What’s the best way to convince others and gain their buy-in? Like many, you might believe that providing facts and rationale are the best way to win people over to your point of view. But even a quick look at recent politics shows that facts and reason do not necessarily sway people. I’m sure you can also recall instances when you were “right” or had the best solution, but just couldn’t get people to support your idea. Similarly, as a Business Psychologist, I have seen many meetings where exceptionally smart people just couldn’t get others to agree with them, despite having the “right answer”.
Why do “convincing” facts not convince people? Well, put simply, as human beings we’re often motivated most by seeing the “what’s in it for me” or how things can benefit us. For example, listing only facts and figures in a PowerPoint about how an idea is good for your department or the company will likely put your audience to sleep (no matter how “right” you are). However, your audience will give you their undivided attention the instant you begin to explain how your idea will help them, solve their problems, and so on. In other words, people are more likely to buy-into your ideas when you leverage the “What’s In It For You” (WIIFY) principle.
So, what steps can you take to begin to utilize the WIIFY principle? I suggest first making a list of the people you routinely have to influence (e.g., your boss, colleagues, customers). Then, define in a few words what matters most to each of them (e.g., being seen as an expert, being well-liked, advancing in their career, etc.). Making the list will cause you to deeply consider who you need to influence and what matters most to them (likely in greater depth then you have before). While it may sound simple initially, many find making the list to be very challenging. You may even discover that you’re not sure what matters most to certain people, which will hopefully encourage you to get to know them better. Finally, briefly review the list before meetings as a reminder to emphasize the “what’s in it for you” to win people over.