Reel them in – hook, line and sinker!

(The art of dropping the bait and reeling in the rewards)

I got up on Sunday morning and put on the TV.  A political big hitter was being interviewed – and I was absolutely fascinated by how utterly unconvincing he was.  Would I buy into his ideas?  No.  (And they may actually have been excellent ideas.)  Was he passionate?  Yes.  But the plain fact was that he got my back up.  All I could see was this guy with his eyes glittering, being really pushy, insistent, talking at and over the interviewer – and, mentally, I completely switched off to his message.

This got me thinking.  How often do we have a great idea and yet fail to get people to even listen let alone buy into it?

When we want someone to listen to us and buy into our message, we’ll either enthuse about the topic, or put forward a reasonable, factual argument.  When that fails, we tend to repeat ourselves in exactly the same way.  No, hang on a minute – we’ll probably say the same thing only LOUDER and  S-L-O-W-E-R.   And guess what?  It still doesn’t work.

Firstly, being fired up, passionate and enthusiastic about an idea you have is great.

The downside of this approach can mean that rushing in without thinking about how to get the message across.  In fact you can end up looking and sounding like an enthusiastic puppy dog – probably not the impression you want to make.  Use that enthusiasm to drive you to put in the footwork so that your idea has more of a chance of being taken up.

The ability to put forward a reasoned, factual argument is also great.  But, you’ve got to get the person you want to influence to listen to you first.

How do you do this?  Let’s look at it from the recipient’s point of view first.  What frame of mind are they in?  Are they pre-occupied, busy, trying to get things done?  For example, have you ever walked into your boss’s office and she doesn’t even look up at you?  It seems that whatever she’s doing is far more important that listening to you!  Or, you’re in a meeting and people are quite openly reading messages on their Blackberry or iphone, oblivious to whoever is speaking?

And, when you think about it, this happens just as much at home as at work.  For instance, your partner is watching TV and you’re trying to have a conversation – his head might turn towards you, but his eyes are still firmly glued to the screen.  There’s no way he is listening to what you’re saying.  It seems like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.

Just how do you get through to them?

The answer is to drop the bait.  Tempt them.  Tease them.  Get them curious so that they want to listen.  Literally make them sit up and take notice.  What ‘bait’ can you use?  For this, you need to think like they do.  Consider what the real benefits are to them of taking your idea on board?  Really step into their shoes and ask yourself what are they interested in?  What do they want?  What are their objectives.

When you think of it,  most people will, at the very least, be interested in something that will save them time, save them money (or make them money), or buy them brownie points with someone they want to look good in front of.

Get specific though.  Ask ‘what will my idea give them?’  Then say ‘so what?  What will that give them?’  Until you get to the most delicious, tempting piece of bait that they simply can’t resist.

So, you’ve got the bait sorted.  The next thing to consider is how you use it to ‘hook’ them in.  Use the bait like a tease – give them a small bite and wait for them to come to you.  So, rather than you telling them all the details, hold back, and wait for them to ask you ‘how’.

Let’s take an example.  You’ve got a wonderful idea for a new system at work that you know will make sense for your company.  It’s easy to put in place, will save the company at least £50,000 over the next 6 months and it will really help you meet your objectives.  There are many ways of putting this across.

You could go to your boss, full of enthusiasm and say, “I’ve had a brilliant idea.  It’s going to make life so much easier for everyone and it’s really simple to put in place.  All you have to do is …”  and continue to give a detailed description of how to implement it.

Be honest now.  Is this what you do?

Quite simply, it’s too much detail, too soon!   This approach is almost guaranteed to turn them off.  And, let’s be serious for a moment.  Is making life easier for people really top of your boss’s priorities for decision making?

First, what’s the ‘bait’ in this?  Saving £50,000 is an obvious one.  What else?  Ask ‘what will meeting my objectives do for my boss and/or the company?’  In this way you’ll have loads of tasty bait you can drop into the conversation.

So, let’s try another approach.

You could go and see your boss and, in a take it or leave it way, say something like “There’s a really easy way of saving the company £50,000 over the next 6 months.  (And, PAUSE).  Do not, I repeat do not gabble on.  “Is that something you’d be interested in?”  Now, wait for them to respond and ask “how?”  I bet you they’ll hear that £50,000 and sit up and take notice.

Remember dropping the bait is about making them want to come to you.

Now, I don’t suppose you’d be interested in becoming even more influential – but in case you do, feel free to get in touch …

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