The act of persuasion is among the most important skills of any successful businessperson. A great idea is nothing if it can’t be sold. A great product is nothing if it isn’t used. We convince people of things every day – or they convince you. The person whose ideas are best is not the leader, but the person with the best ideas who gets their ideas adopted. This is important stuff, and of course this can be incredibly stressful.
But it’s easier than you think.
The idea of something can bring far more pressure than its reality. A simple speaking engagement can eat a person alive for days or weeks. Add to the mix something at stake, a fear of the unknown, perceived discomfort of a situation and a little mix of caffeine and procrastination, and you have a nervous wreck.
I recognize the stress that a negotiation or sale can create. Individuals preparing to enter into a dialog with an important outcome report reciting potential scripts in their own minds over and over again, interfering not only with professional productivity but also with personal productivity and sleep.
Remedies for Stress
There are a few things that are known remedies for the pressures of business, speaking, negotiating and sales – the most reliable of which is simple preparation. There are a few steps that come naturally to the businessperson – developing an action plan, implement and engage and so forth. We’ll touch on all of this shortly. These remedies not only relieve stress in the act of persuasion, but also make you far more effective in the endeavor.
The remedies that we are discussing are actually shorthand for two things – (i) have self-confidence, and (ii) do something. Preparation is the greatest tool we have to build confidence, and acting and engaging stops our internal dialog in its tracks. In the end, doing something is an amazing tool for giving us peace of mind.
Effective Stress Reducers for the Persuader
Here are a few steps that help in every negotiation, sale or act designed to induce a reaction or result:
Preparation as a stress reducer and confidence-builder couldn’t be understated. It is remarkable how a well-prepared individual can perform. The stress and fear of the unknown becomes replaced with simple comfort.
Preparation is a combination of two broad components – recognize clearly and unambiguously what you want to achieve, and learn about the person, group or company that you will be speaking with and in particular, their goals and objectives, and more aptly their needs, wants and fears. You prepare by learning how your idea or product (or whatever else you’re talking about) can meet their needs, maybe their wants and alleviate their fears. If you think that the other person or group can be educated as to its objectives, or that their needs, wants or fears are misstated, you can talk about that with them – although you’ll only be respected if you know your stuff.
In short, being knowledgeable is the key to pretty much everything.
2. Develop an Action Plan
Procrastination is a remarkable harbor for stress.
Lack of action eats us alive. Then we get mad at ourselves.
It is normal for people to over-prepare in ways that are not helpful to their actual goal. You must act – not later, now. Develop a plan that sets you on an immediate course to doing something. Procrastination is very much an endless cycle – until you just decide to end it.
Stress and pressures can be immediately disrupted by engaging. Stop planning. Walk head first into the ring.
The book Power Schmoozing by Terri Mandel offers a wonderful explanation of the dynamic of the fearful when it comes to the plethora of reasons offered by individuals who fear or otherwise avoid networking interactions. Mandel points out that the world is actually quite the opposite – that people, even the most powerful, desire to engage in a dialog with anyone who will listen. Practically everyone is open and perceives themselves to be a decent human being. Talk to them and this will come through loud and clear.
Engaging tends to be a relief in and of itself.
4. Try! Try to Achieve Your Desired Outcome
After all of this, it seems odd to stop and ask whether a person who prepared, developed an action plan and engaged would have actually tried to achieve his or her goals. It’s not. Few things happen after only one conversation. Actually trying to achieve your goals means doing the follow-up and (VERY IMPORTANT) asking the other person, group or business to adopt your idea. It is amazing at how often other individuals miss the point.
Trying means and actually asking for something and making a legitimate effort to achieve your goal.
5. Recognize Yourself
Win or lose, before you move on from the experience stop and take a breath. You did something. No one will recognize you for something routine, but privately so stressful, so do it yourself. Reflect on what made this easy, and hard, and move on to the next one.
Persistence matters, but preparation matters even more. If you want to accomplish something, you’ll need to do it in the human jungle. Playing the game gives you the piece of mind that preparing to play the game could never afford.
Mark H. Nicholas is a lawyer, entrepreneur, creative enthusiast, and the author of I Come First, a book about business, leadership, & life. He blogs at www.icomefirst.com and can also be found on Twitter and Facebook at @MHNBooks