Jane’s and Bob’s department isn’t the sales department of the company, but they frequently have to use sales skills. To get their department producing efficiently and effectively, they have to sell their ideas to create buy-in.
What’s important about buy-in?
Everyone knows that projects fail or succeed depending on the buy-in from the other stakeholders in the department: employees, team members, and management. But buy-in isn’t about getting everyone to say “Yes!” to your way or idea, but getting everyone to say “Yes!” to an idea or way of doing something.
Getting buy-in from the stakeholders on a project is crucial for its success. Let’s define what buy-in is before we try to create it.
Buy-in is not your idea, your plan, or your way of doing things. It is not “I’m right!” and it’s not your job to convince everyone else that you are, indeed, right. Buy-in is defined as a group of people who say yes to an idea, a plan, a step, a project. It’s the agreement of everyone on one thing (or idea, plan, etc.), not just one person’s particular thing, idea, plan, etc.
We know what buy-in is. Now what?
Jane and Bob need selling skills to create that buy-in, but they’re not scared by that idea. Just like buy-in isn’t about convincing everyone else that you’re right, selling also isn’t about your “rightness” and forcing something down everyone else’s throat. Selling is about getting people to articulate their needs, their points of pain, their values, and what drives them. Knowing this helps you identify how your product or service (in buy-in, the ideas, plan, actions) helps meet the needs, relieve the pain, coincide with the values, and help the customers (stakeholders) in their quests as they drive toward a goal.
How do Jane and Bob sell their ideas?
It’s not by telling their folks their idea and why they should buy in. It’s about asking them questions. Here are some examples of some of the questions Jane and Bob might ask:
1. What do you want to achieve through this project (or idea, plan, action
whatever they’re trying to create buy-in for)?
2. What will happen if this project isn’t completed satisfactorily or on time or finished at all?
3. What do you mean by satisfaction?
If stakeholders aren’t committed or convinced, you will see symptoms of dissatisfaction later: changes in scope, miscommunications, personnel problems, and more. Just as in selling a product to someone who isn’t convinced of the need for the product, you run the risk of that person rejecting the product.
Final thoughts from Jane and Bob
Learn to ask questions and listen. Selling is just that mostly listening for needs, for values, for points of pain, for problems, and for solutions. If you listen, you’ll learn a lot more and have a greater chance of success than if you do all the talking. Buy-in is simply another product to sell by asking powerful questions of your stakeholders and listening carefully to their answers.