Few business analysts have the final authority to make critical decisions on projects. That’s why it’s so important for business analysts to polish their influencing skills.
The process used to influence people can be a formal, well thought out presentation, or it can be an informal conversation. Either way, it never hurts to think through a standard framework by which to structure your thoughts before attempting to influence someone. The following is a concise 5-step framework that can be used for both formal and informal communications that involve influencing another person or audience.
- Define the What, Why, and Who
- Prepare your case
- Deliver your message
- Obtain a commitment
- Agree to a specific action plan
These 5 steps provide a framework to structure and plan your communication to maximize your influence over a person or audience, but it’s the details of each step that will determine how influential you will be.
1. Define the What, Why, and Who.
It’s important for you to have a well define and thoroughly understood objective. What is your goal or objective? Why are you championing your particular position? Who do you need to influence? Answering these questions will focus your case.
2. Prepare your case.
Notice that I didn’t say “prepare your argument”. Influencing is very different from coercion or even selling. While there may be some selling involved, it should be a soft sell of the benefits that you are espousing.
Consider how you can customize your case for the person or audience. What does the person or audience value? What do you have to offer the person or audience? Do you have specific technical knowledge? Do you have a strong network which could benefit the person or audience?
For more formal communications, while you are preparing your case you should outline a number of potential options for the action plan that might be used if you get the person or audience to commit.
3. Deliver your message.
When delivering your message be direct in your thoughts and language. You want to come across as respectful and open to the feedback of the audience, but do so without obscuring the point of your message. Don’t hint at what you want, but also don’t demand.
Use powerful questions to engage your audience. Open-ended questions that lead the audience to realize the advantages of your case work best.
4. Obtain a commitment.
Whenever possible, it is best to obtain a commitment immediately following the delivery of the message while the benefits of your case are still fresh in the audience’s mind. Steer the conversation to help your audience arrive at the stage where they are comfortable committing.
5. Agree to a specific action plan.
Even with a commitment, you are only truly successful once you’ve realized your objective. That’s why agreeing to an action plan is so important.
- Develop milestones for reaching the final objective
- Identify resources and assign roles and responsibilities
- Develop a method for tracking progress
To re-iterate, if you are planning a formal communication or presentation you will have a lot more time to spend thinking through the details of this 5-step process. However, even for brief communications within a short conference call, mentally thinking through these steps for just a few second can help guide your conversation and increase your degree of influence with your audience.