How to obtain buy-in from almost anyone

There are times when your arguments are solid, your logic unconquerable and your data bulletproof. So why do you have a problem to rally the people around you to your vision and towards favourable action?

Bhavna Dalal
Updated: Apr 12, 2017 10:35:23 AM UTC

Bhavna Dalal [[](] is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India. She is an Executive Master Coach [ICF MCC Certified] with an MBA from IIM Calcutta and has a B.E. in Electronics. She has authored the books Checkmate Office Politics and Team Decision Making endorsed by the likes of Marshal Goldsmith and Dr. Jadgish Seth among many other business leaders. Bhavna has been serving on several compliance commitees and is the Vice President on the Board of Directors of Bodhi Education Society (A not-for-profit that supports schools in rural Andhra Pradesh).

buyin_Sm (Image for illustrative purposes only)

In our personal lives and at work, often without realizing it we need to enact the role of a salesperson to convince others of our ideas and convictions. It could be anything from getting buy-in from your boss or colleagues on a new project or method to persuading your family to choose a particular destination for your next holiday. Have you noticed that there are still times when you thought your arguments were solid, your logic was unconquerable and your data was bulletproof, but you still could not rally the people around you to your vision and towards favourable action?

Our convictions are important to us; we believe in them. One will find very few individuals that are not emotionally attached to their proposals - when I use the word proposal, I mean any suggestion, idea, plan or solution you present which will in turn convert to a decision to be implemented - after all, this is something that you think is the best option in the situation. The amount of emotion you feel is proportional to the time, effort, belief and energy that you put in to prepare the pitch, even though the proposal may or may not translate into monetary or any other type of gain to you. People are so convinced of their own plan that they often tend to make the mistake of focusing too much on the content and not enough on the delivery. Ineffective presentation of information leads to undesired consequences. The very first step in presenting your proposal is to understand who the real decision maker is among all the stakeholders involved. You then need to tailor your arguments to that particular business leader’s decision-making style.

Senior executives have largely gotten to where they are because they are effective decision makers. They have learned from experience and built a certain set of criteria to guide themselves. People have a natural tendency toward a certain approach of decision-making that gets reinforced through successes or changes after repeated failures.

In 1999, as part of their extensive research, Robert Miller and Gary Williams surveyed 1,684 executives (97% in the United States and the remainder in Canada and Australia) over two years across a wide range of industries to study their decision-making styles, specifically focusing on purchasing decisions. Twenty percent of the interviews for this study were by phone or in person, whereas the vast majority of interviews (80%) were conducted online. They interviewed participants on various facets of decision-making such as: ▪ How strong was their desire to have others educate them about the issues involved in a decision?
▪ How much time did they spend on their decisions?
▪ How willing were they to move beyond the status quo?
▪ How much risk were they comfortable with?

The survey results are not exhaustive or definitive, however knowing about the broad characteristics does give you an edge in your presentations. It helps you better read your situation. They believe the results have broader application.

Using cluster analysis, Miller and Williams found that business executives could be classified into five broad types based on their default decision-making approaches. Each approach employs a wide range of behaviours and characteristics. While it does use some specific personality traits, the approach is not the same as traits. Depending on the type of decision maker you are, certain buzzwords will work better than others. Miller and Williams’s results have applications beyond the corporate setting, and effectively applying this information will require you to improve your own leadership skills. Even though these survey results are not exhaustive or definitive, understanding the broad characteristics of different types of decision makers will help you get a better read on the situation at hand.

The five types of styles of most corporate decision makers are:
1. The exuberant team player or the Charismatic is initially exuberant about a new idea or proposal but will take the final decision based on a balanced set of information in consultation with their trusted team. Of those surveyed 25% fell in this category.
2. The confusing perfectionist or Thinker exhibits contradictory points of view during a single meeting and needs to cautiously work through all the options before coming to a decision.11% of the executives used this style.
3. The self-reliant doubter or Skeptic remains highly suspicious of data that doesn't fit into their world view and often makes decisions on their gut instinct. The percentage of doubters in Miller and Williams’ study was 19%.
4. The experienced student or Follower bases their decisions on how other trusted executives or they themselves have made similar decisions in the past. Most people, i.e. 36%, used this approach.
5. The cautious puppeteer or the Controller focuses on pure facts and analytics because of their own fears and uncertainties. Only 9% of survey participants were controllers.

This is Part One in a series of posts. In subsequent posts we will explore each decision maker style in depth

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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