Some days you and your finance staffers may feel like you signed up for the diplomatic core, with the amount of negotiating you need to do.
Prompting employees to submit complete expense reports in a timely manner, enlisting Sales’ help in collecting from past-due customers, getting your bank to revisit the fees they’re charging you – there are countless things you need to convince people to do to get your own job done.
Which makes mastering the skills of persuasion mission-critical.
So how persuasive are you and the rest of your finance staff?
We’ve scoured the Web for the top tactics that will get just about anyone to see things your way. Here are 10 to add to your toolkit:
- Cut the “umms.” It happens to many of us when we speak: We use little “umms” or “you knows” or “likes” when speaking to someone. But those undercut the perception of how confident you are. People are more likely to persuaded by folks who give off an air of confidence about what they’re talking about. So keep an ear out when staffers are speaking. Urge them to banish these little fillers from their conversations.
- Speak in the future tense. So an employee didn’t realize he couldn’t submit handwritten restaurant checks as substantiation. Damage done. But to keep it from happening again and to get the person to comply with your T&E policies, you want to speak in the future tense: “Including your credit card statement when you can’t get more than a handwritten receipt will make it easier for us to reimburse you more quickly after your next trip.”
- Mirror. It’s a staple of good body language: When you are talking with someone, subtly imitate some of the mannerisms the other person displays. Not only does it make the other person more comfortable with you; it increases how receptive they are to what you’re saying. A good guide for successful mirroring: leave a 2-4 second delay between the movement you’re mirroring and when you do it.
- Tap “code words.” One of the best ways to get someone on your side is to show them you’re on theirs. And one of the fastest ways to do that is to use their own lingo. So if you’re trying to convince Sales to help out, talk in terms of prospects and goals – that’s what’s most important to them. When they feel you understand them, they’re more willing to really listen to what you have to say.
- Enlist friends. It’s a fact: People are most likely to follow those they like. So before you send a staffer over to another department to make a plea for better policy compliance, think about who you see together in the lunchroom or chatting at the coffee pot. If you know someone already has a good non-working relationship, that’s the person you want to send to make a work-related appeal.
- Appeal to logic. Logic works best when paired with a personal story. So have Payroll relay the tale of the employee who had his wallet stolen when traveling on business. Because he was signed up for direct deposit, he was able to get access to cash on payday, even though he was halfway across the country. Then when staffers lay out all the reasons direct deposit is a smart idea, folks will be more likely to listen and agree.
- Share a “reluctant conclusion.” “I used to worry that I’d never spend enough in a given year to make it worth putting money away in a flex spending account.” By starting a push for increased FSA participation this way you get people to view you as impartial, rather than pushing a specific agenda. And you may be able to persuade those with similar reservations.
- Reciprocate. “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” never gets old. So go ahead, let Sales know you’ll give them a heads up when a customer’s about to hit its credit limit. Maybe in return, they can hop on the horn to one or two slow-payers.
- Time it right. This one surprised us a bit, but persuasion experts swear by it. Most people are more likely to say yes to something when they’re mentally fatigued. Granted this isn’t for huge requests, but if you have something to ask that you suspect might get a no, try approaching the person just after they’ve finished something mentally taxing. The end of the workday works, too. You might be surprised by how receptive they are.
- Save the emotion until the end. An impassioned plea makes an impression, right? Not always. Coming out of the gate emotionally can actually undercut credibility. But if you or your staffers end on an emotional note about why you want employees taking charge of their health, you’ll be surprised how many people will react the way you want them to.