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Selling up the Chain of Command

 

Sometimes the most important sale to be made is within our own organization.

For example, we all have ambition. Some of us ambition to be recognized, others to be paid more. Some ambition to advance a cause, others to keep their job. But few achieve their ambitions in isolation. We need to persuade others we are worthy of their support. And persuasion – like it or not – is selling.

Most frequently, those in the best position to support us are in our upstream chain of command. So learning how to sell to our boss, or their boss, is critical to achieving our ambitions.

Here are a few tips fresh from the sales bullpen you may want to consider applying to your upstream communications.

  1. Sell as you go

Unfortunately, it’s often not enough simply do great work, assuming others will notice and appreciate it. Reputation is like a campfire. It needs to be regularly stoked or it will gradually turn as cold as ash. [bctt tweet=”Reputation is like a campfire. It needs to be regularly stoked.” username=”candorpr”] In communicating with upstream executives or board members, reinforce the value of your work relative to what is important to them. As sales trainers say, “Sell benefit, sell benefit, sell benefit.”

  1. Think like they think

As a dad, I had to teach my kids how to buy a gift for their mom she would appreciate, as opposed to gifts of interest to them. It’s not much different in business. Whether delivering a strategic plan, a business case, a status report, a presentation or just an idea, know what is important to the audience with whom you are communicating. Gift wrap your information in a manner they will appreciate and appreciation will be returned.

  1. Speak with candor

Don’t be a “yes” person. Executives cannot trust someone who only says what they believe another wants to hear. Instead, be straightforward, authentic and tactful in all communication.

  1. Anticipate objections

A mistake of many persuaders is the failure to anticipate objections. I have seen many great ideas shot down because the presenter was unprepared to answer an unexpected question. As a part of your communication prep, take time to anticipate objections and formulate your response to each.

  1. Understand it’s always about numbers

Don’t be fooled. The pool of funds available for any endeavor is limited. Every person in your chain of command has numbers for which they are responsible to monitor and achieve.  So don’t just report activity or progress upstream, also report results – how your activity has measurably moved the proverbial needle. Tie what you do to the numbers valued by those in charge.

Several years ago, I provided an update to my boss. The project had come in over budget, but we had exceeded client expectations. Expecting a pat on the back, I was surprised instead to be criticized for the overruns. His words were, “Excellent work in our company is expected. You still have to bring the work in on budget.” That was the last time I took upstream communication for granted.

Stoke the fire. Regularly.

 

What Raising Dogs Taught Me About PR

I’m a dog person. (Wo)man’s best friend has stolen my heart forever. I’m active in my local humane society and rescue organization as a volunteer and donor, and my family adopted two dogs into our home. I’ve learned a lot while trying to keep my furry kids happy, safe and alive. Some of those lessons apply to our clients at Candor.

1. It’s a 24/7 Job

One of the first lessons I learned as a dog parent is I have to be willing to get up in the middle of the night for emergency bathroom breaks. Every dog parent knows the sounds that wake them from a dead sleep faster than any alarm and send them racing to the door so the dog doesn’t mess up the rug again. In PR, a client crisis can happen any time, so I’m always prepared to jump into action. I monitor the 10 p.m. news and wake up thinking of new ideas for story pitches. The passion for the job carries well past 8 to 5.

 

2. Equal Attention

My husband and I recently adopted a second dog. I quickly learned the importance of giving each one equal attention. It is impossible to pet one dog without the other nudging impatiently. This lesson matters at Candor. We make sure each client gets our full devotion, so nobody feels left out.

 

3. Multiple Personalities

My Lab, Odin, is a couch potato who wants nothing more than to cuddle and watch TV with me. My German shepherd, Ruby, is constantly perched, watching the back door and waiting for me to throw the ball a million times. They have completely different personalities and needs. The same holds true with our clients. Some prefer text messaging, while others need formal email communication. Working in a PR agency requires intuition about what makes people tick. My job is a lot easier once I get to know clients’ needs and personalities.

 

4. Rewards Matter

Everything is easier when treats are involved. My dogs always listen to basic commands. But if they are learning something new or being made to do something they’d rather not, they need an incentive. When Candor is working with new clients, sometimes there is skepticism about a certain tactic or strategy. Once the client starts seeing results, the PR lightbulb goes on, like a pup who realizes what it takes to get a reward. Some of the best days are when I know a client has seen the results of what we can do and they get excited for next steps. This process allows us to build trust.

 

5. It’s Messy

I gather toys. I pick up pieces of toys. Sweep up hair. Clean the nose prints off windows. As a dog parent there are a myriad of messes. As a PR pro, cleaning up takes the form of adjusting messaging that went awry or developing a brand new strategic plan to get company goals back on track. This is when the fun really starts. I get excited when a company engages our firm for a brand or website audit. It’s a lot easier to notice the gaps or areas for improvement when you are on the outside looking in.

I’m fortunate to have found two passions in life: helping clients communicate their stories, and coming home to slobbery dog kisses every day.