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AFP 2020 Blog

5 Tips for Influencing Key Decision-Makers

Sep 3, 2020

Treasury and finance professionals are in a unique position to influence the strategic direction of their organizations. As such, they need certain skills that allow them to influence key decision-makers. At AFP 2020, Mark Jeffries, author, communications expert, and former Merrill Lynch stockbroker, will provide attendees with an instantly usable toolbox of communication and networking tools designed to help them become strategic influencers.

Jeffries recently joined the AFP Conversations podcast to discuss the art of influencing in the current environment, in which most of us have to try and make an impact over video calls. The following are five tips from that interview.

When doing an online presentation, make sure you get your set right. “What is your set? It's everything that people can see behind and around you. So make sure that your background looks nice, normal, clean, non-distracting. Why does that matter? Because when you actually do speak and you are on, you want people to pay attention to you and not everything that's going on around you like your guitar collection. That's number one. Although, having said that, and I will just add a little addendum, sometimes showing a little bit of who you are, your personality, that does work. That's actually quite nice. But try to make it as clean as possible.”

Divide online presentations into three parts. “The golden rule really of this new world is you want to divide everything in three. If in the old days you would share your treasury and finance recommendations and you spend 30 minutes doing it, divide that in three. You want to be taking 10 minutes. Why? Because when people are watching you on their laptop, on their computer, there are notifications sliding in. There are extra distractions, there's the kids downstairs, there's the dog barking. There's so much else going on that never happened in the office. What that means is, people are far more easily distracted no matter how charismatic you are. So cut everything you do time-wise into just three parts and you only use one of those parts. Yeah, by a third. Those are some top tips.

Adopt a sales mindset. “In the financial world, the last thing that every professional sees themselves as is a salesperson. But we're all actually wrong, because every time we open our mouths and we share an idea or a concept or a thought or an approach, we are actually selling ourselves first. People listen to us, they watch us and they make a decision. And the decision is, ‘Do I buy this person or not?’ The art of influence is about taking a step back and no longer considering an idea from your own perspective. You've read up, you've done your research, you know this is right, and my goodness, you're going to tell everyone what you found because you're 100% percent convinced.”

Speak to people from their own perspective. “What is the reality of the person who I'm about to speak to? Can I position it in a way that it'll actually resonate rather than instantly put this person off? A lot of people, especially in professional services, finance, and marketing, will only think about their idea from their own perspective. Because it makes sense to them and they know it inside and out, they assume that everyone else will instantly buy into their idea, but of course they won't. The art of influence is about understanding the nature of the person in front of you. The group you're about to address, the top team around that board table—understand the pressures they're under, the language they are speaking.”

Listen to understand. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak. “To be a great communicator, obviously, you have to be really, really good at listening. Stephen Covey said it best, I think, when he said people don't listen with the intention to understand, they listen with the intent to reply. That's a big failing in most people.”

Listen to the full interview with Mark Jeffries here. Register for AFP 2020 here.