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What's In It For Me​

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What’s in it for me.

The five most important words for any auditor to know.

Let me tell you a story.

A while ago, I had the privilege of sitting in on the conference call of a department whose production had fallen behind schedule. The new director ran a quick riot act on the group, including the explanation that failure was really not an option — that heads would roll if the schedule was not met. He ended by asking each manager “Can you get this done?” Not surprisingly, every single one said they could. By year’s end, the work was done and the schedule was met.

Two years passed, the department found itself in a similar situation, and I again got the chance to sit in on their conference call. The department was the same. The situation was the same (production was lagging). The only difference was that there was a new director. This director, having been one of the managers sitting on the other side of the phone two years ago, figured he would use the same approach. It had worked before; why not again? He began with his version of the riot act (not quite as effective; you would have to meet him to understand why), then explained how important it was for the team to get the work done. However, where the previous director had put people’s jobs on the line, this director indicated that the reason achieving production goals was so important was to enable the VP to get his bonus, and everyone liked the VP, right?

It was interesting to listen to the responses this time around as the new director asked each manager for their pledge that the work would get done. Every single one said yes. But there didn’t seem to be the same passion in their commitments.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was not particularly surprised when the department didn’t meet its goals that year. Also of interest, no manager paid a price, and the struggle to maintain production increased.

Here’s why I’m telling you this story.

How do you sell your audit findings? Do you describe how audit’s customer will be impacted? Or do you describe the impact on someone else?

It doesn’t matter at what level of the organization the people you are working with are embedded. You have to show them why they care — not why someone else should care, but the personal impact that will give them a vested interest in the success you are trying to sell. Sure, keeping the boss happy is part of that equation, but for our sales pitch to really work — for our audit results to be accepted and acted upon at all levels — we have to show why each person at each level should care.

That means a different pitch may be required for different people. But shouldn’t that always be the case? And, besides, if you really understand the issue and its impact, coming up with the different reasons why people care shouldn’t be a problem.

It isn’t, is it?

And here’s a bit of lagniappe. A quick story to show you how confused internal auditors get about who the customer is and how to make customers care:

Our audit was running late. I sat in on a meeting where the auditor was working with the customer to get the report completed. The customer was hesitant — one of those who, while not combative, was very careful. The auditor (the clueless auditor) explained to the customer that we needed to come to agreement because the report was going to be due at the end of the week.

The customer didn’t say a word. He just looked at the auditor with a mixture of sadness and pity and, without saying a word, delivered the message “Your due dates mean nothing to me; I have my own job to do.”

What’s in It for me?

What’s in it for them?

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