The world has changed. Why is this happening? Smartsheet transforms your work.
As a developer and project manager, I have tried many different strategies to convince clients and defend my team’s decisions. This seemed a bit like black magic when I started this journey. This task seemed more suited to an A-type, gift of gab person like me. It just takes time and careful thought.
Positive results are now the result of my approach. To save others the trouble, I thought it would be a good idea to share my insights and discoveries about how to say no when dealing with stakeholders.
This article explains.
Let’s start with doubt.
How to do it
Things to be aware of
What do You Think?
Let’s start with doubt.
Clients and stakeholders expect everything to be done according to their expectations. Clients and stakeholders are making a significant financial investment in the proof of concept. However, the stakeholder names are also at risk. Many stakeholders attach a personal value to the project. They view it as a measure for their performance.
If a client doesn’t like your project, it can lead to doubt. This can lead to a deterioration of a healthy relationship, especially if it is a high-profile one.
Doubt can destroy any positive or healthy relationship you have had with the stakeholder.
Notice that I used the word “preferences” instead of “expectations”. Why? Because preferences are subjective. However, users and numbers are objective.
Let’s explore different ways to say no to your client, and get them on board with your team’s vision.
Experiment 1: Blunt Argumentation
The easiest way to say no is to just say no. Many PMs see themselves as the defender of their project team, and their organization. I have met many of them. Their strategy is to play hardball, which means saying no and holding your ground.
My experience is that the outcome is not always positive. It could be a winnable battle between PM and external stakeholder, or it could be a bullying situation in which the PM tries to make the client submit, leaving behind resentment, and that feeling of disappointment.
This strategy is not for me. I have tried it. So I tried another approach.
Experiment 2: Dogmatism
I found that a more rigid approach to proving my team’s position was sound was more effective. This was because it used trends and the opinions from thought leaders to “prove” my point. Instead of shutting down clients’ ideas we would spend the time sharing some of the writings advocating the approach we were recommending.
Although this brought us closer to evidence-driven decision making, our “proof” didn’t have the adoption to measure success. We also hadn’t had time to evaluate the new method. It was persuasive but it didn’t help my client understand their unique needs and challenges. It often kept them on their outside.
Experiment 3 – Data-Based Decision Making
As a team, we realized that shifting our focus from the subjective to objective and measurable was what finally worked. We could then make calculated decisions that our client could understand and see. We avoided disappointment due to unmatched expectations by making decisions based upon a shared understanding.
It did something more: It built trust.
We opened the discussion to our clients, reviewed team member progress with them and provided context on team performance. This allowed us to build our client’s confidence in our team as well as a shared understanding about the pro.