Ten top takeaways on stakeholder engagement and buy in

At this week’s “Buy in, Engagement and stakeholder management” workshop with PM Forum  delegates from legal and accountancy firms across the UK identified their ten top takeaways on stakeholder engagement and buy in.

Build your credibility

What is required for credibility? There are numerous elements including: qualifications, experience, knowledge (of markets, clients and marketing/BD), track record, results, influence, confidence, power, presence, visibility and reliability. We explored various models.

The concept of Trusted Advisor was mentioned – equally important for fee-earners and professional support staff. How do you become a Trusted Advisor?

Get face-to-face to develop relationships

People are 34 times more likely to agree to a request when it is made face-to-face. And non-verbal communication is more powerful in a face-to-face encounter. There is a short video on NVC.

We must strive to communicate face-to-face rather than relying on email and telephone.

Be adaptable

Adapt your style to the different personalities, backgrounds, ages, cultures, genders and preferences of the fee-earners you are working with.

Some prefer a rational, task-driven and evidence-based approach. Whereas others may prefer one that is more focused on affiliation and relationships.

Adaptability is one of the six pillars of building business relationships in the book on Better Business Relationships. DACRIE – A model to enhance business relationships (kimtasso.com)

Find similarities

We explored the psychology of why we find it easier to relate to and build relationships with people who are similar to us.

During the discussion we noted that it was easier to relate (we’re more likely to think alike) and connect, find things in common and connect, and to know how they will respond (predictability is important). There’s also less likelihood of conflict.

We considered ways to highlight our similarities with fee-earners (“chunking up” to common goals) rather than reflect on our differences. This harnesses the power on in group bias and minimises out group bias (e.g. fee-earners vs support staff, them and us etc).

Ask questions to develop empathy

Empathy is vitally important for building rapport and trust. An introduction to emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy (Video) (kimtasso.com)

To build empathy we need to ask questions. To show that we have listened to their needs and concerns, we need to ask questions. We can increase our personal power by asking incisive questions.

If we ask a question and they find the answer themselves, they are more likely to pursue the approach they have identified (rather than one we put forward).

Asking questions is the foundation of a coaching process – and avoids situations where we are perceived to be telling people what to do (which is likely to generate resistance).

What is curiosity and why is it important in business relationships? (Video) (kimtasso.com)

Coaching skills – the power of questions (kimtasso.com)

Don’t jump to conclusions – Coaching and Consulting skills (kimtasso.com)

Assemble evidence and stories

Some delegates reported that they had insufficient data, information, evidence, case studies, stories and anecdotes to support their business case. Yet this will often be a vital weapon in rational decision-making processes.

Where the facts are lacking, you may need to rely on other approaches to persuasion and buy-in such as peer-to-peer influence.

Align goals and plans

Ensure that you align your goals and plans to those of the firm, the teams and the individual fee-earners you are working with.

Whilst you may be clear about what you are trying to achieve for the firm or a team, you need to find a way to make the goals relevant and beneficial to each individual fee-earner.

Harness emotions to persuade

We saw the importance of both rational and emotional factors when trying to persuade people. From Aristotle’s three pillars of persuasion:

  1. Credibility
  2. Logic
  3. Emotion

To the model proposed by Chip and Dan Heath in “How to change when change is hard” :

  1. Articulate the rational reason for the change (Think)
  2. Engage people’s emotions to prompt behaviour change (Feel)
  3. Specify the first, specific step required on the change journey (Act)

 This short video describes Cialdini’s six methods of persuasion.

And this is a great book by James Borg on Persuasion – the art of influencing people

Identify sponsors and dinosaurs

We used various tools to conduct stakeholder analysis. We considered segmenting the stakeholders on issues such as influence, impact and extent to which they are affected. Other models classified stakeholders as: advocates, acceptors, neutrals, sceptics, resistors and saboteurs.

We talked about identifying the champions and sponsors who might help you and harnessing their support. And to avoid the “dinosaurs” and detractors who may try to crush your ideas.

Be patient

It takes time to forge relationships, to build trust, to win hearts and minds and to change attitudes and behaviour.

So we must learn to be patient: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. And to celebrate each small win on the journey to success.


Delegate Poll Results

Throughout the session there were delegate polls – here are the results:

Which topic is of most interest?

  • 25% Managing stakeholders
  • 42% Improving internal engagement
  •   8%  Achieving buy in (rational)
  •   0%  Achieving buy in (emotional)
  • 25%  Persuasion

After the visioning exercise, do you think you are sufficiently clear about what you want buy in to?

  • 92% Yes
  • 8% No

Which is the most important stakeholder group you are trying to influence?

  •   0% Board
  • 73% Partners
  •   0% Senior fee-earners
  •   0% Junior fee-earners
  •   0% Other “support” teams
  • 18% Clients
  •   9% Other

What percentage of your fee-earners are engaged with M&BD?

  • 20% 0%-25%
  • 30% 25%-50%
  • 40% 50%-75%
  • 10% 75%-100%

To what extent is what you are trying to achieve aligned to the firm, team and fee-earner goals?

  • 73% Completely
  • 27% Partially

Have you prepared a plan for what you are seeking buy in for?

  • 64% Yes
  • 18% No
  • 18% Sort of

Do you have the required information for the business case for the change or project you want to implement?

  • 27% Yes
  •   0% No
  • 73% Some of it

What is the main reason for resistance at your firm?

  • 45% Lack of fee-earner time
  •   9% Lack of fee-earner motivation (reward systems)
  •   9% Lack of data, information and evidence
  •  0% Perception of M&BD
  •   9% Relationship between fee-earners and M&BD
  • 27% Something else

How would you rate your personal influencing skills? (1 is low, 10 is high)

  1.  0%
  2.  0%
  3.  0%
  4.  0%
  5.  9%
  6. 36%
  7. 36%
  8. 18%
  9.  0%
  10.  0%

To what extent do the majority of fee-earners trust you?

  • 60% Totally
  • 40% Somewhat

Is the majority of your communication with fee-earners:

  •    0% Face-to-face
  • 60% Virtual meetings
  • 10% Telephone
  • 30% Email

Are you a digital native or digital adaptor?

  • 10% Digital native
  •   0% Digital adaptor
  • 90% I adapt to the person I am communicating with

Some previous articles on buy-in and stakeholder management

Seven thoughts on stakeholder management, engagement and buy-In (kimtasso.com) April 2021

Animal magic of buy-in and stakeholder engagement (Video) (kimtasso.com) September 2020

The Legal PR Guide – Gaining buy-in to law firm media relations (kimtasso.com) December 2019

Animal magic and the art of gaining buy-in: Leeds September 2019 (kimtasso.com) October 2019

all about buy-in in professional services (Manchester and Dublin 2019) (kimtasso.com) March 2019

workshop on buy-in – Professional Marketing Forum psychology and management (kimtasso.com) September 2018

Stakeholder management and buy-in session (kimtasso.com) August 2016

Achieving buy-in – Oranges, elephants and dancing – Kim Tasso April 2016