The idea of power tends to have very negative connotations. I'm not one to dismiss things on first appearance so I read Robert Greene's book the 48 laws of power. Although it has been met with criticism and controversy there were some strong measures of truth within the pages.
I didn't agree with every tactic Greene wrote but It reflected a reality of the world we live in and the emotional and strategic complexities that govern and influence the way we communicate, collaborate and convince others.
Power is an important concept to wrestle with and we face the challenge of influence and power at all phases of life. In key account management this is no different.
- When you're in a negotiation you're exercising power.
- When you meet with a C Level person positioning your business you're exercising power.
- Trying to get a decision from a manager you're exercising power principles.
Power is all about your capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events to a specific outcome.
One of the biggest challenges many key account managers face is how to manage internal and external stakeholders without authority. How to influence people in order to achieve your goals.
If you've never considered the art of power and the definition given then I want to share just 10 of the 48 laws from Robert Greene I instantly understood and then practiced to really see if they would work and found them to be very helpful.
Law 1: Never outshine the master
Ego and self interest dominate our thinking. We're always wondering how we feel in a situation because our reputation or results might be on the line. When working with those senior to you Greene suggests. Make those above you feel superior. You might be right on all levels but showing your manager/customer is wrong wont do you any favors. Instead make the master appear more brilliant than they are. In other words look for ways for the answer or result to look positively on them. Isolate fear and amplify prestige and reward.
Law 5: So much depends on reputation - guard it with your life
If you're not actively considering your reputation then you need to take stock now. Greene calls It the cornerstone of power. Reputation alone will help you to win if you make it a centre piece of how you build influence. Decide how you want to be remembered, talked about by your internal and external customers. lead by reputation first and then by results. Reputation is also a powerful word in context and said with integrity if you truly believe a particular action or decision would prove fatal. Use it cautiously.
Law 6: Court attention at all cost
If you're not seen you can't be heard. This doesn't mean being the centre of attention. Greene reminds us that everything is judged by appearance, what is unseen counts for nothing. Power operates in visibility. "Never get lost in a crowd "Green says. Find what will make you stand out like a color canvas in a black and white movie. This could be going well beyond requests or taking note of a special occasion important to your customer. The more positive occurrences you have the greater the emotional influence you have.
Law 9: Win through your actions, never through argument
The word argument here is not about conflict but more about disagreement of opinion. You never win through argument. Greene notes that the resentment of disagreement can last a long time if not managed well. It’s more powerful to agree with actions. Find mutual ground and then demonstrate your opinion through your behaviour and results. Show the result so that the experience of your opinion isnt about challenge theirs but showing a mutual result. Don't just explain.
Law 19: Know who you’re dealing with - do not offend the wrong person
"If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu. Never assume everyone will react the same way. The influence of Power is about knowing those around you. Choose your conversations carefully. Be a cautious of position and never offend the wrong person. Now can you accidently offend people, absolutely. This isn't about tip toeing around potential challenging conversations or situations. Its about intentional conversations from the place of respect and understanding. Know your enemy and you'll protect your results.
Law 33: Discover each man’s thumbscrew
Greene explains that it's important to know the weaknesses or triggers of others. What are they most concerned about or most vulnerable too. Its usually insecurity, uncontrollable emotions, secret pressures. If you know what the 'thumbscrew' is you can help resolve the thing that is causing it or at least avoid it so you can get the best of the person you speak with. You can uncover this through deep listening, curiosity and great questions.
Law 35: Master the art of timing
Timing is the missed art of selling and has been the maker and breaker of deals. In situations where timing is a must Greene says 'Never seem in a hurry, always seem patient'. 'Sniff out the spirit of the times and find the trends that’ll give you power'. Changes in legislation, changes in organisational structure or a new strategic relationship. 'Learn to stand back when not ready, and then strike'. Timing is not by chance but by observation.
Law 43: Work on the hearts and minds of other
Power is at the hearts and minds level in business. Its about attraction and operating on the individual psychologies of others. What do they truly care about or fear. If you Ignore the hearts and minds no matter where you are in your relationship you will lack true influence and depth.
Law 45: Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once
"Everyone wants change but too much too fast is traumatic". You need when new to power show you respect old ways. If you work with a customer that is very cautious or works in a culture that tends to take decisions slower. Greene suggests 'Make change feel like a gentle improvement on the past'. If you control the change you control the power. Set the vision for what could be. Instead of reaching for big bold commitments breakdown the steps to smaller chunks and get smaller commitments along the way.
Law 48: Assume formlessness
Have a plan but be ready to change the plan. If it's too visible and rigid you'll open yourself to attack. In key account management your strategic plans are critical because it should inform the business on the steps you take together to win with your customer and the actions you need to take weekly. Stay adaptable and on the move. Mike Tyson was famously quoted to say "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face". Accept that nothing is certain and no law fixed. Your power rests in your ability to move with change in your customer, your business and environment.
If you resonate with what I write Send me a LinkedIn request. If you're a key account manager, sales leader of consultant responsible for and concerned with existing customer retention and growth get connected to my customer growth email series and mailing list HERE. You can start the process of learning a new framework of thinking to growth. www.jermaineedwards.com
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.