17 Feb Want to hear the word ‘yes’ more often in your life? It’s entirely possible.
When was the last time you had to influence someone? Was it this morning when your children forgot to make their beds or needed to do their homework? Or perhaps it was last night when you picked up your car from the auto repair shop and they didn’t have the right car parts to fix it? Maybe you needed to ask your manager for something, or resolve a problem with a service provider? Maybe it was a huge pitch to your company board or to a client who could really benefit from your product or service?
Interestingly, from one day to the next, despite the huge number of times we need to ask someone for something in a day, most of us don’t think of ourselves as ‘influencers’. Most people think of influence as something for people in politics or the United Nations. It’s for lawyers and talent agents, people like Tom Cruise (the sports celebrity agent in Jerry Maguire) shouting “show me the money!”
Actually, if you think about it, we influence people every day. When we need 50 cash loan or want something we must get the attention, the support and the endorsement of our families, our stakeholders, our staff, our suppliers, our managers and potential clients. Influence is pervasive, whether we are conscious of it or not and regardless of the name we give it.
You may have thought that you were just running another team meeting, but your team members that morning were hoping it would be a motivational event that would encourage them to work harder and not apply for that job with your competitor. What you say will count.
You may have thought that this was just another prospective client as you answered the phone to convert the business – but this ‘potential client’ has already spoken to your three closest competitors as they shop around for the best solution to their problem. What you say will count.
You may have thought that you were just a small part of the picture, just the technical expert with the graphs and charts, but the client was watching the way you presented your information with a plan to refer you to their biggest supplier. What you present will count.
You may have thought you were just answering another email inquiry that came through your website contacts page, but the person inquiring actually had over $1,000,000 to spend on their next investment property purchase and they were judging your interpersonal skills. What you type will count.
So what is influence?
Influence is the ability to alter or sway an individual’s or a group’s thoughts, beliefs, or actions.
When you understand the process of influence you’ll know how to maximise your power moments (the moments in a relationship or interaction when you are best able to get what you want), whilst creating and maintaining trust.
And here’s the key….first-rate influencers fulfill their personal objectives while building and then maintaining trust, rapport and respect.
There’s nothing cheap, manipulative or underhanded about effective influence. It’s an ethical process that relies upon integrity, trust and long term relationships.
First-rate influencers do not aggressively achieve their influence objectives at the expense of people and important relationships. And first-rate influencers do not passively avoid challenging influence situations, at the expense of fulfilling their own professional and personal goals.
Your success in life will depend on your personal ability to influence others – to achieve your personal objectives while building and maintaining positive, affirming, constructive relationships with the people around you.
Successful People know how to Influence
The more successful entrepreneurs I meet, the more I realise that regardless of their intelligence and business acumen, regardless of their first-rate products or service and regardless of their commitment to their business, these successful people have one thing in common. They know how to present their ideas in a compelling, influential and memorable way. They know how to structure their thoughts, how to connect with people, and they say what they want to say in a way that resonates. They inspire and compel people to take action! And they often get what they want.
Command attention, gain respect and easily sell your ideas to anyone
It’s conclusive! If you are not good at influencing people in business you need to learn how to do so! It will help you to command attention, gain respect and easily sell your ideas to anyone. It’s time you started to secure more promotions, win more appointments and close more deals. With improved influencing skills you can showcase your professional expertise on a daily basis, accelerate your business, and generally get more of what you want in your life.
Anyone can be a master influencer!
And the good news is that in my experience, as someone who has trained many, many thousands of people in this area over much of the past two decades, anyone can learn how to influence others. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and doing it.
When we communicate we typically do so from three main positions (1st, 2nd and 3rd Position). We all naturally spend time in each of these three positions. They help us to understand the situations, conversations and experiences and their subsequent outcomes with greater insight.
First position is where you experience the world from your own reality. In this position you are ‘associated’ or ‘in your own shoes’. You see and hear other people and experiences from your own point of view, with your own thoughts and feelings in mind and you have little interest in the wants or needs of others. Your primary question would be: “How does this affect me?” This is the position you must go into to work out your goals and objectives. And then it’s best to steer away from this position for most of the rest of the influence process.
Second position is where you experience the world from the other person’s position. In this position it is as if you are completely in the other person’s shoes. The deeper your rapport with people, the easier it is for you to shift into this position and understand a situation or experience from their perspective. Your primary question would be “How would this appear to them?”
Third Position is where you experience the world from the outside. In this position you have no personal involvement in the situation, you are completely independent. You are a bit like a fly on the wall as an objective observer, taking a helicopter view of the situation. In third position you observe the situation from first position (your own reality) as well as observing the situation from second position (the other person’s perspective).
All three positions are equally important to the process of influence. The idea is that we develop an ability to move freely between them in the appropriate moment. Here are 10 tips to get you started:
Tip # 1 Deep self confidence
Bad news! Brian Tracy suggests that in a typical sales encounter, 80% of prospects will say, “no” to your sales offer and during tough economic times, this can be as high as 90% or even 95%. And John Croucher, professor management at MGSM found that the percentage of Executives that admit to daydreaming during important meetings is 87%. No wonder most of us are actually afraid to ask for what we want!
Add the good old Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule which states that 80% of all sales are made by 20% of the salespeople to these awful statistics and it’s not looking good for most of us out there who feel there’s something we need or want from someone else.
First-rate influencers know that during the influence process they are in control of three things: the self; the message; and the environment (even when communicating in the stakeholders space).
The saying goes: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” The mindset of knowing you will reach an agreement requires you to eliminate all negativity from your environment. This is very contagious! So no matter how the stakeholder responds, keep it light and maintain a can-do attitude throughout the influence. When you let negative thoughts occupy your mind there is only one outcome and it’s not good. Be confident that negativity always succumbs to positivity.
Tip # 2 Know your goal
Work out what you want and make sure it serves both parties.
Tip # 3 Know your audience
First rate influencers truly believe that they can satisfy the stakeholder’s needs. They see the benefits, features, and limitations of their product, service or request from their stakeholder’s view (2nd position). They weigh things on the stakeholder’s scale of values, not their own and realise; you must realize what is important to the stakeholder.
Learn how to shift from 1st position into 2nd position and analyse your stakeholder, client or audience. What are they thinking about you, your message and your company or team? How do they feel about you and your idea? What’s in it for them to say yes to you? Shy might they say no? For more information on how to do this I recommend the Think/Feel/Do model available in my book Don’t Picture me Naked.
Tip # 4 Prepare your message
It’s critical to identify and understand the impact and diversity of different strategies & styles available in influence scenarios and the impact they have.
Some common models for structuring your influence are Bernice McCarty’s 4Mat model, or my 13-steps for Exceptional Presentation, the Milton Model. In general, an effective influence process generally has an opening and middle and a close.
My favourite of the strategies that can be used at any time in the influence process is the Milton Model often also referred to as ‘Pacing and Leading’. Pacing statements actually ‘mirror’ your stakeholder’s attitudes. They reflect back what your stakeholder already knows to be true. Whereas, a leading statement is your key message. It’s the thing you’re asking for. While pacing, the influencer just feeds back the stakeholder’s current experience in order to build rapport and reduce resistance to the leading statements. You don’t actually have permission to ask for anything or lead your stakeholder until you have first paced their attitude with the correct number of pacing statements. The correct number of pacing statements is directly related to the existing level of rapport. If your stakeholder says ‘no’ to you, it’s really just feedback that you didn’t pace them enough or properly.
Tip # 5 Make your pitch
Rapport, rapport, rapport. Before you an influence others you must build rapport with them. Rapport is a connection with the other party and it’s most easy to build rapport with people who are like us. We like people who are like ourselves. So from the first word you say, make sure your voice, body and language patterns reflect the similarities between you and your audience members rather than the differences. And while you’re at it remember to use your stakeholder’s names. Griffin (2010) found that people’s names are the most difficult of all words to learn and in response to this there are countless articles on the internet trying to help you with content like ‘The 7 tricks to remember names’! In 1986, Cohen and Faulkner found that people are 49% more likely to remember what you do for a job than your name! And most research on names has commented on how good we feel when someone remembers our name. So use the name of the person appropriately and see your influence increase!
Connect with the audience with your eyes and your mouth. When it’s time to influence make sure you remind yourself: ‘it’s not about me, it’s all about the stakeholder’. Get your focus off yourself and look at them in the ‘whites of their eyes’, really see them, whether it be one person or one thousand people. And smile authentically while you’re at it. Alicia Grandey’s smiling research in 2005 found a direct correlation between authentic smiles and an increase in influence. Conversely Grandey also found the more inauthentic the smile, the less effective the influence.
Relax your muscles and breathe. Breathing is something we take for granted. But when the stakes are high and we are nervous, one of the first things that goes is our deep breathing. Deep breathing will help you feel calmer, give you a more powerful, resonant and convincing voice, and it will also help you retain your clarity of thought. If you breathe deeply you can’t go blank, waffle on or lose your track.
Storytelling. Using interesting stories or examples that link to your case and bring it to life can reinforce key points and have your stakeholder walking away feeling even more convinced.
Vocal variety. Your voice is one of your most powerful tools as an influencer. Learn how to warm up your voice so you sound as resonant, confident, and credible as possible.
Stimulate the senses. People have different visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning preferences. Make sure you do something to stimulate people no matter their learning preference. Don’t just present your ideas in a way that is interesting to you because that will only entertain and persuade the people like you (roughly one third of your audience).
Tip # 6 Manage Objections
Whether influencing one person or many, we are sometimes faced with the fact that parts of our message may be objected to, or at least be a surprise to the stakeholder. If the message is ‘controversial’ or needs a special framework around it, then care is required in framing the message so as to maintain positive interest and rapport.
It is relatively easy to overcome most resistances to our message by using a technique called “Pacing Out Objections”.
In essence this technique alerts the audience ‘up-front’ to elements of your message that they may (potentially) object to. This often settles them sufficiently to at least listen to you – and you never know, the objection may have just disappeared after your communication is delivered.
Steps for Pacing Out Objections
- Plan your message.
- Mismatch it and find all the possible objections.
- Determine the ‘higher values’ that would appeal your stakeholder. Some examples might be to reduce stress, reduce waste, improve morale, increase job satisfaction, more money, more time.
Tip # 7 Use your language tool box
Language is a powerful tool in your influence toolkit. Learn how to use linguistic devices to increase your influence. Here are some of my favourites at a glance:
Alliteration – This is a bit like a tongue twister, where two or more consecutive words (or words that are nearby in the same sentence) start with the same letter. “Walter walked wearily while wondering where Wally was”.
Anaphora – the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses to create a strong emotional effect. Obama’s Yes We Can speech is an example – nearly every sentence started with “It was”…
“…It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can….” President Barack Obama
Tricolon – a sentence with three clearly defined parts usually independent clauses and of increasing power. “I came; I saw; I conquered.” Julius Caesar
Epistrophe – the repetition of the same word or words at the end of successive phrases, clauses or sentences. It is an extremely emphatic device because of the emphasis placed on the last word in a phrase or sentence. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Power words, or action verbs, are words used to help make a statement stronger. By using power words you assume an “active voice” instead of a “passive voice”. Often used in written correspondence such as resumes, letters and emails, power words increase the strength of your communication.
Plus there are some simple but powerful words such as ‘actually’, ‘in fact’ and ‘because’ that will make a big difference to your persuasiveness. In fact, Ellen Langer found in her 1978 research study that as long as the request is accompanied by strong rationale (which of course you would do), the simple use of the word ‘because’ increased the chance of ‘yes’ from 60%-94%.
Tip # 8 Remember the 6 principles of social Influence
There are 6 general principles of social influence that all first-rate influencers understand and use daily.
- Social Proof – we look to what others do to guide our behaviour.
- Reciprocity – we feel obligate to return favours performed for us.
- Commitment and Consistency – we want to act. consistently with our commitments and values.
- Authority – we look to experts to show us the way
- Scarcity – the less available the resource, the more we want it.
- Liking – the more we like people the more we want to say yes to them.
Take some time to think about how each of these will affect your next influence.
Tip # 9 Ask for it!
There are three main steps to closing the sale:
- Watch for when the deal is close.
- Listen carefully rather than talking over your stakeholder. What are they really saying to you?
- Learn the variety of closing techniques that exist out there.
Tip # 10 Seal the deal!
Depending on the scale of your influence it can be really important that you either get your agreed outcome in writing, or at least be sure to articulate the next steps clearly. In some cases you need to assertively get the ‘yes’ from your stakeholder out loud. I recommend you always take a pen to important influence situations so you can write important things down and even sign them if necessary.
You can do it!
- Remember, it doesn’t matter how good your company is, how good your products or service are, how good your ideas are or how good your message is if no one’s listening.
- Anyone can be a first-rate influencer – simply learn what to do and do it.
- Improve your influencing skills today and reap the extraordinary benefits!
Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best selling internationally published author (Wiley), editor of How to Present magazine, producer of Michelle Bowden TV, and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. Sign up for Michelle’s FREE How to Present magazine TODAY http://michellebowden.com.au