As an analyst and consultant, I’ve found myself in a position where I have opinions on how my clients make decisions. While this probably is a good thing, the unfortunate part is that our clients don’t always want to hear our amazing ideas! As crazy as it sounds, it’s often the reality us analysts find ourselves in. So what do we do? How do we approach the concept of presenting different ideas to our clients, even ones that are antithetical to the way they operate?
Firstly, I will say that not all ideas will live, no matter how good they may seem. Selling ideas to clients requires some data to back it up, as well as a few other factors. In this article, I’m operating under the assumption that you already think data is important, and that you already have a general analysis completed to support the conclusions you’ve come to. With those two steps out of the way, let’s talk about methods. What I want to explore is this central question: “How do I help improve my client’s company with data?”
I believe there are three steps (stages) you can go through to improve your odds of causing change with your client. While these are not full proof, I think they’re a good start.
Stage 1: Discover Your Stakeholder’s “Hobby Horse”
The first component in this three-step process is learning about your c-level executives (or the people you’re presenting to). We know that these people are strategic planners and forward thinkers, but what really gets their gears turning? What are their main priorities for the business? What is their hobby horse?
You want to be heard by your stakeholder, now what? Hone in on what the stakeholder is looking for to determine what insights you need to bring to the table.
The goal is to engage with your stakeholder, get into a meeting with them, share your ideas, and get them on the same page as you. So I think you know what this means…
Tie in insights with what he/she is passionate about and what excites him/her. Filter out, simplify, and align your ideas with what the leaders of the business are already thinking about.
Here are some steps you can take to be heard by stakeholders.
- Sit in on meetings. Hearing what stakeholders are discussing can help determine what insights you should present to them.
- Ask questions. Ask your stakeholders short questions via messaging to really understand their goals and vision.
- Schedule time to get to know them. This could be a quick informal conversation in passing or something more formal like getting coffee or lunch to get to know them better as a person.
Time spent with your c-level executives should be the main priority in your first step. This will help you determine what is top of mind and what changes they want to see.
Once you know the main priorities of your leader or leaders, you can move to stage two.
Stage 2: Form the Story
It’s time to put together your insights and analysis. One key piece of advice: keep it simple. Often, analysts believe that presenting their c-level executive with a giant analysis is the best way to show their findings. Your stakeholders aren’t interested in seeing the math and code or every step that took place to get to the conclusion. They want to see the end result or gain.
A valuable way to present your work is through storyboarding. Ask yourself, what is the best way to explain to stakeholders how they can be doing x, y, and z better?
Storyboarding is a key step of the analytics process and an important soft skill that allows you to present your insights in a clear and concise way. This can be done using a tool such as Tableau or even just a PowerPoint presentation.
Getting your ideas on a whiteboard or into a PowerPoint presentation enables you to lay out your concept and get your point across.
Shuffle and rearrange your findings until you have an architecture or narrative to your story. This will show stakeholders that your answer is the most logical and reasonable explanation to the problem they’re facing.
After identifying stakeholder goals, defining a problem, completing an analysis, gaining insights, finding a solution, and putting this into a presentation, you’re ready for stage three.
Stage 3: Pre-Meeting
The last stage is the pre-meeting. This occurs before the stakeholder meeting where the insights either live or die. Before you meet, you must do some internal networking. This is the time to sell your ideas internally before they are presented.
Involving others in this storyboarding process allows for different ideas and inputs to circulate and find the best solution, which is why many companies A/B test. It’s beneficial to have people within the company agree with your proposal before taking it to the big boss. Having a strong team of allies to support your findings can allow for a higher acceptance rate from c-level executives.
There are two specific people that can be a proponent for your solution during this pre-meeting stage. Here’s who should be on your team:
1. A Mentor: Someone within the company generally higher than you. Present them the analysis so they can provide you with constructive feedback and input. This person can help you shape your insights in a stronger way and might even be the world’s best boss.
Having a mentor in the meeting is helpful because this is someone who thinks positively of you. They have given some of themselves to what you have brought to the table so they will not reject you.
2. Someone of Equal Vision: This is someone who is most likely in a higher role than yourself but has a shared interest to better the company. They are on your side and interested in accomplishing the same goal. Speak with them before the meeting with your stakeholders and sell your idea as if you’re helping them solve their vision. Working together will give them more status or visibility within the company, and who doesn’t want positive recognition?
The goal of this three-step process is to leverage confidence and convince the c-level executives and stakeholders that they need the insights you’ve discovered. A personal mantra I live by to help me succeed is…
Discussing ideas, positive changes, and receiving feedback from coworkers, managers, and stakeholders begins to build a team focused around the same longing for growth. This process connects the company and promotes a data-driven culture. If you want to assess this process within your company or have any questions, reach out to our team and contact us today.