My client, Laura, had invited me in to observe the spectacle. I watched as she carefully articulated her research findings and presented her “no brainer” suggestions to Mark. Each time Laura’s ideas were met with a similar response, “Thanks so much,” followed by a bogus reason of why the idea wouldn’t work.
The conversation was the equivalent of Laura saying, “I’d like to give you 100 bucks. No strings attached. I just found a way to save the money and I’d like to give it to you.”
And Mark saying, “Well, thanks for making the effort, but I’ll have to think about that for a while, talk to some other folks and see what they think, and then get back to you.”
Mark was clearly afraid to make a decision, even if it was obviously a good one.
Perhaps you’re dealing with Mark or his doppelgänger. If so, here are a few ideas that can help
1. Ask More Questions
If you’re met with resistance, stop selling and start asking questions to understand why.
2. Provide a Clear Path Forward
When presenting an idea to a guy like Mark, don’t just talk conceptually. Be crystal clear on what your idea would take to implement: specifically who would need to do what by when.
Folks like Mark are often afraid of change because it just sounds like too much work. Show how moving forward with your plan is easier than sticking with the status quo.
3. Make it Reversible
One of the biggest reasons for decision paralysis is that it feels so permanent. Find a way to let them taste the impact of the decision in a way that can be easily reversed. Got a new process? Try it with one team. Worried about the customer experience? Try your idea out with a small subset of customers and carefully monitor the experience. It’s a lot easier to sell-in a pilot, than to convince a risk-adverse decision maker to make a “permanent” change.
4. Include Others
If Mark suggests a need to socialize the idea with others, offer to tag along. Chances are if he’s afraid to make a decision, he’s equally afraid of expressing his opinion to his boss or other stakeholders.
Offer to support him with an enthusiastic, “Awesome, I’d love to join a quick call to help you socialize the idea.”
5. Don’t Give Up
It’s true that it’s hard helping some people. But stay humble. This isn’t about you or your Mark, it’s about doing the right thing. There’s nothing more convincing than someone passionate about doing the right things for the right reasons.
Give Mark a chance to sleep on it, and give it another go.