Businesspeople Hands In Together

11 Ways to Communicate Change Positively—and Gain Buy-In

Change usually involves a period of chaos until people struggle through it to success. Even the world’s most powerful software requires a learning curve. Influencing people to take action or to change their mind often includes minimizing the risk of potential pain in a negative outcome.

To minimize that risk, take a few tips from the sales industry. Consider how pricing experts take the “ouch” out of high prices. See which strategies might apply to reducing anxiety when you have to communicate (read that “sell”) change to a reluctant group.


Reduce the Pain of Risk by Communicating Change Positively


What Do Pricing Strategies Have to Do With Phrasing Change?

Plenty. Consider the following adaptations to “selling” change:

When selling products, pricing strategies include … When communicating change, adapt the “pricing” strategy like this:
Make a “try before you buy” offer. State that you’re considering the change, pending their feedback.
Give a generous, “no questions asked” returns policy. Let the person know that they have the final say—no matter what—about accepting the change.
Post written guarantees (people like to “see it in writing”). Can you provide any guarantees about positive outcomes after the change? If so, put those in writing.
Post your privacy policies. Use confidentiality to your advantage when asking for input about a change. Some people complain as a matter of course—the protest is merely grand-standing for their constituents. Privacy prevents this.
Bundle things so they can pay once for multiple items. Acknowledge that almost all change includes both positives and negatives; change is a bundled deal.
Don’t nickel-and-dime buyers by adding on small fees for this or that after the primary sale. Otherwise, the pain keeps coming over and over again. Communicate the entire change at once rather than “dripping it out.”
Provide different payment options and terms. Not all buyers can handle the big lump payment. Communicate change in different ways. Realize that some people respond better to oral messages. Others react better to written messages that allow them to re-read to master complex details. Still others master complex details best in formal training while some prefer on-the-job learning.
Detach the pain of paying with the act of buying by using the “bill me later” option, the “simply click here” option, or the “get four months free and just write ‘cancel’ on the invoice” option. Allow people to choose the best time for them to make the change: immediately or by a certain deadline.
Accept credit cards or direct withdrawals from their bank accounts (people don’t feel the pain of paying so much if they are not parting with the actual cash). Can someone else help them make the change? Can you make the change for them and have them simply authorize the action? Can you present the change as happening unless they take action to stop it?
Drop the dollar sign in front of the number. (Current research has shown less resistance to pricing without the actual $ showing.) Notice menus in upscale restaurants—many no longer display the dollar sign. Don’t make the change sound harder, more complex, or worse than it is. Pay attention to your phrasing.  Is it totally “new” or just a minor “tweak” to the current policy or process?
Add decoy items to increase perceived value. (Notice one or two extremely high-priced items in a catalog or on a restaurant menu. These are not meant to sell, but to add perceived value to what buyers actually select at a lower price.) Use contrast to show how extreme and negative a change could be—and by contrast how reasonable and positive your actual change is in reality.


Key Questions to Dig Deeper

Whether talking about an idea or a product, ask yourself these key questions: How can I make this decision less painful and the change more positive? Dig deep. Get specific.

  • What’s the other person’s perception of pain? (Paperwork? High cost? Excessive regulations? Taxes? Micromanagement? Failure? Embarrassment?)
  • What’s the other person’s perception of a positive outcome? (No stress? Speed? Higher quality? Fun? Praise? Longer lasting? Time off? A raise? Durability? Dependability? Ease? Easy to learn? A loving relationship? A better education?)


Answering these specific questions with relevant information leads to a persuasive conversation and a positive outcome.


Learn more ways to communicate change and gain buy-in with Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done

Get more tips delivered to your inbox, click here to subscribe to Dianna’s ezine.