Thursday 26 May 2016 4:52 am

The secret to building consensus around a bold new strategy

Boardrooms, senior executives and politicians alike are facing growing challenges when it comes to getting decisions made. Whether it’s dealing with issues around the EU referendum, new company policies or investing in new technology, the number of different stakeholders involved is higher than ever before. In a room of different opinions, it is easy to fall victim to the path of least resistance, compromise and reach the least disruptive outcome.

Driving consensus on just one decision – no matter how big or small – can be gruelling work. Our recent research shows that, in most purchase decisions today, there are at least five individual stakeholders who need to be won over, and often more. Getting a collective “yes” from everyone is no simple task, but by targeting those with the greatest influence, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding.

The lowest common denominator

With so many competing views, opinions and conflicting information, it’s more difficult to get a group of people to agree on one course of action which isn’t focused on the lowest price or the lowest risk.

Most members of a team, if left to their own devices, will default to the lowest common denominator in order to agree on a purchase decision. However, there are individuals who have the innate ability to forge consensus among their colleagues and clients – who understand the problem, can rally others around a new idea, and help drive change within their organisation. These “mobilisers” are the people who will actually get new ideas over the line.

Mobilisers

These figures ask tough questions and challenge new ideas before they buy into them. This gives them the credibility and conviction among colleagues to sway opinion and effect change. Take Steve Jobs, who famously wasn’t a tech expert, but had a vision and the influence to win others over, enabling his team to realise his innovative ideas. Unilever’s Paul Polman and Tesco’s Terry Leahy both shifted opinion on the importance of sustainable business to impact the bottom line.

Read more: Five key traits shared by all successful entrepreneurs

But these people aren’t necessarily the most senior in the company. They exist at different levels, but all have the credibility, energy and vision to instigate change within their organisation.

Target the sceptics

In sales and marketing specifically, it is difficult to know exactly what it takes to convince a client that a new idea is best for their business. And it’s often not a question of what, but whom.

Our research shows it is those who are outwardly supportive of ideas and who are willing to make introductions that are typically targeted – but these are precisely the wrong people to drive change. While they may be eager to help, they are less likely to get decisions made.

Read more: Wisdom of the crowd? Why prediction platforms could be big for business

Instead, the most persuasive individuals are those who are inherently sceptical, and question new ideas, products and perspectives. If you can convince them, they will help others recognise the opportunity and see the limitations of any current strategy, increasing the chances of realising your idea. According to our analysis, sales representatives who engage mobilisers are 31 per cent more likely to be high performers, compared with those who don’t.

Organisations that identify these individuals and support their consensus-building efforts will achieve the best results. With less than a month to go until the EU referendum, UK politicians should take note. As both sides use their advocates to debate and win over wavering voters, it will be the power and personalities of these individuals that will make the difference.

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