A Checklist for Getting Buy-In: 1% Persuasion, 99% Execution

WalterPopperDo you find it difficult to get time, attention, and resources from the top team in your organization? Is IT charging ahead with systems before considering the business process? Do local managers bypass the process when they’re stressed or just when it suits them?

Then you’ve got a problem with buy-in. They aren’t taking you seriously, although they’ve listened politely. They aren’t fully onboard even when offering occasional support. They wonder “what’s in it for me?”, although it’s politically incorrect to say that in public. (It’s a problem we’ll tackle in our new course, Change Leaders and Catalysts.)

Your first reaction is most likely, “I’m right, I just have to persuade them!” But the fact is that actions speak louder than words. Rather than persuasion, you’d be well advised to look to execution. It’s what you do, more than what you say, that will make the greatest difference. (We’ll go into greater detail at our next webinar.)

Meanwhile, here’s a checklist to get you started:

  1. Quantify the problem:  Using operational, financial, and/or customer measures. And publish the numbers monthly to remind them it’s not getting any better. There’s great power in having and using a balanced scorecard.
  2. Give it a name:  Or better still, name the solution. Take a cue from consumer marketing, where demand generation begins with branding: Fast-to-Market for product commercialization, Perfect Order for supply chain quality, First Time Final for issue resolution.
  3. Start small:  To get to ‘yes’, make your request low-risk and low-effort. If it’s safe and easy, they’ll be more likely to buy in. These are best practices in sales. When it comes to buy-in, you’re the salesperson, so be prepared to use them.
  4. Tackle the root cause:  Of resistance by directly addressing the question, “What’s in it for me?” And be prepared for some give-and-take.
  5. Recruit key opinion leaders:  Especially advisors to your audience. Recruit company insiders who have close relationships, trust, and credibility.
  6. Show up in multiple venues:  And at multiple levels of the organization. Buy-in to a process mindset is a social phenomenon, so showing up matters. Invite yourself to weekly staff meetings, monthly Operations Reviews, quarterly Town Halls, annual Strategic Planning off-sites. And while you’re there, make yourself relevant to whoever’s in the room by contributing to their agenda – so they’ll be more ready to buy in to yours.
  7. Model the behavior you seek:  If it’s advocacy, be the first one to speak out at the staff meeting or town hall. If it’s resources, commit yourself and your star players first. If it’s investment, put your own variable compensation at risk.
  8. Show what’s possible:  Using concrete examples of what others are doing. External practices work well, especially those within your own industry. Internal examples are even better. Both disqualify the assertion, “It will never work here.’’
  9. Build momentum:  The best buy-in is a process, rather than a transaction. Make sure every request results in several observable steps forward. One request granted leads to two accomplishments. Those accomplishments generate support for two additional requests. Soon, your audience will come to trust you, and buy-in becomes their default response.
  10. Whatever buy-in you get, reinforce it. If they grant your request, acknowledge their wisdom and leadership – and let the world know.

Buy-in requires a campaign. Don’t settle for passive acceptance or ad hoc support. Go for all-out commitment. The higher you aim, the more you’ll get. It won’t be easy, but our checklist will give you a head start and our course for Change Leaders and Catalysts, will provide methods and skills.

Most important, remember that buy-in is only 1% persuasion – it’s 99% execution, so you don’t have to be a brilliant communicator to get it.

Walter Popper
Managing Director


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