There are many factors to consider when deciding on your influencing approach – and you can’t possibly process these during the influencing meeting while simultaneously trying to:
You need to prepare
There’s stuff that you need to research. In commercial scenarios, talking with a customer or supplier, it would be useful to know about, for instance, market conditions and competitor products. If you’re seeking to influence a colleague, how are their current projects performing and what challenges are they facing?
Who else might be interested in the outcome of your discussion (see the next topic on Stakeholders) and what actions might they take?
What about the wider context: political pressures, the economy, technological change – how might these be relevant?
Armed with this information, you can begin to think about your own objectives. What are the variables at play and what is your LIM (Like, Intend, Must) for each of these? What is your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – your walk-away position) and how can you improve it? (We shall explore LIM and BATNA later.)
And what about the other person – what do you think their LIM and BATNA are? Can you find out more?
What is their personality? What drives them? What are their emotional triggers and values?
You almost certainly won’t be able to answer all these questions but that does not diminish the value of the activity. You can begin to play out scenarios in your mind: “How are they likely to react if I say …?” or “How would I respond if … ?”. Even better, recruit someone else to play the other person.
The purpose of the scenarios is not to try to predict with certainty what will happen. Rather it is to prepare you for a range of possibilities. By doing your thinking in advance, when you are calm, rational and with sufficient time to think deeply, you will be able to respond more quickly and devote more of your brain’s processing power to observing the other person and fine-tuning your approach.
At the end of your preparation, you should have produced notes or checklists for: