How To Get Stakeholders to Value Your Analytics Work — the Principle of Authority

Hopefully from the last couple of Principles of Influence posts (if you haven’t read them, start here and here) you’re starting to see that as an analyst you’re a bit of an organizational badass. Your time is so valuable (Principle of Scarcity) that you can pick and choose the highest value projects. AND you’re always doing so many people favors by creating reports and just being that good ole’ dependable analyst that people feel compelled to pay you back (Principle of Scarcity).

However, what makes the implications of those other two principles even more deadly in your hands is if you can really own the persuasion principle of authority. This principle states that people are more likely to listen, and take action on your advice, if you are an expert or authority in what you do. I’m hoping that every single one of you analysts just read that last sentence did a giant fist pump and said “of course I’m the expert! That’s what I’m getting paid for! I make pivot tables and vlookups in my sleep! Duh!” So just by being the expert in your area of analytics, you have the ability to persuade people to your line of thinking.

You saw it coming: there’s a big “but” here. And that is the fact that, unbeknownst to you, people may not actually perceive you as the expert. This is because you may not be communicating your analytics expertise in the right way. Listen carefully, because I’m only going to say this once: you MUST communicate your expertise in a way that benefits your key stakeholder.

I can already hear the arguments that you’re preparing. “But Jon! I walked that marketing guy through my entire regression model methodology pertaining to his marketing spend! Any idiot can understand that and why it’s important!” No, mistaken analyst, this is not true, and this is not showing your expertise as an authority. You’re showing off how smart you are at creating models, and how proud you are of all of the work that you put in to creating that model. It was so hard! And so complicated! But I can guarantee you that all that marketing guy is thinking about while you’re presenting this model is “um, this is boring. I wonder what’s to eat at the cafeteria today. How long is this guy going to blabber on about numbers before I can get to lunch? Hopefully he’ll be done soon.”

You can only wield the principle of authority when you communicate that you understand your marketing guys’ objectives, and then show him how your regression model is going to improve ROI by 30%. Now he’s listening to you, and your value in the organization shot up like a rocket ship. I can guarantee you that, if your recommendations are implemented and they work, you and that marketing guy are going to be best friends. In fact, you’re going to be in that highly coveted position (and I hope you’re aiming for this!) of trusted strategic advisor.

So, to sum up: being the authority doesn’t mean showing people how smart you are, it means showing people how smart you are about the things that they care about. Only then will you truly be viewed as the go-to authority as an analyst. Keep this in mind the next time that you present your (brilliant, life changing) analysis.

Next up — the persuasion principle of consistency.