Have you been unsuccessful at selling your ideas to key decision makers? If so, perhaps you’re doing it wrong?

This week, I had an opportunity to attend #DisruptHRIndy - an event designed to energize, inform, and empower people in the HR field. As I listened to the presenters, two things became abundantly clear about the HR professionals in attendance:
  1. 1
    They are fully aware that providing professional development & personal growth opportunities is essential to engage and retain their workforce.
  2. 2
    They desperately crave more budget dollars to provide these types of development opportunities for their workforce.
At the end of the event, a friend and colleague asked if I would ever entertain the opportunity to speak to this group. Answering purely from a business owner/business development perspective, I replied, "No, probably not. These aren't the individuals who hire me."  Rebecca nodded in understanding and confirmed, "It's the c-suite that hires you isn't it?"  I replied, "In most cases, yes."

It's been my experience that when a member of the Executive Team is convinced there's a critical need for professional development and growth, they are the ones who approve the strategy and budget dollars for providing it. And even though it may be someone in HR who "hires" me (and with whom I work to deliver the coaching and training), you can bet your bottom dollar that there is someone on the Executive Team behind it and driving it.  

Driving home, I continued to ponder this conversation as well as the presentations where speakers addressed the challenges HR faces when trying to convince their leadership that professional development at all levels is mission-critical.   

...and so I thought to myself...

I suspect a large percentage of these well-intended HR professionals do not know how to effectively sell their ideas to key decision makers. In fact, I bet they're going about it all wrong.

If you often find yourself in similar situations where it feels like you're beating your head against the wall to get key decision makers to listen to you and consider your ideas, here are a few questions I encourage you to ponder:
Do your key decision makers view you as a trusted advisor? Have you truly invested the time and energy needed to forge solid relationships built on a foundation of trust with your executive leaders? 
I know...I know...this is often easier said than done. It's a skill that must be learned though, and if you haven't yet, it could be the reason why you are struggling with getting others to listen to you.
Can you clearly and succinctly articulate the VISION these key decision makers have for your organization in the next 5 to 10 years as it exists in their minds?  
Do you know what their priorities are and what they believe it is going to take to achieve this vision?

How familiar are you with their role, and how deeply do you understand how they must think and make decisions to achieve what they've been tasked to do for the organization (both short and long-term)?
Have you explored and thought critically & strategically about how your proposed investment of time, money & energy in the continued growth and development of your team...  
If you can't connect the dots and create this alignment, it is going to be a really tough sell. In most cases, "It's the right thing to do and research proves it," will be a really weak argument.
Have you spent a sufficient amount of time thinking strategically about how you can incorporate all of the above into your ongoing discussions with key decision makers to command their attention and give them a reason to engage in the dialogue you want to have?

Pulling It All Together

With unwavering honesty, if you cannot answer YES to all these questions, then you haven't done what you need to do to properly prepare for these types of conversations. If you're approaching it any other way and it's not working, this is probably why.  

It's not that you're not smart, and it's not that you don't know what you are doing. It's likely you simply haven't gained the skills needed to effectively NAVIGATE these conversations in ways that positively INFLUENCE their decision making and ELICITS THE RESPONSE you seek.

Here's the good news…these skills CAN BE LEARNED and honed over time so perhaps you just identified a growth opportunity for yourself (if this is, in fact, an area in which you struggle). That's for you to decide, of course.

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September 19, 2019
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