Failed, wrong, failed, failed, wrong, wrong, incorrect, nope, don’t have time, you don’t know what you’re talking about, this works already, why change this? How many times have I heard that? Too many to count. But enough to question if I’m doing the right thing or not. How does one influence another? Into either the same objectives, motivations, wants, needs, or goals?

Let’s take a stab at this using my ridiculous amounts of failures and the equal amounts of success that I’ve applied over the course of my career. My aim is to help you better leverage your network and have more success launching new initiatives and projects.

Study, Study, Study

As a teenager entering college, I was arrogant. I assumed way too much. I assumed that people could connect the thoughts I had in my own head through the very vague words I was using to describe my thoughts. Nope. Assumption is honestly the mother of all evil. When you assume, you go down a dangerous path. You put yourself in a position to be vulnerable.

In The Art of War, author Sun Tzu notes in the first chapter, “Laying Plans,” that it is crucial to your success and establishing the power of first impressions to do your research. While going to war may not apply to many people reading this, take value in the concept as written. The application may be different, but the execution is relatively the same.

The foundation of a house cannot be built without a strong structure to support it. You must do your homework. Take the time to study the landscape of your impacted base. Who are your core customers? Target audience? What is the end goal you want to achieve? What problems are you trying to solve? What is your WHY???

One of the most powerful things you can do when presenting an idea for the first time is to acknowledge the audience’s pain points to a particular issue. You have immediately piqued their interest because you understand their struggle in some way.

You are making a first impression when you present yourself in front of others. Make. It. Count. The American Psychology Association has been studying this idea for decades. It is one of the most powerful moments you’ll have to convert. If you fumble, the second time breeds distrust or worse, lost credibility in what you’re trying to pitch.

Believe In What You’re Selling

I used to work in cold call sales for a text message marketing company. I needed to make 200 calls a day in order to get the 10% pipeline of “interest” volume just to hit target. It was grueling pitching the same thing over and over, where you literally had 5 seconds to hook someone before they hung up on you. Within 3 months, my volume wasn’t getting the numbers I needed to stick around. I know why. I didn’t believe in what I was selling on the phone and that resonated with recipients. Now, the product wasn’t for everyone, but because I didn’t believe in it, my ability to convert interest was harmed significantly.

It isn’t the smartest people or the best product that always get the right people to buy into what’s being sold. Not from what I’ve seen. It is the ones who best articulate their message. More importantly, those that believe in what they are selling stand above the rest.

What I’ve came to recognize from those that present or look to gain support is that they have a very clear line of sight to their WHY. They explain it simply, passionately, and with supporting arguments. There is a level of energy you can feel from the individual that you connect with on an emotional level. Those that do it best connect personally with their love of the something and your relationship to it. How? They’ve done their homework.

Simon Sinek has a great book called “Start with Why,” in which he explains the concept of what he refers to as the Golden Circle. WHAT, HOW, and WHY. What do you do? How do you do it? And WHY do you do it? Most businesses, or people for that matter, can easily explain the what and how but can’t explain the Why. That’s interesting. Don’t be one of those. Know what your why is. Be able to articulate it in a manner that connects with your audience. Otherwise, you’re just doing things with no intent of being unique.

Gain Trust Through Value

In my early years at GE Capital, I assumed that because you dictated the use of a tool to others, it would automatically gain traction. Specifically, because of who it was being dictated from. I was faced with rejection almost immediately. I articulated myself as credible, but I didn’t provide a solution that actually helped them or make things easier.

You can’t force people to do something when they have another method they prefer. You have to gain their trust and show them that value through iteration. I wake up every day excited about the work I do because I believe in the products I’m making. Finding the “Why” in everything is the most important step to building successful solutions. I love this path. I love creating and developing new relationships. It is my favorite thing about Product Management. Especially when you get that visual feedback that says you made their job or experience better.

You will know you’ve provided value because of the feedback you’ll get. People will ask questions, offer suggestions, acknowledge both visually and verbally, and be bold enough to criticize you publicly. Be blessed when that happens. You aren’t being ignored! You have their attention. Use it. Like a skier pausing at the apex of a hill, take that momentum and fly with it.

Most importantly, when you’re getting that feedback, LISTEN!! Celeste Headlee has a great TED Talk which discusses the 10Ways to Have a Better Conversation. The number one thing to take away from it is how to LISTEN. Don’t listen with the intent of responding or reacting. Listen with the intent of listening. You should walk into any conversation, meeting, or interaction with expectation you’ll learn something new. Everyone has a perspective that is worth acknowledging, divulging, and potentially incorporating into the value you’re trying to achieve.

Have Allies

 When I worked at Blue Cross, I assumed I would have upper management support because my objectives aligned with the initiative of the organization. I made the mistake of assuming once again and failed to survey management before investing a significant portion of my own time solutioning a project. My project was quickly dismissed, and our team lost a lot of research time. I took accountability within my own team, but it came at the cost of some trust lost by them.

Whether you have creditability within your base or not, having support is a must have. Going in alone is a tough battle. If you’re presenting an initiative, project, or new product, you must consider executive sponsorship. Having the influence of others can greatly improve your chance of success. It has a domino effect. And if you’ve provided value already to a community of folks, use their voice as a method of supporting your objectives.

I’ve observed both internally at the companies I’ve worked at, as well as externally in the market, that the most successful products or solutions are those backed by a strong community. They succeed by using their early adopters as agents to convert others. Harness your relationships and use them in a positive and constructive manner to push your goals through.

The Takeaway

Every experience is different. Remember that concepts last much longer than actual applications. The themes of these concepts are always present. Their application may differ depending on the landscape and structure you’re attempting to influence. Listen, do your homework, have perspective, and remember your end goal. The result is what matters. But try to do so in a moral way 😊. You’ll see the results if you pay attention.

Ben Karas has worked at multiple Fortune 100 and 500 companies with a career focus around data analytics, software delivery, and product management. He currently works at W.W. Grainger as a Senior Product Manager overseeing development of Order History on their eCommerce website. Connect on LinkedIn


  • Start With Why – Simon Sinek
  • Sun Tzu – The Art of War
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – Phil Knight
  • First Impressions – American Psychology Association
  • 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation – Celeste Headlee (TED Talk)
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop