Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn used to tell members of Congress, “If you want to get along, you have to go along.”

In other words, when you’re trying to persuade colleagues to support your business case for new enterprise content management software, you need to persuade them. You have to offer them honey—not vinegar.

But how many people, when faced with colleagues who are resisting our persuasive efforts, retreat to a conference room, stamp our feet and yell, “Why won’t they just do what I want?!?!”

Perhaps you’re focusing on what you want rather than what your colleagues will get from your proposal. Here are three techniques that guarantee a lack of support for your enterprise content management initiative.

Go for the Hard Sell

Hard sell techniques are aggressive and high-pressure. You may think only used car salesmen go for the hard sale, but you could be using the same flawed techniques to try and force your colleagues to accept your point of view.

Jay Conger calls this the “John Wayne Approach.” People using this persuasive approach—whether consciously or unconsciously—strongly state their position at the outset and try to force the idea to a close.

“Setting out a strong position at the start of a persuasion effort gives potential opponents something to grab onto—and fight against,” he says.

When you use a softer form of persuasion, you’re staying mindful of the needs of the people you are communicating with, so it’s easier to respond to their needs in a way that they understand. This way, they are more likely to consider what you are offering them.

“Never surrender!”

Compromise isn’t surrender—it’s essential to constructive persuasion.  Before people buy into a business case, they want to see that the persuader is flexible enough to respond to their concerns.

By not compromising, persuaders send the message that the conversation is a one-way street. But persuasion should be  a process of give and take.

Dr. Kathleen Kelly Reardon, Professor Emerita of Management and Organization in the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, points out that the ability to compromise is actually a sign of strength.

“Compromise is challenging. It requires us to understand and even appreciate the views of people with whom we staunchly disagree. This is hard work; it’s much easier to remain entranced by one’s own views,” she writes at bigthink.com.

One Strike and You’re Out

Persuasion is a journey—not a destination. Rarely will you arrive at a solution on the first try.

But if you step back and listen to what the other person is telling you, you may be surprised by what you hear.

To better understand where your colleague is coming from, don’t ask yes-or-no questions. Instead, try open-ended questions that are designed to stimulate conversation:

  • Tell me about why ______ makes you feel that way.
  • Do you have any suggestions on what we could do differently?
  • Please help me understand how we could improve.

After you’ve gotten your colleague to open up, develop a new position that incorporates a compromise and then try again.

It may be a slow process, but it’s worth the effort. Trying to force your colleagues to accept your point of view—while refusing to accept theirs—is a sure-fire way for your initiative to fail.

Compromise leads to better, more sustainable shared solutions. When you’re seeking to persuade your colleagues to support your business case, set an example of respect, be willing to hear what they have to say and focus on nurturing a relationship built on trust. You’ll be surprised at the results!

Check out the Document Management Software Justification Toolkit and discover how other organizations like yours have successfully built a business case for document management!

Justification Toolkit

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