Chances are there will come a time when you need to influence a decision maker. Examples can include asking the decision maker to promote you, assign you to a larger role, getting the department head to allocate more budget or people to your initiative or getting the management team to consider making a change to a process.
The mistake that many people make is to think of the issue in terms of their needs as in “I want to work full-time”, or “I want more budget to do XYZ”. While many decisions-makers can be caring people who may have your interests at heart, in my experience their job is to care about the business first.
By not framing the issue in terms of the need of the business you are decreasing your effectiveness and ability to communicate to the decision maker.
To avoid this problem I recommend the S.P.I.N. communication tool.
Situation – Describe the current context of the business. What is going on? Demonstrate that you understand how the business is currently operating. Do you have any metrics to back it up? Can you articulate your understanding of the strategic plan? What about the yearly department objectives? By talking the language of the business (profits/loss, efficiency, costs, risks, customers, employees, branding, and customer satisfaction) you will be talking the language of the decision maker. This method increases the chances that they will listen.
Problem – Describe the problem or opportunity. The intent here is to highlight a gap in the mind of the decision maker between their assumption about the current state of reality and the actual state of reality.
Impact – Describe the impact on the business that this problem creates. Are there lost sales? decreased efficiencies? low employee morale? poor customer satisfaction? increased risk? This is just a short list of common business success factors to monitor.
Need – Address the solution to the problem highlighted in the first 3 steps.
Want an example?
Re-read the first 4 paragraphs of this article. Each paragraph represents each of the 4 steps of the SPIN tool.
Situation: “Chances are there will come a time when you need to influence a decision maker… “
Problem: “The mistake that many people make is to think of the issue in terms of their needs …”
Impact: “By not framing the issue in terms of the need of the business you are decreasing your effectiveness…“
Need: “To avoid this problem I recommend you use the S.P.I.N. communication tool…”
Here is another example from my own career when I pitched a high potential program to an executive team. The program was accepted and went on to be one of the most successful programs of that strategic cycle.
Situation: “We are starting a new 3-year strategic cycle. 100% of the recently hired executives from the past year are from external organizations. “
Problem: “The problem is that when senior leadership positions are sourced from the outside, employees look outside the organization for career development opportunities.”
Impact: “As a result, we are experiencing increased turnover of our best talent. The business is less resilient should an executive leave and we don’t have an identified successor.”
Need: “We need to create a high potential program that builds the next generation of leaders.”
The beauty of this tool is its simplicity. It’s easy to remember, and easy to use. You can use it when making formal presentations, or on the fly when you want to represent your cause and influence a group.
By learning how to use SPIN you are growing your ability to make a difference, influence people and create your own future.