How can I present my ideas persuasively?

Not only should you know what it is that you want but you also have to visualize it in terms of the other person's needs. Consider the implications of your idea. When you present it, be as specific as you can. The key to getting buy-in is to make sure the idea meets some self-interest for the other person. You need to answer the question: What" s in it for me? Document specific advantages, and provide convincing supporting data.

Even then, you may encounter resistance. If you expect opposition, defuse it before it is raised. State it yourself as a valid criticism of your idea, then systematically and objectively disprove the objection to the idea, speaking calmly and objectively like an innocent bystander, not as a defender.

If the idea is rejected, find out why. It may be possible to overcome the objection by making adjustments to the initial idea. If you get what you want, include a reassurance that the person will like the final results. Leave the meeting with the increased possibility that he or she has positive feelings about you.

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It may help you to think about some common objections before you present your idea, so that you'll be prepared:

- Why should we fix something if it aren't broke?

- It will cost too much.

- It is too risky.

- We tried that before.

- We don't have experience with this.

- Let's wait to see what our competitors do.

- We don't have the resources just now.

- There's too much going on right now.

- I just don't think it will work.

- I agree, but they won't.

If you know the person to whom you are presenting your idea, you may be able to anticipate the specific objection that will be used. If you can do so, be prepared. State the anticipated objection as though it is yours, then dismantle the objection piece by piece. If you get hit with an objection you didn't expect, listen carefully. If you aren't clear about the objection, probe. Acknowledge the wisdom of the objection: maybe ask for validation or substantiation for the objection. Don't argue or become defensive. Attack the question raised, not the questioner.

Show how you might be able to handle the objection. If resistance to your idea continues, solicit the objector's plan for overcoming his or her own concern. "How do you think we can overcome this problem?" Close ranks to find a way to overcome shortcomings in your idea. If you see yourself losing, leave the door open. Ask, "I'd like to think through your concerns to see what I can come up with. May I come back?"

How can I communicate more effectively with employees in remote locations?

Thirty percent of communications via phone are true communications—that is, live communications. The remaining 70 percent of the time in which the phone is used, it is to send voicemail.

Here are some tips for using live phone calls:

Make telephone appointments for important calls when you need to discuss matters in depth, just as you would make person-to-person appointments. This is particularly important if the communications are between you and staff offsite.

Prepare a list to ensure that you cover all points you intend with the other party.

Return all calls the same day or have someone at your office follow up. If you call someone and are disconnected, you are responsible for redialing, even if they accidentally hang up. Since you placed the call, you know how to reach them.

If someone walks into your office while you are on the phone, motion him or her out the door or into a seat, but don't interrupt your phone conversation.

When you mistakenly take a phone call that you are not prepared for, spend a few minutes on the phone as courtesy and then reschedule it for a later date. If the other party is one of your staff members from another site or at home, you can come across as confused or disinterested if you try to carry on the conversation at that moment.

If a client or coworker is, for legitimate reasons, extremely angry on the phone, quietly listen without interjecting anything. Then, using tact and diplomacy, state your case. If you end up going in circles, suggest you need more information and then set up a phone meeting. If the anger disintegrates into abusiveness, don't respond. Just calmly say, "For the moment, I don't think we have all the facts to resolve this. I will call you tomorrow after I have done more research." End the conversation. Call back the next day; hopefully, the party will have calmed down.

Voicemail can be helpful in dealing with not only that employee off site but other callers. If a person isn't there, you can leave a message. If you have a question, you can leave a query on the party's line, and she can leave a reply on your machine if you aren't around to pick up the phone when she calls back. On the other hand, don't use voicemail to leave job instructions. Rather, ask the employee to call. If you have a busy schedule, set a time for the individual to return the call and leave that as part of your message.

What about the voicemail messages you leave?

First, keep them short. Have you ever come into the office and pressed "Listen" on your phone, then heard a long and rambling message?

Second, remember that with voicemail, you are unable to judge by facial gestures or other body language whether the message has been understood and that the recipient of the message is not confused.

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How can you improve the quality of your voicemail messages?

Keep three-by-five cards next to the phone to jot down your main points prior to making a phone call. If you reach your caller in person, you will be able to remember all your important issues. If you get voicemail, you will be equally prepared.

If you get voicemail, identify yourself by leaving both your name and company affiliation. Don't assume that your voice will automatically be recognized. How many of us have received voice-mail messages from friends who introduce themselves with "Hi, it's me." Huh?

If further steps need to be taken—like a return call—make that clear.

If the voicemail is lengthy, leave your phone number clearly and distinctly both at the beginning and at the end of the message.

If it is a long message, warn the listener in advance, indicating that you will be leaving a message in some depth and he or she may want to review the message at a more convenient time.

If the option is available, review your voicemail before sending it. Most systems will allow you to erase and start over if you don't think the earlier message was clear.

Just as you shouldn't send an e-mail while you are annoyed with the recipient, so you shouldn't leave a voicemail message for someone while you are angry. A harsh or negative message won't facilitate communication. Worse, it may be archived and put on a speakerphone to share with others, thereby tarnishing your professional image.

Don't leave confidential information on voicemail.

Just as you should check your e-mail at least twice a day and more if you receive time-sensitive information, so you should check voicemail. If you will not be checking voicemail for a period of time, be sure to indicate that on your outgoing message and leave a date when you will be retrieving and responding to voicemail.

 
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