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Using the Tools of Persuasion to “Sell” Your Estimate

Management Track



What is the difference between a good cost estimator and a great cost estimator? Both have robust estimating skills and knowledge, but only great cost estimators are able to garner acceptance and usage of their estimates from even their harshest critics. The ability to “sell” the estimate is key to the utilization of the estimate in the proper context by the decision makers. Our jobs often entail delivering news that our customers and leaders are not anxious to hear. Many factors work against us as we try to garner support and acceptance of the estimates. It pays to take the time to evaluate these external influences and our own abilities to sell the estimate. Great estimators use all available tools to deliver the most compelling message. Key among these tools are the powers of persuasion.

This presentation introduces and explores the application of the six tools of persuasion described in Robert Cialdini’s book – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The tools of persuasion include reciprocity, commitment & consistency, social proof, authority, likeability, and scarcity. Knowledge of these principles is very important for two reasons:

1. We can apply these principles in presentations, negotiations, or even in normal daily life when trying to persuade someone.

2. We can recognize when these principles are being used against us to help us understand how and why we are being influenced.

All too often we rely solely on the technical merits of our estimates to convince others they are valid. Although sound, robust technical content is essential, it is only part of the full requirement. We must also focus on using the tools of persuasion to help us present cost estimates in a manner that will gain advocacy for our estimates. By improving our persuasion skills, we can improve our success as cost estimators and ensure that our estimates resonate and provide leadership with the facts they need to make informed decisions.


Jennifer Kirchhoffer
Tecolote Research, Inc.
Jennifer Kirchhoffer is the ACEIT Product Manager for the Tecolote Research Inc.
Software Products/Services Group. She has over 19 years of cost estimating experience working government and commercial estimates for aircraft, spacecraft, launch vehicles, and capital equipment. She began her career in the Air Force in the early 90s at Tyndall Air Force base working operational Air Force budgeting, execution, and cost analysis. After completing her Masters degree in residence, she transferred to the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright Patterson AFB and provided cost estimating support to the Special Operations and C-17 Program offices. After separating from the Air Force, Mrs. Kirchhoffer spent six years developing her marketing acumen in the semiconductor industry. It was during this time that she discovered the importance of understanding and employing effective persuasion techniques.
Mrs. Kirchhoffer returned to the defense sector in 2004 when an opportunity to work at Tecolote arose. While at Tecolote, she has supported various projects for customers, including: Sandia National Laboratories, the Air Force Research Lab, the Missile Defense Agency, and the Air Force Space and Missile System Center. She has broad experience with Program Office Estimate development, source selection support, cost model development, budget development, schedule analysis, schedule risk analysis, earned value management, risk management/mitigation strategy development, programmatic assessment, tool development, and day-to-day program management activities. She has accomplished and performed numerous financial analyses, cost estimates, cost-benefit analyses, and budget exercises; from conceptual to full production-type programs. Mrs. Kirchhoffer is a Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst with SCEA and a Certified Cost Consultant through the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE). She has a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the US Air Force Academy and a Master of Science in Cost Analysis from the Air Force Institute of Technology.