Influencing others is a critical skill for anyone in a leadership position. You may influence peers, your team, vendors, customers, and, of course, executives. Although the foundations of influence apply to all audiences, the five tips below will help you influence executives.
1. Be very clear about what you want.
Executives more than any other audience are looking for the bottom line. They are listening to what you want and whether or not you make a good case for it. Tell them at the beginning what you want, make a clear case for it, and end with a direct call to action.
- Example 1: If you need them to make a decision, start by telling them you need a decision on X. Give them your recommendation and back it up with facts. Once you’ve made a solid case, ask them for their decision and let them know when you need it.
- Example 2: If you need the authorization to spend on development, tell them up front that you believe it’s critical to make this investment in employees and you need their authorization to do so. Go on to make a business case for the development, including the expected return on investment, and then ask them to authorize it.
2. Be concise.
No rambling. Focus on the big picture instead of details. Although there are always exceptions, executives want presentations to be very brief. As you review your content, continually ask if different pieces are essential to achieving your purpose. If not, cut them out and focus on what is.
3. Make your points clear.
Executives listen to the main points. Make sure you give them to them. Let them know up front they’re coming – ‘I’m going to share three reasons we need to move forward on this’. Call out each point by number: ‘The first reason is…’ ‘The second reason is…’ This will ensure that they hear and remember your points. Your points will only compel action if they are heard.
4. Be prepared so you’re smooth.
Choppy delivery is often perceived as nerves, which can cause executives to lose confidence in your message. Don’t make the mistake so many others do and over-prepare for executives. When you do that, you’ll sound canned. They will likely disengage and then hammer you with questions to see if you really know what you’re talking about. Prepare enough so you know your points cold, but don’t memorize every word.
5. Exude confidence.
The more confident you look and sound, the more confident executives feel. When they feel confident, there are fewer questions and you are more likely to achieve your purpose. Make eye contact with even the most intimidating executive. Speak with a strong voice and eliminate fillers. Use good posture whether you’re sitting or standing to project more confidence.
Leaders use their power of influence to persuade and communicate with all levels of an organization, but especially with executives. Executives are a unique audience and require unique preparation. The next time you prepare for an executive audience, apply these five tips to help ensure your success.