The Product Manager’s Guide to Getting Buy-In
3 Communication Patterns that Get Things Done with Empathy
The biggest myths about getting buy-in or influencing others is that you only need data and logic to make your case. Data and logic are necessary but not sufficient.
As a Product Manager, a large part of the job involves pitching an idea to your team or your manager. Or championing an idea on behalf of your team or trying to get a feature prioritized on someone else’s roadmap. Well meaning engineers take you aside and tell you that they live and die by the data.
As a newish PM, I used to go into these situations armed with metrics and data with very rational reasons for why something needed to happen. I would build my case in a logical, left-brained way that I believed was very obvious to the person I was talking to.
Unfortunately, my success rate was less than 50%.
I realized (with the help of excellent mentors) that I was trying to control the situation by using metrics and logic as a weapon. Sometimes I won through sheer persistence but it was one-sided. I hadn’t spent enough time considering what the other person’s goals were or hadn’t thought of ways in which we could align on a solution.
It was clear to me that if the outcome had to change, I needed to change my approach.
So, in trying to unpack what worked and what needed to change, I documented patterns and reached out to people that I thought were stellar at negotiation and influence to learn how they influenced others.
I’ve learned that there are three patterns that work really well:
1. Don’t wing it
Prepare ahead of time. Know who is going to be in the room and understand their hot buttons, goals, etc. It’s even better if you can have pre-meetings with people involved so there are no surprises.
2. Show, don’t tell
Don’t set up what you want to talk about. Instead, put it out there as quickly as possible. Even better, show prototypes or go with a framework that people can react to.
3. Never make it your idea
Set the idea free. If you let people co-create it with you, it builds enthusiasm and ownership for the idea.
Since we don’t live in a perfect world, things won’t always go perfectly.
For example, requirements can change at the last minute, or team compositions could change, or something else could happen that makes it harder for you to convince key folks to partner with or help you.
When this happens, don’t despair. You’ve already done the ground-work.
Go into your next meeting having thought through these three things:
1. Clarity around what you need help with and what success will look like (for your users) if this thing happens. Be ready to paint a picture for your collaborators.
2. A framework of best-case, worst-case and realistic scenarios that your partners can react to.
3. Then invite your new collaborators to partner with you on the solve.
In doing this, your success rate will be much higher and you’ll have happy and aligned teams and a much stronger solution.