How do you handle objections?  How do you convince a client? What are your favorite advocacy tools?

These are classic interview questions.   We all have our favored techniques – and it certainly depends on the issue under discussion: “I just love this color! Why don’t you use it?” is different from “Why did you use a dropdown listbox there?” or even “There’s no need for research. We already know what our users want.

The Good Book

Entire books can be written about how to best approach resolving disputes (real or potential) about opinion, style, technique, implementation, and process.

There are already some good ones out there. I’ve been enjoying Thank You for Arguing. It’s witty and insightful – and provides some useful tools for that whole ‘advocacy’ thang.

The underlying agenda of this question is ‘how do you deal with the politics of the situation?” Here’s a coupla thoughts:

  • Establish common ground: “Best Practices” is an over-referenced, under-utilized vehicle. By establishing agreement on certain benchmarks up front, you can avoid some of the stress.
  • Legacy Problems : the Usual Suspects often show up again and again. You’ve probably dealt with them before – and have a few ‘stories to tell’ that will resonate with your audience.

Okay, so here’s one of my favorite techniques:

We’re dealing with a legacy site. The client wants things one way (which I feel is problematic). I want to suggest a different path.

Going head-to-head with a stakeholder is rife with political problems.  I’m not going to win a power struggle, particularly in an arena where “it’s all just a matter of opinion, isn’t it” might well be the conversation-ender. Citing best practices (see above) or heuristics (my professional opinion) might work in some situations, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

Instead, I propose to prototype the solutions. My three models reflect

a) the client’s design

b) my design, and

c) a design which incorporates some of my suggestions, but still reflects the legacy site. (I don’t tell the client that this is what I’m doing).

We evaluate & analyze the mockups and compare them. With any luck, the client will reject their flawed design (a) – Remember, they don’t know that it’s theirs – and prefer mine (b). Even if they select option (c) – the ‘middle ground’ – then at least we have an acceptable bottom line for moving forward, as well as a basis for improving it.

This technique is helpful because the client makes the choice.

It’s important to remember that such differences are rarely resolved by logical analysis or or the weight of data – but rather by rhetorical persuasion.



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