7 Persuasion Tips for Generating Stakeholder Buy-In

Podcast July 02, 2019

Interact President Cheryl Broom shares seven time-tested techniques for selling your ideas and persuading campus stakeholders to say “yes.” You’ve got great ideas! But convincing reluctant faculty and administrators can be tough. Here are a few strategies to make it easier to go from “No,” to “Go!”


Hi and welcome to this episode of the Community College Marketing MasterClass. I’m Cheryl Broom and I’m coming to you this time from NCMPR in beautiful Hill Country, Texas, where we’re spending a couple of days at the national conference learning about everything from digital marketing to community college trends and just catching up with a lot of old friends and some great college colleagues. While I was here at the conference, I started to think about all of the great ideas that we get when we go to conferences. The wonderful things we learn and how difficult it can be sometimes when we go back to campus and try to implement these ideas. And so I wanted to spend this podcast kind of just by myself talking through some ways, some opportunities that you might have in trying to persuade people on campus to implement some of the fantastic ideas that you learn when you’re away at conferences.

Now my background is faculty. I was a faculty member for many years at a couple of community colleges and at a state system in California. And as a faculty member, one of the main things that I had to do for a living was grade and critique. So I think that it’s inherent in most faculty to critique ideas to grade how people are doing to question and just to not blindly accept new ideas. So it’s particularly difficult for those of you who are administrators or college staff when you’ve got a great idea and you come back to college and the first thing that happens is that your questioned and your ideas picked apart and you’re graded. So I want to give you some tips straight from persuasion and leadership theory that might help you as you try to really get yourself heard and make some progress on your campus.

So, how many of you have ever been on campus and you had this great idea and you present it and your president or your colleague looks at you and is like, hey, here’s an idea. How about you get back to work? Or maybe you have a great idea and, and everybody takes it and then scatters a million different ways like cats in the night and your idea just dies a thousand deaths or, and this has happened to me many times, you come back with a great idea and somebody else takes it and claims it as their own. So hopefully none of these things happen to you regularly, but we have to be prepared. And that’s really the first thing I want to talk about today, is how to get ready to share a great idea. How to persuade people just to listen to you to begin with. One of my favorite quotes is from Woodrow Wilson and he said, if you’d like me to speak for five minutes, I’ll need a month to prepare. If you’d like me to speak for 20 minutes, I’ll need two weeks.

But if you’d like me to speak for an hour, I’m ready right now. And I really love this quote because usually we only have a couple of minutes to really persuade someone and to make ourselves heard. And yet we tend to go on and on and on and on and on because we haven’t thought through what our main points and our main call to action are. And for most of you listening to this podcast, you’re marketers by trade, so you know that you’re limited to like 140 characters or a couple of words on a digital ad and you should try to limit your persuasive appeals on campus that way as well. So really prepare your appeal, know what you want to accomplish before entering the room. Take some time to make a quick outline to write it out and practice. It might be silly to practice. You want to go in and ask your president to do something, look yourself in the mirror and practice a couple times and time yourself and see if you can get your appeal in and just a couple of minutes so that you are succinct and aren’t wasting anyone’s time.

And remember, it’s never going to go as you plan. So you have to anticipate the unexpected and don’t let that rattle you. So let’s say you’ve, you’ve planned your appeal, you’re going to go in the president’s office, you’re gonna pitch this new idea. You heard at a conference like NCMPR. What are some things that can kind of get somebody in a good mood to listen to you and to start considering your idea? Well, first of all, there’s this concept of reciprocity. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but when we give people a gift, when we give them something and then ask them to do something in return, they’re much more likely to do it. Some little chocolate, bringing them their favorite treat, coming in with a notepad and a pen for them to take notes on. Anything to show that you’ve been thinking of them before you’ve come in and actually made your appeal.

There was a really interesting study done at a university. These faculty members had written a memo asking for donations and they sent out the memo with nothing attached to it. And then they sent out to a different group of people, the memo with a little handwritten note on the memo itself. And then to a third group, they sent out the memo with a note, like a little sticky note on it, with a little handwritten note on the sticky. And what they found was that the people who received the sticky note had a 76% response rate compared to the people who just received the memo with the note on the cover, only 48% of them made a donation. And people who received no handwritten note at all, 36%. So there was a 43% difference in response rate between receiving a sticky note and not receiving anything at all.

So, it just goes to show the power of doing something a little personal, a little extra, it goes a long way. Also, when you go into that president’s office or when you’re in one of your committee meetings, it’s really important for you to draw on some great social proof. So when people are uncertain about a course of action, they like to look at those around them, they look for their peers. So it’s really great when you come back from these conferences to showcase what other colleges have done and how other colleges implementation really made a difference, especially if your faculty or your leadership looks to those other colleges as examples. So don’t be afraid to show some social proof, let them know that this college and this state had this success. And I really think it’s something that we can implement here locally. Our next great tip that I like to do a lot, and I think that we see this a lot in marketing, is asking people for a commitment, a verbal commitment, and this is really great if you run a lot of meetings and you feel like nothing gets done after them.

When we are asked to do something verbally and asked for confirmation, even if it’s small, we’re so much more likely to do it. There was this study in 1987 a social scientist, a political scientist, approached potential voters on the eve of election day and asked whether they would vote and then asked them to provide reasons why or why not they would vote. Everybody who he asked, 100% of them said they would vote. Then on election day, they went back to see who actually voted. 87% of those who were asked actually voted versus 61% of the people who he never asked who he let walked by. So the conclusion from that study is just verbally making a commitment to do something means that you’re much more likely to do it. So if you have a great idea, ask people what they think of it. Ask them if they would help you implement it.

Ask them to commit to what the next steps are. Or when you end your meeting, make sure you tell people, recap, have a recap of your to do list and say, so Bob, you’re going to be doing x, y, and z. Correct? And make sure that Bob says yes to you. You’re much more likely to, to make sure that he’s actually done something if you have a verbal commitment. So just a couple more tips for you and then we’re going to wrap up. One of the things that’s really been studied really interesting is this concept of liking. And you know that people prefer to say yes to those that they know and they like. And I pretty much like everybody I meet and I know all the people in the community colleges are fantastic, but before you make an ask you want to make sure that you’re coming across as likable.

And if that isn’t possible, if you know you’re going to have to ask, you know your president for something, but you know your president doesn’t like you, bring along the person that they do like and have them make the ask. They’re much more likely to say yes to them. But the one thing that a lot of social scientists have studied is that people really like others who they perceive to be similar to themselves. So you can really build some trust by chatting up people, pointing out your similarities, referencing how a project might have something in common to something in the past that your president or another leader on campus tried and implemented successfully. Studies also support this, it’s really interesting, this is true from my personal life. A study in 2005 looked at marriages across the United States and according to the name letter effect, people are more likely to be attracted to and marry someone who shares their first initials.

True in my household. I married someone whose name starts with a CH just like mine. So likability is really important. Even small things in common will endear people to you. My fifth tip for you is that people really like authority. They respect it. They want to follow leaders. They want to follow real experts. So if you’re talking to faculty, give them some quotes, statistics from other faculty. Bring in student experts. On our campuses, students are the number one experts. So bring them in, have them share their experiences. You can have them build up you as an authority as they come in and tell people what a great idea you have. The sixth tip for you is scarcity. Basically, and we see this in marketing all the time, especially if you’re like a QVC addict or you might see this in your Facebook feed. Hurry up, limited time offer, only good for today, only 30 left

Basically the less there is a something, the more valuable it is. So create a scarcity driver. Point out what’s unique about your proposition. Maybe there’s a grant money attached to it. Maybe this is something that you need to get done before trends change. Maybe you want to position yourself as a leader where if you can act within the next six months, you’d be the first community college in your state to do whatever it is that you’re proposing. That creates this sense of scarcity and it makes people more likely to want to jump in and run straight towards that idea and get it implemented. So my final tip for you as you go back to campus with a great idea is to try to sell things in threes. Then this is really important, especially in writing.

So, if you think of our culture, actually cultures across the world, special things come in three, the trinity, there’s so many examples in religion and Christianity and Buddhism of this magic, this holy number three. President Obama was fantastic in his speaking. In his yes we can speech, there was more than a dozen triplets. Interestingly enough social scientists have found that if you speak or write in fours, that that actually triggers skepticism, and actually has a reverse effect. It makes people not trust you. So if you’re writing a memo or you’re giving a speech, try to find three ways to describe whatever it is that you’re selling or use adjectives in sets of threes. That makes you seem much, much more persuasive. So those are just some tips that I have for you as you go back to campus and try to sell all those great ideas that you’ve learned at conferences like in NCMPR or CCPRO. There are so many great books out there on persuasion techniques. There’s so many fantastic ideas that you can just start implementing right away to see if you can be as persuasive as you can possibly be. So don’t be afraid. Go out there, present your ideas, practice them, put in place one of these seven tips that I gave you and I’m sure that you’re going to make some fantastic progress on your campus. Thanks so much for joining me today and I look forward to next time. Take care.