Why is it that some of the best ideas are never considered and idiotic concepts that we know will fail are? How did AT&T decide to focus on the picture telephone and sell off the rights to the cellular phone? Research clearly showed that the No. 1 reason people placed a phone call instead of showing up in person was speed and convenience. The No. 2 reason was they did not want to be face-to-face with the person they were calling. If you are at home on the phone in your underwear, do you really want people to see you? (OK, some of you do, and you know who you are, but let’s move on.)
Why did it take so long to get squeeze-bottle ketchup? Squeeze-bottle mustard was on the market 20 years earlier! Were there really people who believed that ketchup in a glass bottle was sacred and could never sink to the lows of seemingly misguided mustard?
The issue is that some of us are just much better at getting people to agree with us than others. It’s why it took so long for people to wear seat belts and yet pet rocks sold instantly. A recent interview of the top 1 percent of the most persuasive people in our research of 5,000 top performers showed some interesting results about getting people to see things your way, regardless of how ineffective your ideas may be:
Make sure the influential people with the biggest mouths are on your side up front. You have people in every organization who have the ear of the masses and can’t shut up (and they never will). Get them behind your idea by showing them how good they will look to others if they support your agenda. Having a lot of people believe in what you do before you actually do it gives you a huge edge. It’s like discussing the details of a great buffet to a hungry audience 10 minutes before lunchtime. You pretty much had their attention before you started talking. I don’t know about you, but all I ever wanted in life was an unfair advantage.
Find out what people value most before you start talking. People are much more likely to listen to your ideas if you can prove you know what’s important to them first. Before you unleash your genius, make sure you get them talking about what’s most important to them. A good question: “What, specifically, does success look like to you?” What comes out of their mouth can mean a whole lot more than what comes out of your mouth.
Make sure your ideas are very clear. The reason USA Today is the No. 1 newspaper is not because of its superior journalistic viewpoints; no, it’s just written on a sixth-grade level. If you can’t understand USA Today, you may be too dumb to need news! It does not matter how smart you are if no one knows what you’re talking about. You may need to have your top expert teach their concepts to your top presenter. A lot of great ideas are not taken seriously because people don’t want to admit they don’t get it. Also make sure your intelligence is working for you, not against you. A high IQ can be frustrating when you encounter people who can’t figure things out the same way as you. Don’t be afraid to dumb things down a bit to have greater influence. By trying to show how smart you are, you run the risk of being labeled a poor communicator.
Have a highly repeatable message. Some concepts have a lot of momentum because they easily transfer from person to person. It is considered by many to be the foundation of influence. Any idea that is easy to spread will have a better shot at being supported as it makes its way through an organization. The key is to have an element of bad news surrounding your message. You may have noticed, “Good news does not sell newspapers.” If you turned on your television, and the lead story was “life is great and nothing bad happened in the world today”, you would not watch the rest of the news. But if the headline was “Headless body found in topless bar” you would sit down, grab the remote and turn up the volume.
Impact favors catchy language over concept. The world is full of great ideas, concepts and outlines. But how well something is worded is directly proportionate to how much people respond to it. So spending a lot of time getting the right words in the most effective sequence is extraordinarily valuable. Selling life insurance is much easier because we don’t call it what is really is – “death insurance”. Sometimes the masses want the ugly truth, though they will rarely write you a check for it.
Make sure you can explain the basic value in about 20 seconds. People buy into what they can understand quickly. “The longer it takes you to explain value, the more people think you don’t have any.” Show how it will make the person(s) you are talking with look good personally. What’s in it for them?
Show the similarities first and differences second. The main reason people don’t want to change is that nobody wants to be a “senior beginner.” When things change, people are afraid their expertise will have less value — they may not be as important to the organization as they used to be. The goal for you is to show how the new way is similar to the old way first, and then highlight why the new way feels more valuable.
This research showed that ideas have to be more than great. They have to get supported by humans as they make their way toward implementation. Some pretty weak agendas get moved forward because they are presented 10 times better than an agenda that was … well … 10 times better.
About the author:
Garrison Wynn helps people learn how to make the jump from being great at what they do to understanding and developing the qualities it takes to be chosen for the job. As a keynote speaker, advisor and consultant, Garrison has worked with some of the world’s most effective corporate leaders. He has a background in manufacturing, entertainment, telecommunications and financial services. To learn more, visit www.wynnsolutions.com.