The leader of any business must come to grips with the following reality: You are the product or service you are selling. For entrepreneurs, that means that you are selling all the time, including with “internal” audiences like staff, vendors and investors. Your goal is to transfer the confidence and conviction you have in your company to everyone in its orbit.
To do that, apply the same principles you have for selling to prospective customers. The following strategies will help you to move internal people from passive to active participants in the success of your company.
1. Focus on what is important to the other party.
Your staff, vendors and your investors have already determined that what you are selling is worth the relationship they have with you. Your challenge now is to move quickly from talking about you and your company to talking about their needs. Think about a dinner party or date where one party rambles on about themselves? The best, most memorable conversations are those in which everyone is an active participant.
Think about what you are trying to get others to do, or to agree to, and then think about it from their point of view. Try to match what you are trying to achieve with why it is good for the other person too, or communicate the idea from their perspective. It’s human nature for people to think it terms of “what’s in it for me,” so start the conversation there.
2. How does the other person judge success?
The simple way to shift the conversation to the other person is to ask the question, “What are the top three things that are a win for you?” Taking the time to identify their success criteria right from the start will set the tone for the rest of your working relationship. When the “leave behind” for every conversation you have about your company is a spirit of collaboration, you win.
3. Adjust your communications style to the person you with whom you are speaking.
Entrepreneurs get paid to be flexible about how they communicate to a wide variety of people. So keep this in mind: it is never the other person’s fault if they don’t “get it.”
Your success depends on your ability to adjust your communication style to match the behavioral style of the target audience – basically, learn to speak their language. Then make sure they feed it back to you to ensure the message sticks. There is a sales axiom: “Thirty percent of people remember what they see, and 20 percent of what they hear, but 90 percent of what they themselves say.” With that in mind, ask the critical question, “Tell me how you think this will impact the way you do your job?”
Together, you will map out the next steps to achieve your now-shared goals.
Praising good work is Teambuilding 101 but, practically speaking, few of us live up to the ideal. Recommit yourself to using praise to reinforce positive behavior all along the way. This will keep your team focused on the shared goals you worked so hard to develop using the above steps. A large and growing body of research indicates that the right mix of praise (read: more praise, less criticism) has a demonstrable positive effect on the performance of the individual and the team. This is easy. Your investment is often just giving a timely “You’re doing a good job” or “It’s great working with you” shout out.
One final piece of advice. Most of us wouldn’t go to an external meeting without an agenda and some talking points, so apply that approach to all internal meetings, too. When you “wing” an internal meeting, you risk losing the opportunity to project your confidence and conviction to the other person. If you prepare and use the strategies above, your own team will be sold on your goals.