As an executive recruiter, I am often asked about the skills that are most important to succeed. I always answer the same way: unequivocally, the ability to communicate both verbally and in writing is the key to success in your career and in life.
Think about it—how does anyone accomplish anything in our highly interconnected and interdependent world? It is absolutely essential to be able to articulate your points, opinions, wants, and needs.
Often those who work in organizations must approach their higher-ups for approval on a project, funding for a new initiative, or other request. Depending on the organization, this may involve an appeal to a senior executive or even the CEO or CFO. Appropriately communicating with these executives can mean the difference between success and failure—both for the immediate ask as well as others in the future. It can even have implications on your overall career success.
So how can you make your request in a way that maximizes the chances that it will not only be received properly, but secure a “yes” in reply? Here are four tips to help you improve your powers of persuasion.
Pick the Right Moment
As they say, timing is everything. This is less of an issue with email communication because emails can be read at a person’s convenience. Just be conscientious of when you use the red flag or urgent button.
With verbal communication, the best time depends on the unique circumstances and individuals involved; however, the rule of thumb is never attempt to make an important request when your supervisor is pressed for time, already stressed, or focused on another urgent or pressing matter.
If you’re communicating over the phone, it is best to schedule the call. If this is not possible, always ask at the outset whether this is a good time to speak; you may even want to ask how much time the other person has to talk. Remember, ill-timed communication can frustrate and cause roadblocks.
Your boss or company executives are always juggling their time, no matter how competent they are. Remember this. You should be able to clearly and concisely get your point across. At the very least, you should be able to sufficiently capture their attention at the outset of your conversation, which should give you the opportunity to elaborate, if necessary.
It is important to prepare. If, for example, you are asking for funding for a new project, make sure you have done the analysis! Know the costs and benefits thoroughly. But you also need to listen carefully and pay attention to when to deliver specific information, or perhaps withhold it if it is not necessary. Remember to be purposeful, but flexible enough to adjust your message.
Don’t Overstay Your Welcome
Make the request, have a discussion, and determine next steps. Then be thankful and end the interaction. This last part is somewhat of an art form, but one that will be appreciated by others. All your hard work and planning can be reversed if you don’t know when to stop. Practice this with your friends and family; it will be worth it.
The ability to convey your message and receive a positive result comes easier to some than others. Nevertheless, it is a skill that can be learned. Being conscientious, thoughtful, and self-aware will bring you much of the way. Practice and attention to the tips in this article should do the rest.