To get buy-in stop telling people what to do

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A major barrier to progress for all in-house marketers is getting buy-in.

What do you need to do to get people in your organisation to listen to your ideas, buy-in to your ideas and prioritise your ideas?

The key to helping people to embrace change in your organisation is to make the shift from telling people what to do to asking questions.

One of the best resources that will help you immediately shift from telling to asking is The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.

Imagine a scenario: You really want your company to embrace video marketing, and you want everyone to get involved. If you can make the shift from telling to asking, do you believe it’s possible to have your team to tell you that they should do video, instead of you telling them?

In terms of making the change, what do you think the difference will be when someone thinks it’s their idea versus them seeing it as your idea?

We call this The Columbus Principle: Helping people to discover the idea for themselves.

Do you see the difference between telling people what to do asking? Do you see how you could benefit from using The Columbus Principle?

I’d love to hear back from you once you get the chance to try it out.


The key to success with getting buy-in is to shift from telling people your ideas and telling people what to do to asking questions.

One of the big themes across all the videos that we’ve been doing recently but also in conversations with in-house marketers is getting buy-in. It’s perhaps one of the most frustrating challenges that in-house marketers have is getting buy-in.

In other words, it’s getting other people in the organisationto buy into your ideas. Ultimately, to adapt to change how do we get other people in the organisation to make our ideas important, to prioritise our ideas and to help them to help us get involved in the marketing for the organisation.

The key to success with getting buy-in is to shift from telling people your ideas and telling people what to do, over to asking questions.

One of the books that I highly recommend that all in-house marketers and leaders read is The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Steiner. This book will help you to move, make that shiftfrom telling to asking.

Ultimately, if we want people to buy into our ideas and adapt to the change that we want in an organisation, we have to move from telling to asking questions.

Let me give you an example. Imagine that I am a marketer in a solicitors, and I want to get some of our solicitors to do video and I know that video is going to make a big difference for our organisation. It’s going to help us to grow. It’s going to help us to get new clients and potentially keep the ones that we already have as well and make us more relevant.

I am passionate about video. I know that video is the way to do it. Now, I’m not going to go into our board meetings and start shouting about video and telling everyone to do video and potentially scare them off. What I’m going to do instead is, I’m going to sit down with the solicitors and I’m going to ask them questions.

I to move from telling to asking questions.

Ultimately, how can I get them to tell me that they should be doing video and not have me tell them that they should do video, right? This is– we want to move towards the asking. We call this the Columbus Principle. In other words, how can I get someone else to believe that the idea was their idea, that they discover it for themselves? So we’re going to sit down with the solicitor and ask him some questions.

The questions are going to be something like this: “Hey, Steve. What is your biggest challenge with marketing and sales at the moment? Where are you finding it a real challenge to get new clients? Tell me, Steve, what are your goals and targets for this year? What are you hoping to achieve in terms of revenue and clients? As a marketing department, how do you feel we can help youto achieve those goals and those targets? If we were to help you, what would that look like? Is there anything that your competitors are doing just now or your peers are doing just know that you feel that you’re missing out on, you should also be doing?”

Now, those are just five questions that we could ask but ultimately, we’re moving away from telling people that they should be doing video and into asking them questions and we want them to say, “You know what, I’ve noticed that this other firm is doing a lot of video, we don’t seem to be doing any. And I know that from my own habits, in terms of how I consume content and the content I’m looking at, I’m watching a lot more video too. Maybe we should be doing more video.”

That’s when, as a marketer, you can really move into getting more specific with your questions.

“What type of video should we be doing? So what you’re saying Steve is if we could help you to do more video that you’d be willing to support us, you’d be willing to get in front of the camera? You’re willing to help us to get more video out for the organisation?”

So do you see the fundamental difference between telling people what to do…”We must be doing video.”

Moving over perhaps will take you a little bit longer. I feel a little bit more frustrated at first as well to do it this way. But ultimately, what’s going to happen is when someone says that they need to be doing video, they own it, they want to do it. They feel motivated to do it and they believe it was their idea. And that’s what we want.

Doesn’t matter if we get the credit or the recognition for it, we’re making the impact that we want to make in the organisation by shifting from telling to asking questions. And those are the types of magical moments that I want you to have in your organization as well.

It is a simple but quite tough shift from telling to asking. Try it, try it out today, try it out this week when you have a moment with someone in your organisation. Try and resist telling them the answer. Resist telling them the idea and see if you can use questions to get them to tell you what the answer is and what answer you’re looking for and ultimately, tell you what their ideas are that match your ideas.

I am certain that it will lead to success and I’m also certain that it will lead to getting more buy-in in your organisation and leading to you doing much more impactful and purposeful work.

Once you’ve given this a shot, jump into the comment section let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about the successes and the wins that you have with this process and with this technique.

I’ll speak to you soon.

Don’t forget to be awesome.

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About Nicola Crawford

Marketing PA at the Content Marketing Academy.
In business, I believe in people first.
Mum to two crazy kids, Alaina and Morgan.
Green belt in Shotokan Karate.
Always learning, always growing.