In the new customer insight era, the emphasis is on futureproofing organizations: providing strategic foresights that help organisations seize opportunities. This new era calls for an enhanced set of skills, including being able to make sense of multiple sources of evidence, constructing the insight story and, all importantly, having the consultative skills to turn insights into action. These skills are all addressed in DVL Smith’s new book, The High Performance Customer Insight Professional.
In this post we focus on one key dimension of turning insights into action: successfully engaging with key stakeholder archetypes – developing a communications approach that plays to the strengths of different personality types.
We identify six fundamental Stakeholder Archetypes and outline different consultative and communications strategies for successfully working with each.
Archetype 1: The Visionary – wants the big-picture helicopter view
The Visionary archetype wants big ideas, enjoys concepts, is time urgent, wants to understand the context and the key drivers. They enjoy independent thinking and like to place new ideas into existing theories and begin to form their own new concepts and visions. They enjoy linking ideas to create patterns for the future and are tolerant of complexity and ambiguity when working to achieve this vision.
Tips for communicating with Visionaries
- Provide a high-level strategic account of the solution to the business question – tactical and operational details can be addressed elsewhere.
- Touch their world – use business heuristics and metrics with which they are familiar.
- Pass on your message in one sentence – make this short, clear and memorable.
- Use simple and impactful messages to communicate with them – don’t inundate them with detailed data.
- Explain why certain detailed tasks are necessary.
- Be inspirational – show how successful companies are tackling an issue.
Archetype 2: The Dominant Personality – suspicious of an expert’s facts and believe their own intuitive point of view must be right
Those who are the Dominant archetype tend not to be good listeners and do not enjoy taking other people’s advice. They tend to stick to what they have always believed, even in face of compelling insights. It is difficult to get them to shift their position, even when presented with incontestable evidence. These dominant personalities take the view that they have succeeded by being suspicious of experts, consultants and market research evidence. They believe that their own intuition and instincts – trusting their own point of view – has been the key to the success they have achieved.
Tips for communicating with Dominant Personalities
Do not be threatening, overly confrontational or take an aggressive stance with these stakeholders. Try to take a sympathetic, even empathic, stance. Soak up, listen and relate to this archetype’s argument. When you have built some trust, gradually progress to being more assertive. Encourage this archetype to reflect and review their position. Try techniques such as:
- Contextualising: Invite these individuals to review their position in the context of what colleagues are saying. Position this feedback as being from peers not outside experts.
- Casting into the future: Paint a picture of what the future would look like if an insight is acted upon. Lead this archetype to the belief that they have come to see this future picture for themselves.
- Throw them a bone: Offer them a compromise position presented as only a slight shift from what they currently think but in a way that builds alignment with others.
- Connections not Alternatives: It makes sense to avoid suddenly presenting a stark new unannounced alternative idea to a dominant personality stakeholder. The better approach is to identify in advance those elements of your new idea that could be connected to the stakeholder’s existing ideas. This will allow you to unfold your new bold idea in a softly-softly way, gaining support as you go.
Archetype 3: The Questioner – seeks to understand by questioning and needs examples of ideas in practice
The Questioner archetype arrives at their understanding by asking questions and wants examples of how big ideas work in practice. They are more concrete than abstract thinkers, and questioning is their way of understanding and getting through to what things mean. They will be irritated if they sense you do not understand their world. They enjoy questioning as a way of progressing ideas. They will become irritated if the presenter cannot handle this dialectic approach to developing ideas.
Tips for communicating with Questioners
- Don’t be too theoretical.
- Translate abstract ideas into concrete business applications.
- Have worked examples of every conceptual point you are presenting.
- Anticipate what are the reasonable questions to which you must know the answer.
- Be confident in your handling of questions – this archetype will smell any desperation!
- Be comfortable with the question-and-answer format for developing ideas, and do not become nervous or anxious when faced with a penetrating question.
Archetype 4: The Worrier – they can see some opportunities but tend to focus on risks, which makes them reluctant to take action
The Warrior archetype tends to be risk averse and suffers from free-floating anxiety about taking action (even when there is a well-defined opportunity and a very good chance of success). They tend to see life as a burden not an opportunity. The bottle is often seen as half empty rather than half full. Worriers struggle to accept that, in business, there may not always be a totally risk free, black and white solution. They tend to keep looping through all of the eventualities in the hope this will alleviate their concerns about any risk. But in fact, this tends to exacerbate their concern. They tend to not take a decision, but instead procrastinate, delay and put off seizing what could be a good opportunity.
Tips for communicating with Worriers
- Empathise with their view of the world – be genuine and authentic in your support.
- Work hard to get them to the point of saying “Yes, that makes sense.” Get them to relax – in this way they will be more likely to listen to your solutions to some of their worries.
- Don’t talk over them, as they will leave the conversation at the earliest opportunity. Nor should you talk at them, which could be perceived as threatening.
- Sensitively and supportively frame the decision choices open to them and outline the pros and cons of the alternatives.
- Paint a picture of the consequences of not taking appropriate action. One approach would be to use the Parallel Universe storytelling technique. This allows you to illustrate what happens if you do X versus what happens if you do Y. Do this in a reassuring and supportive way.
- Provide case histories and stories where similar decisions have led to successful outcomes.
Archetype 5: The Micromanager – wants to know how an idea would impact on their own, immediate, here-and-now local situation
Micromanagers see the world, and likely success of any project, through the lens of how it will immediately solve problems in their own micro world. They have difficulty seeing how powerful, visionary, or compelling ideas can apply to them. If the presenter cannot explain how a big idea translates into solving their immediate micro problem they will switch off. They need to see how ideas will work in their own region, office or work environment. In a presentation setting, this archetype stance can lower the energy of others in the room. On the upside, this archetype brings a very detailed orientation and helps us test to destruction the viability of new ideas.
Tips for communicating with Micromanagers
- Don’t become irritated by micromanagers, who can be oblivious to the effect they are having on other people with their relentless overdetailed focus on their local situation.
- Always acknowledge the importance of providing practical examples to illustrate a bigger point.
- Do the best you can to relate to these individuals’ own immediate worlds. But having done this, be assertive in pointing out that, because certain answers cannot be delivered at the micro level, this does not mean that the bigger idea does not have merit.
- Reassure this archetype on your ability to access the detail. Explain that even the most professional of presenters are unlikely to have to hand the detail needed to answer every question but explain this can be made available.
- Try to identify detailed, potentially problematic, issues before they are raised by micromanagers. This will reassure them that you are practical and have an eye for detail. If you are able to also provide some concrete solutions this will help ensure detailed issues do not escalate.
- Encourage the micromanager to see value in understanding the bigger business picture – how others see the issue.
Archetype 6: The Networker – a people person who likes to make sure that everyone is aligned
Networkers play an important role in oiling the wheels of the success of projects because they are good with people. Members of this archetype like harmony and alignment. Clearly, this is helpful, but it can represent a rather naive view of the world. They see projects – the risks and opportunities – through the lens of making sure that a solution does not create any friction or unpleasantness to anyone involved with the venture. They do not like conflict, and this can get in the way of arriving at the best solution for a particular business problem. They may be outside their comfort zone when asked to engage in some of the harsh political realities and practical detail of actually making things happen.
Tips for communicating with Networkers
- Since networkers like to see themselves as being successful and a valued part of the team, complimenting them on the role they are playing will help get their support.
- Acknowledging their role as a people expert, a specialist in networking and the sharing of ideas, will keep them motivated. They can help you get buy-in to the outcome you want to achieve.
- Make it easy for them to understand the complexities and details that are often critical to success.
- Be supportive when they are forced beyond their comfort zone into taking business action.
- Networkers will often be persuaded more by the emotional arguments, rather than more rational detailed statistical explanations. So, factor this into the way you deal with them.
- Do not put them on the spot by asking them to create a concrete output against a tight deadline – this could spook them!
In this post we have focused on one dimension of turning insights into action. To learn more, refer to The High Performance Customer Insight Professional, available on US Amazon as well as UK Amazon and other Amazon sites around the world.
Also check out our affordable online Principles Express course, Communicating Research Results. This course is self-paced and easy to complete in 10 hours or less for only $359. Learn more.We are grateful for the course to be sponsored by Confirmit, a global leader in the delivery of Market Research, Customer Experience and Employee Engagement solutions to help companies and agencies make smarter, more cost-efficient decisions. Such sponsorships have funded the development of our new line of Principles Express courses.