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Influencing People and Obtaining Buy-In: The Essential Guide for Finance Leaders
Do you ever find yourself trying to make your point but no one seems to be listening? Have you felt underappreciated for the work you do and that your voice is not properly heard during meetings? How do others perceive you – as a critical thinker across all areas of the business, or simply as the numbers person?
The majority of finance leaders have encountered situations where they feel that their voice is not heard and where other people fail to value the range of perspectives that they can offer in addition to simply knowing the numbers. In fact, 23% of finance leaders consider this to be one of their top three biggest challenges.
But don’t worry, these are common struggles for finance leaders. With a few simple changes and adjustments in your approach, you can quickly master the techniques for influencing people and obtaining buy-in. In this guide, we’ll explore some key tips and strategies to help you influence people throughout your role.
Table of Contents
Signs that you lack influence and struggle to obtain buy-in
Do you relate to any of these thoughts?
- “I rarely get buy-in from my peers and stakeholders”
You may also:
- Believe that your unique financial perspectives and knowledge of the business performance data have the potential to make a large impact within your role, yet no one seems to take notice.
- Struggle to demonstrate why your ideas or solutions are better than those of others in a convincing manner.
- Only find out about key business decisions after they have been made, rather than being consulted during the decision-making process.
When you’re lacking influence and struggling to obtain buy-in, you will struggle to make a large impact within your role. This will negatively impact your reputation and affect your ability to progress in the company. You will likely start to feel unhappy and frustrated, causing you to become demotivated and less involved in the most valuable activities that deliver the business plan.
The root cause: why so many finance leaders struggle to influence and obtain buy-in
There are many reasons why finance leaders struggle to influence others and obtain buy-in. This is particularly common in startup and scaleup companies who place most of their focus and investment on their product team and sales & marketing functions. Ultimately, this leaves the finance team to operate like a ‘back-office’ and have their voices unheard, or their ideas dismissed without consideration.
Low impact during meetings
Poor gravitas and charisma: Many finance leaders struggle to make their voice heard during the decision-making process when surrounded by more dominant individuals such as your CEO and Sales Director. This can lead to your ideas or proposals being dismissed without consideration.
Lack of commercial awareness: Your financial expertise and data may be extremely valuable, however it’s also important to develop sufficient commercial awareness so that you can present your ideas in a business-relevant context and avoid being intimidated by other business leaders.
Inability to explain data simply: Finance professionals often have difficulty explaining complex data in a simple, easily digestible manner. Having difficulty making your ideas easily understood will place a limit on your ability to influence others.
Lack of warmth: Finance leaders often have more of a ‘remote’ relationship with their stakeholders due to being less emotionally engaging than other teams in the business. This can create an invisible barrier that prevents you from gaining buy-in, particularly if you are dealing with other departments or non-executives.
Missing trust: When relationships are underdeveloped it can lead to insecurity between the two parties which often leads to a lack of trust. Finance are often seen as the financial police who monitor costs and say no to exciting new ideas. This can make it difficult for finance leaders to gain buy-in as stakeholders will be reluctant to consult, listen and follow their advice.
Insufficient contact: Many finance leaders fail to build relationships with key stakeholders outside of emails, reports and key meetings, leaving them feeling disconnected from the business and not properly understanding their biggest challenges. This can have a huge impact when it comes to gaining buy-in, particularly given that very few people have ever been trained on finance matters.
Lack of confidence
Imposter syndrome: This is a common issue for many finance professionals and can sometimes prevent them from fully expressing their ideas with confidence and standing up for their views when appropriate. Being unable to express yourself clearly and confidently can lead to you being less influential, resulting in lower levels of buy-in and lack of confidence from other stakeholders.
Unrealistic expectations: Many finance leaders overestimate their inter-personal skills and underestimate the skills needed to influence and obtain buy-in. This can cause them to become overwhelmed and demotivated when faced with challenging conversations, particularly with intimidating people during pressurized situations.
Unclear communication: Many finance leaders struggle to communicate in a straightforward manner and will often add complexity to their messages, making them less understandable and impacting their ability to influence people. When you lack confidence, you tend to lengthen your sentences and make the same point several times in an attempt to convince other people in your views. This typically has the opposite effect and undermines any confidence people had in your ideas.
Negative perceptions: Finance teams often have a misunderstood reputation within a business, with many people associating finance with negativity and bureaucracy. This can make it extremely difficult to influence other people’s opinions and gain buy-in as people will naturally be less likely to listen when you are seen in this light.
Unhelpful stereotypes: Finance departments are often stereotyped as being the ‘no’ team, the ones that put a stop to any new initiative or creative idea. This can lead to an ‘us vs them’ mentality where teams feel like they are working against each other instead of together.
The numbers person: Many assumptions about finance departments go unchallenged and this further contributes to the negative perception of the team and its members. Being labelled as the ‘numbers person’ can lead to finance leaders feeling sidelined, leaving them unable to influence decisions or gain buy-in for their ideas.
Ineffective approach and techniques
Lack of emotional intelligence: Finance leaders often fail to consider the emotional intelligence of their peers and stakeholders, leading to them to misjudge how they will react to certain views and challenges. When you lack understanding of how other people feel or think, it makes it hard to influence their decisions and obtain their buy-in.
Missing allies: Developing relationships with other influential people and key decision makers will make it much easier to obtain buy-in. Getting key allies on board before entering meetings will make you feel more confident and secure in your approach, give you better credibility when they support your opinions, and a better chance of being heard.
Lack of personalization: Many finance professionals present complex data that others do not properly understand and fall into the trap of using overly technical language when attempting to influence and gain buy-in. This can confuse people and cause them to disconnect, making them less likely to listen, understand or accept your ideas.
Methods to influence and obtain buy-in
Here are some of the many ways in which finance leaders can influence others and obtain buy-in:
Find common ground
Before you attempt to influence somebody, it is important to note that influencing is a two-way process. Your desired outcome is to achieve satisfaction on both sides so that your decision delivers its intended positive impact. You should remain at ease and calm during the negotiation process, regardless of whether it is progressing as planned.
This requires you to actively listen, remain curious, understand what is important to other people. You should ask questions to obtain their perspectives and be prepared to adjust your position where appropriate. Otherwise, you will lack other people’s buy-in which may derail your decision further down the line.
It is essential that you consider each point carefully and take into consideration any potential risks or areas for improvement before trying to reach a group consensus. It may be tempting to make decisions based on what you believe is best for everyone, but it is important to remember that everybody has different interests and objectives. Finding common ground between your perspective and other people’s will make the process of convincing others much easier.
What do the people involved value the most? What benefits could be offered to satisfy all parties? Are there any areas of compromise that could be explored?
Communicate with clarity and empathy
The most effective way to influence somebody is by presenting your ideas in a clear, concise and convincing manner while being empathetic towards the other person’s opinion. To do this, it is important to understand their perspective and address any concerns they may have in order to earn their trust and respect. Be prepared to compromise if required as letting go of something small can allow you to regain something much more valuable.
When communicating, it is important to be aware of your tone and body language and make sure that it conveys the message you are intending to send. Also, consider using visual aids such as graphs or charts to help explain complex data more effectively. Your style and approach will have a big impact on how they react to your messages and can help you to stay calm and maintain control during difficult conversations.
You should also be prepared for any objections that may arise during the process of convincing someone. Consider possible counterarguments and think through how you will respond to them. If someone is being difficult then try to identify the root cause. This is often due to a personal insecurity or some underlying fear, unease or misunderstanding. Remember that people are not just their words and behaviours!
Lead with passion
Finance leaders should lead with passion and conviction when attempting to influence others and obtain buy-in. You need to be confident in your opinions and present them with optimism and enthusiasm. This can help to inspire the people around you, which will make them more likely to engage with the ideas that you are putting forward.
It is also important to ensure that your ideas are backed up with facts and figures. This should be presented in a clear and concise manner, without adding too much complexity or requiring huge amounts of explanation. This will help others to understand the rationale behind your decisions, which is essential to gaining their buy-in.
Always avoid making things personal otherwise it may be difficult to get your ideas heard. You can achieve this by focusing on the values of your organization regularly referring to what is best for the business. This will enable you to engage in more meaningful conversations with people and gain their support for your ideas.
Seeking feedback is another way to influence people and gain buy-in. This can be done through one-on-one conversations, surveys, focus groups or questions at the end of a presentation or meeting. Never assume that your initial views are correct until you have properly listened to the opinion of others. Ensure that you respect their opinions and perspectives. Regardless of how strongly you feel about a decision, remember that the other person may be right.
Feedback can help you to understand different perspectives on your proposals and allows you to make any necessary adjustments before presenting your ideas to a wider audience. It can also help you to assess the feasibility of a particular decision, as well as identify any potential risks or areas for improvement.
Ultimately, actively seeking feedback is an important part of influencing people and obtaining buy-in in the workplace. It can help you to gain other people’s support and ensure that all relevant information is taken into account when making decisions. In any case, try to learn as much as possible from each exchange and never tell them that they are wrong!
Are all relevant opinions being taken into account? How can I make sure that everyone is on board with the decision being made?
It’s essential to be prepared when trying to influence people and obtain buy-in. Make sure that you have done your research and can back up any statements with evidence. You should also be confident in the solutions you are proposing, as well as understanding the motivations of those around you.
It is important to remember that convincing others is an ongoing process. You should understand the importance of consistently repeating your message and being open to feedback from those around you.
Being prepared also means having a plan in place to deal with likely scenarios and for when things don’t go as expected. It is important to be flexible and adaptable, as well as responsive to any changes or objections that may arise.
When it comes to making decisions, it’s important to be able to build consensus and influence the right people. There are a few key things you can do to make sure you’re successful in doing this.
Once you have made a successful pitch, it is important to follow up with those who were involved. This helps to build relationships and can be useful for future collaborations. Consider who else may be affected by the decision, such as other departments or stakeholders. Make sure that they are aware of what is happening and can provide any additional support if needed.
Following up also allows you to check in on how people are responding to your ideas and provides a chance for further conversations about potential improvement areas. This will help ensure that everyone remains engaged with the process, which is essential for obtaining long-term buy-in.
It is also important to assess the success of your efforts and review any feedback that was collected throughout the process. This can help to identify areas for improvement and ensure that future presentations or requests for buy-in are as effective as possible.
During this Premium workshop, GrowCFO’s lead professional mentor and experienced CFO Catherine Clark shares insights and proven methodologies to help finance leaders and their executive teams to make better decisions during times of change.
There are so many changes impacting on businesses right now and many of these are hard to predict in advance. During these challenging times, finance leaders need to properly support their executive teams by helping to suggest ideas, influence views and analyze the impact of different options.
It is important to celebrate success when you have reached a group consensus with rewarding outcomes. This will create a positive work environment which in turn can help to motivate others to support one another’s ideas in the future.
Spending time with people away from the office can also be beneficial. Taking a break from work and discussing ideas in an informal setting is often a great way to build relationships, share experiences and gain further insights into other people’s opinions.
Recognizing the efforts of those involved can also be beneficial for building strong relationships with colleagues, as it shows that you value their input and appreciate the work they have done. Celebrating successes also helps to create an atmosphere of encouragement, which is essential for influencing people and obtaining buy-in.
A five-step strategy
The following five-step strategy will help you with influencing people and obtaining buy-in:
- State your view of the problem or issue
- Clarify the views of other people
- Work towards a shared view
- Look for a win-win situation
- Achieve a joint agreement
To achieve a successful outcome relies upon the quality of your questions and your ability to build upon ideas and proposals.
Remember that your primary objective is to influence people and also obtain their buy-in. Forcing somebody to accept your decision rarely works as they will lack buy-in. This will damage your relationship and make them less likely to deliver their corresponding actions.
Finance leaders need to be good at influencing people and obtaining buy-in to make a large impact within your role. You are likely to have a unique financial perspective, strong commercial awareness and the best knowledge of your company’s performance data within your management team. This powerful combination makes your opinions extremely valuable and it is essential that you communicate these in an influential manner.
Influencing people and obtaining buy-in is essential for finance leaders in order to make an impact within their role. Having knowledge of the company’s performance data and a unique financial perspective gives finance leaders a powerful combination which can be used to convince others of their ideas.
The five-step strategy outlined in this guide can be used to help influence people and obtain buy-in. It is also important to follow up on decisions that have been made and celebrate successes in order to create a positive work environment for future collaborations.
With the right approach and techniques, finance leaders have the potential to make a huge impact within their company. By taking the time to understand others’ perspectives and working towards a shared view, finance leaders can effectively influence people and obtain buy-in in order to drive successful outcomes. Get in touch.
Professional Mentoring and Coaching
Mentoring and coaching can help finance leaders plan ahead confidently with the expert guidance of someone who’s been there before and is committed to seeing you succeed. We offer complimentary chemistry calls so that you can get to know us better and see if our mentoring style is a good fit for your needs. During this call, we will discuss your challenges and goals, and help you determine the best course of action moving forward.
The CFO Programme
Our CFO Programme is designed for passionate finance leaders who are keen to develop a well-respected finance function that provides vital support, influence and value creation across your business. This six-month virtual programme is led by professional mentors who have strong CFO experience and is delivered within cohorts comprising 5-6 finance leaders, alongside individual mentoring.
The GrowCFO Competency Framework
Use The GrowCFO Competency Framework to assess your and your team’s hard and soft skills. This first of its kind assessment tool will help individuals benchmark themselves against your finance leader peer group across nine CFO competencies and 45 skill sets.
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