Thursday 07 November 2019, London

At November’s London PM Forum event Michael Fleming, Training Director and Head of KWC Legal, Kissing with Confidence discussed ‘the art of influence and the power of persuasion’ – key skills for marketing, business development and bid professionals who deal with a wide variety of stakeholders.

Michael looked at practical ways we can present ourselves with gravitas and authority whilst building rapport and making an emotional connection within professional services firms.  He explored this by discussing the need to flex our style and approach to respond effectively to a wide range of people and business situations – both internal and external.  This should be underpinned by a combination of strong communication skills, emotional intelligence and adaptable behaviours.

Below are some of the tips Michael provided for how marketers can respond to the challenging, competitive, hierarchical environment of professional services firms, where the ability to persuade, influence and negotiate a wide variety of stakeholders is essential. 

Build your network

We need to network and build relationships in order to be able to sell ourselves and our ideas, and persuade people to do (or not do) certain things. For example, questioning why a partner is going for a particular pitch is far easier to do if you already have a good relationship with them. 

Never use the hard sell

Under pressure, it can be tempting to fall into the hard sell to push your idea and not take no for an answer. The likely result is that “no” will be the answer. Instead, see the “sell” as part of an ongoing process during which you build ongoing relationships with the people you are working with, making it easier to get to the “yes”.

Avoid the “never sell”

The opposite challenge is the “never sell” where you remain stuck in the “lunch loop” or “friend zone”. Good relationships may have been fostered but they never seem to progress  to the next stage of talking about how you can work together.  The solution is that you do have to ask. You don’t necessarily need to ask for the world – this will depend on where you are in the process. Instead, small, incremental “asks”, which may be easier, can build up to the final desired outcome.

Think like an optimist (they outsell pessimists)

When you’re trying to influence or persuade, pessimists tend to bring a negative attitude whereas optimists are more likely to keep going, seeing this as part of the game. This means they actually welcome rejection, as it is part of the challenge. They don't use the hard sell but they do understand  that it's a process. This means you should be prepared to be flexible and have a fallback position as a response to any initial “no”.

Don’t just look at the surface position

Try to get to the underlying issue or problem to discover someone’s underlying motivations, fears and concerns. This should help you find a workable resolution. In negotiation theory, this is known as - “down the line interface” or the “interest-based” approach to negotiation.

Build trust, credibility and reliability

If people perceive you as credible, they are far more likely to trust you. So it’s important to create a belief in your reliability, that leads to a degree of professional intimacy. If you're not the expert, say so, and, when it’s appropriate, use your established network to bring in the experts. Also avoid displaying a clear self-interest when building relationships. Instead focus on reciprocity and how you can help others, rather than focusing on how they can help you.

Adapt and adjust your style to other people

To build rapport, learn to adapt and adjust your style to other people as not everyone thinks or acts in the same way that you do. This is particularly true when engaging with people from different cultures who may have different ways of doing business. It’s helpful to try to understand this before going into meetings or delivering pitches.

written by Helen Trudgeon.
Meridian West