Last week Ray Pons addressed Territorial Markers, which are all about non-verbal communication. This article focusses on what you say, the words, and delivery of the words, when asking for what you are seeking from members of government and their staff.
Over the years, a mistake we have seen made far too frequently by intelligent, talented, and passionate business leaders, is pitching too soon. Beginning your ‘pitch’ too early in a meeting, too hard, and with too much emphasis on the support you are seeking, can result in your organization getting negatively lumped in with other groups just looking for a handout.
‘Let’s cut to the chase’ is a strong attribute of many business leaders but may not be as effective a strategy when engaged in advocacy. We applaud proactive ‘taking initiative’ because, let’s face it, timid leadership doesn’t get very far.
That said, the tactic of ‘telling and selling too soon’, ‘asking too early’, for what you and your industry are seeking, can be counterproductive and backfire more often than it succeeds.
We suggest you consider an approach of exerting greater self-control, and make more solid progress, through an approach of finesse. The principle behind our suggestion is WIIFM – the acronym for What’s In It For Me.
Your personal and professional WIIFM is driven by the severity of consequences if your issue is neglected or ignored, as well as the positive impact which can be achieved if it gets supported.
It is critical that industry spokespeople learn the advocacy skill of channeling their passions, as well as moderating their well-justified fears, worries, concerns – your ‘emotional attachments’ – and strive to ‘see’ the issue from the perspective of the other person.
Focus on the WIIFM of the Minister, MP, or Government staff member, know what’s in it for them to support what you are seeking. Help them get what they want, and they become much more disposed to even things up, and help you get what you want.
During an advocacy meeting, instead of immediately cutting to the chase, slow down a bit, and discover, or validate, their WIIFM.
Use strategic, open-ended probing questions, and create a conversation with them, rather than pitching to them. Don’t ‘tell and sell’ until you successfully ‘enquire and confirm’.
Test the finesse in the following example meeting, that might take place between stakeholders in the agri-food sector and government:
“This is a severe obstacle to food security. It will lead to major problems for farmers, higher prices for consumers, potential poor-quality food from foreign sources, and threaten our ability to safely keep consumers affordably fed.”
Not bad, not bad at all, exactly, but it will likely fall just a wee bit short because it doesn’t reference enough the audience, in this case the government, to which the group is pitching.
Reinforce the above script by adding some WIIFM:
“This government prides itself on supporting Canadian farmers and Canadian food suppliers. Agriculture accounts for a $135 billion contribution to GDP, a huge economic contributor, and you will be seen as a strong, honest MP of integrity, walking your talk, willing to make tough, as well as right decisions, which must surely help your personal reputation in the next election and bring the government a solid edge in the next campaign.”
Practice finesse. Gain your slight-edge advantage.
In article #3 we will address another core principle that distinguishes Grassroots from other GR & PR firms, our 3 C’s of effective communication: Clarity – Consistency – Collaboration.
Until next time, use #1 non-verbal Territorial Markers, articulate and gain leverage from the perspective of #2 WIIFM, and return soon for 3 more communication strategies, 3 C’s, which will further strengthen your advocacy efforts.
Build your reputation, deepen your skills, and raise your confidence. Elevate your leadership abilities by taking strategic action. Giddy up!
Sr. Communications Specialist
Ray is an expert on leadership development, impactful communication and strategic coaching. In addition to his years as a serial entrepreneur, Ray’s experience includes life insurance, reinsurance, being a faculty member trainer at Rockhurst University Continuing Education Center, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach to businesses small and large. He has a straightforward, no-nonsense style heavily influenced by Dr. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People & The 8th Habit. Ray brings an experienced, yet innovative approach to performance improvement, team-building and change management.