In addition to the leadership work that I do, I also teach Strategic Selling. Although these two areas may seem functionally different, they are actually very related since leaders need to constantly be selling their ideas, internally and externally, and this needs to be a strategic process. Also, as “CEO of your Life”, it is extremely important to be able to sell the ideas that you are passionate about. I came across a great new book by Kotter and Whitehead, called “Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down” that puts forward some interesting ideas on this topic. I will discuss a few of their key points from my point of view and I have also provided a link to a more detailed review of the book. http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/oct2010/ca2010108_743960.htm
A key point is to welcome your opponents and make sure they have their say. The premise is that you want to create some emotion around the discussion that this conflict can create. Also, if they are excluded, they may undermine you later.
The point about emotion is very important. When I teach Strategic Selling, we talk about not only the selling steps, but also the Buyers Process and how important that the “Desire” step is. The buyer only reaches this point when they have some positive emotional feeling (desire) about the idea. Similarly, a leader wants to create some kind of emotional commitment to their ideas. The natural tendency is to provide more data to counteract any objections, and although this can be inportant in answering a question that requires data, it does not create any commitment. The buyer may be totally convinced that you are right, but have no inclination to help you push forward, since there is not enough desire to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Usually, the emotional commitment occurs when they care. Appealing to all their objections with facts is less effective than using real-life examples and stories to create tangible pictures for them, easy for everyone to relate to.
Another point is to be very prepared. This includes thinking about the objections that could occur and how you will respond. Try to have a good idea how various people will respond and who are the key influencers. Practice short responses to direct attacks and then move into a desire-creating stories or examples.
Above all, manage your own emotions and maintain an attitude of genuine interest in the people who are objecting to your ideas. Avoid being drawn into mud-slinging arguments since you will then lose the whole audience. Keep asking open questions to uncover their true objections and show them that you are interested.