One of the most overlooked, but essential, elements of the persuasive process is establishing a definite need in your to-be-persuaded-audience’s mind. In other words, how does the client know that they need what you have to offer?

Often, we assume the need is present—clearly, they know they’re experiencing a pain point, they know they need help, and they know the intervention is a good thing. Clearly, they know that the audit will reveal ways to make them more efficient.

But those are assumptions.

Instead of assuming that your client knows that they need your services, consider conversational techniques that will allow you to establish—or co-establish—a need. Doing so will put you in a better position to conduct a swift and successful audit. It will also put you in a place of an advisor, instead of an auditor. And we all know that perception can yield multiple benefits.

Allow me to put my professor hat on and establish why establishing the need is so crucial. (A little meta there, wasn’t I?)

One of the most well-known frameworks for structuring any persuasive speech or messaging is called Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. It’s a five-step framework that takes us through the five essential parts of any compelling attempt.

In the first step, you gain the attention of your to-be-persuaded audience. In public speaking classes, they’ll tell you to use a joke, a story, a startling fact or statistic to capture your audience’s attention. In the business world you don’t need to do that—and please, by all means, do not insert humor for humor’s sake. Gaining attention in a business setting involves getting your audience on the same page and ready to proceed.

The second step of the sequence is establishing the need. More on that later. But what often happens in any conversation is we go right from setting the stage for the meeting directly into the third step of the sequence—skipping establishing the need altogether.

The third step is all about satisfaction. How are we going to do what we are going to do? In the internal audit world, this would be about communicating protocol, processes, and procedures. How the audit will work, what the timelines are, and what things must happen to complete the audit.

It often looks like this:

“We’re here today to introduce everyone involved in this audit process. We’re going to be working with everyone on your team for X days or weeks and will need to collect Y data and do Z interviews.”

Completely missing the opportunity to establish—or co-establish—the need for the audit in the first place. Completely missing a chance to gain buy-in. Completely missing an opportunity to present yourself as an advisor instead of an auditor.

Taking the time to establish the need in your initial meetings will pay off throughout the audit process. To create the demand, ask questions such as (of course catering them to your specific area of the auditing spectrum):

• “What would make your jobs more efficient?”
• “What would you like to get advice or a different perspective on?”
• “In your opinion, what is the most efficient area of your department? The least efficient?”

By asking questions along these lines, you’re able to access pain points that your client is experiencing. In doing so, you’ll be able to cement a need for the audit in your client’s mind that is more than the “we have to conduct this audit every three years” need that is handed down from above. And in getting these answers, you’ll have ways to integrate their responses into your processes as you deliver them in the satisfaction step of the sequence.

The fourth step of the sequence is visualisation—where you help your client visualise the process and the results of the process. Since you co-established the need, you’ll have direct language that can help you craft this portion of the conversation and presentation. Mostly, you’re painting a picture with words that allow your client to buy-into the process that you’ve laid out, enabling a smoother audit process.

The final step is the action step—what do you want someone to do or to take-action-on based on your conversation. The numerous actions that you’ll need clients to take to help you complete the audit comprise this step. You may not be presenting them all at once, but when you do, you can always refer back to the need that you’ve established together, pushing them to act faster and within agreed-upon time frames. This involves wrapping meetings up with clear action items, responsibilities delegated, and mutual agreement on what was said and what needs to be accomplished.

Now that you understand the need for establishing the need, it’s important to make time in your onboarding, introduction, or kick-off meetings to create space for the conversation necessary to get this co-established need solidified. Doing so will allow you a quicker path to buy-in from your clients, even those for whom the audit is (in the past) a dreaded occurrence.

Humans like to have agency in any process they’re involved with—and your clients aren’t immune to that desire. Think about it. You probably don’t like being told what you have to do and being told why you need to do it. Instead, if you’re given a chance to help bring up the reasons action is required, you’re more likely to buy-into that action.

Give your clients an opportunity to co-establish this need with you. People support what they help create. Allowing this shared creation of the demand is one fast way to get your clients in your corner.