Chapter 2 - Establishing the strategy  pp. 7-16

Establishing the strategy

By Paul Coombs

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THE ART OF PERSUASION

There are several methods to get decision-makers to do what we want. Coercion, blackmail, lies and flattery are some possibilities, although not necessarily the best ways to obtain the go-ahead for an IT project. Usually, we need to employ the most difficult method: persuasion. The decision-makers are not necessarily against what we are proposing, but there are other options open to them. So we must manipulate their thinking in such a way that they reach the conclusion that our proposal is the only way to go.

Arguments are rarely won purely by logic. Anybody, including your rivals, can analyse the problem and produce a solution. To persuade the decision-makers, you must present creative new ideas that are based on that underlying logic. Then you need to show an emotional commitment – maybe some excitement as to what can be achieved or a reassurance that your organisation is reliable and reputable. Because, once that emotional commitment has been communicated, you stand more chance of achieving empathy – the state where the decision-makers believe that you understand the problem, and can be depended upon to resolve it. And so you finally get to the point at which the decision is made. Something connects in the customer's mind, and persuasion is achieved. We cannot guarantee that will happen because there are too many variables, most of which are outside our control. But, unless we have built the foundations well, our proposal will never get to be the top choice.