = buy-in)

By Paul Laughlin

Even on a bright sunny morning like today there was a musty feel to the boardroom. Max reasoned that he was probably imagining it. After all this was a modern office. Once you stepped outside the boardroom it was all glass and metal and desks of technology as far as the eye could see. But here, in the bastion of wood and leather, you could be travelling back in time. Legends had grown up about those who had ‘died on their feet‘ presenting here.

Max shuddered but pulled himself together. After all, he was just using this room for a quick meeting with Donald. But it was a meeting that mattered. After all the work Max had put into his modelling, he really wanted Donald’s support to implement his model. Plus, he felt his reputation needed a boost.

Hello, Max, how’s everything going?” Donald cut an imposing figure even in his fifties. His height helped as did those early years playing rugby. They also helped to distract from his middle aged spread, so that the six foot three inch director looked statuesque as he held out his hand.

The need to influence Big Don

Max stood and managed to overcome a slight tremble as he shook Donald’s hand. His own hand being lost in the process. As a slighter built man, standing only five foot eight, he relaxed as they sat. Donald’s smile also helped calm his nerves.

All good, thanks Donald. I’ve got the results to talk you through and I hope you’re going to see that there is plenty of evidence why this model should give you more sales.”

Sounds great, Max, but I’m a bit short of time today” confided Donald. “So, can we make it just 15 minutes? Talk me through the highlights and email the detail for later.”

Max’s felt his posture slouch. He had so much to share that it was already a push to get through the 30 slides in the half hour available. Oh well, nothing for it, he’d just talk faster & skip over anything he felt he’d mentioned already. “Of course, Donald, no problem. Well, here’s the brief we agreed at the start. Next let me explain the data sources we used and why those were the best available…

“ you can see this tenth variable shows a promising correlation with future sales, so I included that in the model…

Wrap it up Max – will this achieve buy-in?

Sorry, Max, I’ve got to go in two minutes. What do you need from me today?” Donald’s frustration was showing.

ah, erm, yes of course” stammered Max. He was only on slide 7, what could he do? He jumped to the final slide. “Well, er…, yes so the model works better than your existing leads. Do I have your approval to implement this as the new leads generator for your sales team? If so, I can put it in this weekend.” Max hoped his somewhat comfortable smile had rescued this meeting.

Hmmm… Well looks like you’ve done a lot of good thorough work here, Max. Well done, but let me think it over and come back to you. Can you email me your predicted outcome? I just need to see how confident you are this will work and what sales uplift you’ll deliver. Ok, great, gotta go. Bye Max.”

It felt like Donald couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. Max felt frustrated but assumed it must be a really important meeting. ‘Never mind’, he told himself, ‘surely my numbers will convince him. I’ll send him all the presentation just to be sure.’ He had spent so many hours honing his PowerPoint, part of him really needed affirmation for that too.

Jezza arrives with his lunch & wine strategy

As he gathered his laptop & cables into his bag, he could hear the not so dulcet tones of Jeremy echoing around the office.

Having a good day, Don old man? A chance to relax now. Honestly this local Italian that’s just opened is the best I’ve tasted outside Italy. Perhaps a cheeky glass of red to help us get talk it all over? I expect you need that after one of Max’s presentations. Ha ha!

They were still both laughing as Max saw them disappear into the lift. He could feel his cheeks redden in concert with his stomach knotting up. He could already predict how this was going to end and it was “so bloody unfair!” When Max realised he had said that out loud he blushed even more and hung his head as he shuffled back to his desk.

Looking for sympathy

Anna locked concerned as he arrived. “What’s wrong, Max? Didn’t it go well? I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think.” Anna burbled out before realising that just listening might help more. So, she shut her mouth and waited as Max crumpled into the desk opposite.

Hmph. Not great, Anna. Donald only gave me a few minutes. I didn’t have time to get through my slides and now he’s off for a slap up lunch with Jeremy. So, I think we can predict whose gonna win this argument. Bloody wine & dine ’em Jezza again!

Anna managed a sympathetic smile, but memories of her course were almost flashing before her eyes. “Sorry to hear that Max. I know you worked really hard on that presentation and I’m sure your model is great. We all know how good you are model building.” She hoped that pep talk and her best effort at a winning smile was enough to prepare him. Time for some tough love…

Step 3 = theory on how to achieve buy-in from stakeholders

You know this situation actually reminds me of something else we studied in that course I mentioned…

Here she goes again” piped in Bob, but with a cheeky smile and leaning forward in a way that said ‘go on’.

Thanks Bob” was accompanied by the fake grin he deserved and they all laughed. “Anyway, it was a part about managing your stakeholders and how to achieve their buy-in. There was a lot to it, but two parts really stuck with me. First, mapping out your stakeholders. Really putting the time in to think about all the people who could be impacted by your work and prioritising who you need to influence. Plus, getting to know their preferred style and flexing your communication to suit them, not just how you normally present.”

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard that before” snarked Max. Then, realising how defensive he sounded, more softly he said “how can that help me and coping with smarmy Jeremy?

How to tackle the ‘problem’ of Jeremy

Well, let’s think about those two parts” suggested Anna. “Before you produced any slides, did you think about everyone you needed to influence? Did you consider that the sales team who’d be using your new leads work for Jeremy? Perhaps you need to talk to him and not just go over his head to Donald?

Hmmm” mumbled Max as he fought to control what he could sense was an impending blush. He hated appearing so fragile. “Go on“.

We all know that Jeremy isn’t a detail person, but he is good at motivating his team and perhaps the best in the business at face to face persuasion. He’s also on the chopping block for hitting this year’s sales target, so he might have a good argument to persuade Donald. Plus, taking him out to lunch is a brilliant move when the man’s in back to back meetings the rest of the day.

Hang on, Anna, what are you saying. Whatever happened to Team Analysts? You sound like one of Jezza’s groupies now. Are you on his side?!” Max could hear his pulse and began to slow his breathing to help him calm down. His wife was right about that trick.

Buy-in requires clarity on people and their preferred styles

No, not at all, Max, I’m trying to help. Honest! I’m just suggesting trying part two of that advice. Think about it a moment. For your brilliant model…” A comment that achieved the turning up of Max’s mouth “…to get adopted you really need the support of Jezza and Don. Jezza is a people person who prefers a face to face chat. Don is a super busy executive who needs quick updates and to see how it relates to his targets. Perhaps a detailed Powerpoint presentation isn’t the best place to start?

Max wanted to disagree with Anna but he could see she was right. Now he really felt defeated.

Anna saw him slump in the chair. “Cheer up, Max, this is far from over. Why don’t you walk over and see Jeremy after lunch? Just get the most convincing stats clear on your head. He’ll want to know how hit will improve his sales and what it will cost him (including disruption to his team). I’d just chat about how the model could help him and then ask for his help. He loves being the hero and having his sales skills recognised. Why not ask for his help in winning over Donald. Say you’ve probably given him too much detail and ask for his advice. What do you think?

The challenge of someone else taking the credit

But, then Jezza will probably just take it as his idea and take all the credit. I did all the hard work here!” Max tried to sound irate. But he could already see the wisdom in Anna’s advice, so lent forward .

He might” acknowledged Anna. “But that might be worth it. If your model gets used and Jeremy knows it was a success, what’s going to happen?

He’ll ask me for more?

Exactly!” As our trainer said on the course, “sometimes it is worth sharing the glory or not getting the credit you deserve for the sake of collaboration and influence. Play the long game.” “Ouch!

A better outcome for Max and a buy-in challenge for Anna

Ok professor, that’s enough for today” mocked a playful Bob, as he continued to throw some of the team sweets at Anna. Max joined in and soon they were all laughing. In fact Bob had broken the ice in a really effective way and restored a fun sense of Team Analysts. After teasing ‘Professor Anna’ more, Max did actually put her advice into practice and was surprised by how positive Jeremy was. Perhaps he had been assuming more bad motive than he deserved.

Thanks Anna” Max shared a few days later. “Your advice really helped and I’ve started working with Jezza to implement my model.”

Glad it helped” Anna said while beaming. “Now I just need to take my own medicine with Marcus and his team. I’m working on that stakeholder map today and am feeling tired already prioritising all those marketing egos!” They both laughed as they left relaxed into what now felt like their home again.