Got a Business Idea? 15 Tips for Gaining Stakeholder Buy-In

For a business to succeed, entrepreneurs have to know how to effectively pitch and get stakeholder onboard with every new initiative.

Newsweek Expert Forum members share industry insights.
Newsweek Expert Forum members share industry insights. Newsweek Expert Forum

No matter how good a business idea may seem, every new initiative will not have complete buy-in from stakeholders at the start. No matter whether it's investors, employees, partners or consumers, the onus is on the entrepreneur to present a worthy pitch, gain support and address concerns that may arise from the audience.

While this process may seem straightforward, the challenge lies in devising a plan to put any and all doubts from stakeholders at ease. As leaders, the members of Newsweek Expert Forum know that full support for business ideas is critical to success. To help, they offer strategies entrepreneurs can use to approach changing someone's mind and gaining buy-in from stakeholders.

1. Engage Dissidents

When leaders make a decision that others do not immediately jump on board to support, they need to pause and engage those stakeholders. Having open discussions about what the stakeholders think about the decision, understanding the concerns and providing counterpoints will give the leader credibility. These ongoing conversations will assuage the concerns of many members of the team. - Donna Marie Cozine, Consult DMC

2. Listen

Stop and listen. Ask how you can get past "no" and get to "yes." Listen with the intent to understand the concerns and see that feedback as an opportunity to strengthen the idea. A stakeholder may see a blind spot that you don't see or have information that wasn't readily available to you. Ask questions, listen and see how those concerns can help further develop the idea. - Jennifer Thompson, National Association of Social Workers New Jersey/Delaware

3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes

If someone doesn't buy in initially, it doesn't mean that it's a bad idea. Leaders who are agile can take that idea and adapt it to suit the individual needs of each stakeholder and show how it impacts the broader organization. Put yourself in that individual's shoes and think about how you'd derive value from the idea presented. If you don't have that answer, seek input to inform your positioning. - Faisal Pandit, Panasonic Connect North America

4. Identify How Each Stakeholder Can Benefit

The pushback usually comes from the process and rarely the end goal. I like to make everyone part of shaping the process. The goal for me is the outcome. I identify the ROI for each stakeholder through my lenses, but I also ask the question of how they may benefit from what I'm working on as an offering of sorts. This helps me measure interest. I also consider workload and how that's addressed. - Uriel Saenz, THE US LIFESTYLE GROUP LLC

5. Make Decision Making a Collaborative Process

More than ever, people are set in their ideas, and it can be a daunting task to affect a shift in a thought process. Understandably, people don't like to feel that they are not in control, and forcing an idea on someone typically has poor results. Rather than unilaterally giving a directive, try building a collaborative decision-making process that brings people along with you! - Israel Tannenbaum, Withum

6. Try to Learn About Their Values

Personal values drive an individual's actions, thoughts and decisions. Trying to change that is like trying to reshape a mountain. In order to inspire, motivate or persuade others, take the time to learn their values and why they are important to them. Find the common ground in how your idea syncs with what they value and build from there. - Henry Kurkowski , eWireless

7. Leverage Data

My favorite way to get buy-in from key stakeholders is with data. I typically test ideas at a very small level so I can gather data around whether or not it is likely to be effective. If you can go to a meeting with data and proof that something is likely to succeed, it is a big step in changing someone's mind. - Mary Cate Spires, Reputation Avenue

8. Keep Your Ideas Small and Tangible

The first step is to avoid thinking your product or service will change the world. It's much wiser to approach stakeholders by telling smaller, tangible stories about the changes your company or ideas could bring to real people. People change their minds through empathy and when they're made aware of what they could personally get out of investing. - Jacob Mathison, Mathison Projects Inc

9. Bring Evidence to Support Your Ideas

Keep an open approach. Share a data analysis based on successes to prove to them you not only are educated about the company, but that you also have records to back up what you are presenting. - Tammy Sons, Tn Nursery

10. Show How the Idea Has Been Received By Others

The best strategy is to show results to prove your point, even if it's on a small scale. Allowing their family members to try a new product could produce significant results for you in pitching it to them. Another technique is doing man-on-the-street interviews with your idea as the centerpiece. Someone skeptical can change their mind when they see other people openly stating they like it. - Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

11. Ask For Feedback

Try assertive vulnerability by saying to stakeholders, "I need your help. We have come up with a strategy to accomplish critical near and longer term goals, and it will not succeed without your support. This is how, when and why we came up with it as well as how it will best get us to where we need to go and why we believe it's also good for you." Tell them you'd like to hear their thoughts. - Mark Goulston, Mark Goulston, M.D., Inc.

12. Make Adjustments After Getting Feedback

Listen, listen, listen. There is always a reason why stakeholders don't like what we come up with. We must hear them out and tailor our ideas to get their buy-in. How can we want to offer them a solution if we don't even know what their problem is? - Krisztina Veres, Veres Career Consulting

13. Use KPIs and Numbers

Lead with any trackable KPIs and qualitative numbers that you can. It is extremely important to stakeholders that their investment is protected. When presenting ideas sometimes, the presenter doesn't take that key element into consideration. - Chris Tompkins, The Go! Agency

14. Hold Pre-Meetings

Having pre-meetings with stakeholders on an individual basis to introduce an idea prior to its public pitch is an approach that I've found to be successful. The upfront time investment to communicate the idea, hear the potential objections and incorporate complementary ideas is worth the time saved down the line. This strategy works well when seeking board of directors or CEO approval. - Sabina Pons, Growth Molecules

15. Aim to Understand Their Mindsets and What Matters to Them

Understand their mindset before attempting to change it. Stop assuming that you know your audience because the more you do, the more you don't. The harder it is to change a mindset, the more information you have that your approach isn't effective. Learn what matters most to others before telling them what matters most to you. Understand what you don't understand before trying to get someone to understand you. - Jay Steven Levin, WinThinking

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
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