Most of the time assistants tell me they can’t attend our administrative conference or training because of budget cuts or not getting financial support. Sometimes it really is a budget issue. I understand that perfectly as a business owner and CEO. But often, it’s just lack of knowing how to sell the conference to the executive. Have the courage to go after what you want. That in itself is a learning experience. Below are strategies that really work. I used them when I was an assistant and needed to convince my executive to send me to an assistant conference.
Points to Consider
1. You need to continually learn and grow. In today’s competitive marketplace and at the pace this profession is changing, if you do not continually enhance your skills, build new ones, and have a strategy for your career, you will get left in the dust.
2. Don’t feel guilty about being out of the office to attend a program or conference that will make you better equipped, faster, smarter, and sharper.
3. Get your executive to see the long-term payoff. Often executives think about the number of days you will be out of the office. You need to help them see that while you may be gone three or four days, you will gain skills and knowledge that will take you, and them, into the future.
4. Executives travel all over the country. Why shouldn’t you? Some assistants tell me they can only attend seminars that take place in their city or state. That is not 21st Century thinking. Assistants should be a business partner to their executive, so start acting like a business partner and convince your manager why you should be allowed to travel out of state.
5. Don’t give up. If you really believe this training will help you professionally or even just rejuvenate your enthusiasm about your career, realize it may take three or four attempts to convince your manager. You may have to try different ways or formats to persuade your executive and, remember, timing is important.
Principles of Persuasion
1. Know exactly what you want to accomplish by attending the administrative conference. List your objectives alongside each topic in the curriculum and how that will tie into your current job or prepare you for the future.
2. To be a good seller, consider the buyer’s viewpoint. Try to put yourself in your executive’s position. What key selling points would be important to your executive? How will your executive benefit from you attending the conference?
3. Learn what motivates your executive. Is your executive motivated by ROI (return on investment), the skills you will develop or you learning from an acclaimed expert in the field? Does your executive believe in personal development and growth? If not, it will be a harder sell but don’t give up; be persistent.
4. Keep in mind the format you will use to present your case. Try to gauge your receiver’s communication style preference. Does your executive prefer information short and to the point or does your executive like details? Is your executive a visual person? If so, provide graphs or charts to make your point. Or for example, use visuals from the administrative conference site and pull them into PowerPoint or mini-posters to communicate with your executive.
5. Tie key learning points of the conference to your professional development plan for the year and to the goals of your department.
6. Show your executive how what you will learn will help you in specific areas of your job. For example: Let’s say one of the topics covered will be learning and understanding communication styles. Tell your executive you will use that information to be a better communicator by tapping into the receiver’s style; build rapport with internal and external customers; and complement your executive’s and his or her staff’s communication styles.
7. If your executive still says no to the administrative conference, sincerely ask your executive why he or she believes this is not a good investment. You may be able to counter that perception.
8. It always helps to let your executive know that you will share what you have learned with other assistants in your organization. But be absolutely cognizant of copyrights.
9. Emphasize the benefits of networking at the conference with peers and learning from others in the field.
10. Negotiate if necessary. Ask your executive to pay the registration fee and hotel and you’ll pay your airfare. Or you pay for your hotel stay and ask your executive to pay for registration and airfare. Be creative!
11. If all else fails, maybe you need to make the financial investment in yourself. Yes, I said you make the investment. I know several high-performing assistants who have spent thousands of dollars on their development and have reaped tremendous rewards over the years.