Winning over Stakeholders: Understanding them (Part One)

It’s one of the most challenging parts about being a designer — Winning over stakeholders to sign off your designs. In this series I will talk through a variety of tips that will help you towards dealing with a the different stakeholders you might encounter as a designer, and ultimately how to win them over.

The first part of this series starts with understanding the person you are trying to impress, which is the first step towards preparing your designs ready for stakeholder sign off and getting them on-board.

So, instead of trying to guess what will win them over, get to know the person you are trying to impress with your ideas. How do they react to certain situations; are they easily persuaded or a hard nut to crack? Be tactical and adjust your proposition depending on the type of person, feed to their personalities and you will start to understand what will win them over.

How do I get them on-board with my idea?

Before you start analysing and trying to understanding the person in more detail, here are some general tips that apply to anyone:

  • Give them context — educate them with the background detail of the project and the requirements that were set.
  • Tell them a story — about your designs and how you got to where you are today, and how your design meets these requirements. Metaphorically take their hand and lead them down the journey you went on, the obstacles you overcame and the feedback you’ve iterated on.
  • Always provide a prototype — “Show don’t tell” this could be anything from a set of Post-it notes to show a process or a wireframe of your idea, make it a quick way of expressing your thoughts.
  • Break up and focus your goals — showing your stakeholders smaller, more achievable goals towards the final project will show them that it’s not such an enormous task.
  • Collaboration is key — Remember you can use other people in the organisation to help get key stakeholders on-board. Involve them in the design process and give them opportunities to provide critique towards the final piece before you get round to presenting your design.

Different types of people

Before we can adjust our proposition we need to delve into understanding the type of person they could be and how they might react. So here’s two scenarios of two different types of people you could be faced with, and how you should deal with their potential feedback.

The ‘but’ person

This type of person is never willing to give a straight yes, they always think of an alternative or ‘better’ way of doing it. So how can you persuade them that your idea is the best solution?

The key to this type of person is making sure you have defined the requirements of the project at the very start, this will ensure that your proposal will tick all of the boxes and meet their expectations. Take them on a journey, like I discussed earlier in this post.

The tentative ‘yes’ person

They won’t give any constructive feedback and not explicitly condone the designs but instead try to suggest changes later on, or bring up feedback after the project deadline. These types of people are conflict avoiders, and will often say something to please you, or dance around the real answer.

This type of person needs slowly introducing to an idea, get them involved in ideation early and they’re more likely to be convinced with your final outcome, as they feel like they have taken part in the design and will be more willing to support it.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of how to win them over with your designs, where I’ll be talking about how to control the feedback you might encounter and how to get the most out of it!