If you think influence is a dirty word that benefits only politicians and shady salesmen, you’re wrong! Let me tell you why.
The first things newborn babies learn to do is to use influence, it’s simply the way we interact with each other.
Influence is the capability to affect the behavior or decisions of someone.
We consider most people sheep exactly because of the ignorance about the mechanisms of influence. They don’t think for themselves, they just get pulled along with the heard by the sweet talkers.
You don’t want to be a sheep do you? Maybe you don’t want to be a wolf either, but I’m sure that you want some basic things in life to go your way. You want to advance your career, sustain a good relationship, cultivate a stable social network with friends and colleagues.
In order for these things to go your way, you need to be able to sell people on the idea that you are a valuable and reliable person to have around, and that is what sophisticated influence is all about.
Knowing how influence works is crucial if you want to protect yourself from negative influence and be a socially savvy individual.
Confidence is the cornerstone of influence. If you believe in yourself, your audience will believe in you too. Otherwise, you won’t be able to muster the will power to change their minds. Don’t be arrogant though, no one likes arrogant people.
“There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance… it’s called humility. Confidence smiles, arrogance smirks.” – Author unknown
A few tips on appearing confident and affirmative:
- Make eye contact.
- Talk clearly and with conviction.
- Keep your posture correct and stand tall.
- Keep your hands visible and use descriptive hand gestures when explaining things.
Believe in your proposition
It’s important to promote what you believe in and believe in what you promote, otherwise you’ll lack conviction and your audience will smell the bull.
If you believe in something you will speak from the heart, you will easily make your audience see why you care about it and why they should as well.
Put a bit of effort into research. Learn more about how your proposition is valuable and this will boost your confidence and eloquence when presenting it.
Decision cycle is a common way to describe the thought process that a person undertakes when facing a need and going through the motions of solving that need.
You need to have a strategic approach with your proposition and one way to do that is by following the stages of the decision cycle.
This way you will navigate the natural thinking process of your audience in order to thoroughly engage them with the idea you are presenting.
Here is how the decision cycle, or OODA, works:
Observe: Observing a need is the first step. You have to create a demand with your audience by pointing out to the struggle they’re having by not using the right solution, which you are offering.
Orient: Now that the need is established, you audience is orienting themselves to the choices available for dealing with this need that you are looking to solve. It’s your job to demonstrate how you are offering the best available solution.
Decide: Your audience now evaluates their options and weighs them accordingly. If the choice you offer is the logical one and it brings them more benefit then cost, they are sure to follow your advice – because it’s in their own best interest.
Act: This final step is their acceptance to follow your advice in solving the problem at hand.
As you can see, there is no mind-bending mystery about the decision cycle. It’s simply a process of finding an optimal solution to any problem we have in life. Knowing about this process and adapting it to your pitch will make the information flow with ease.
Check out this article on unconscious bias to better understand how easily we get pulled into actions when they feel natural.
Know your audience
Knowing your audience is paramount in order to understand what they need and what approach works best.
There are four questions you need to ask yourself:
Who is it you are pitching to? Is it your colleague, boss, client, friend, life partner? Tailor your approach to the nature of the relationship.
What are you pitching? This question comes as a follow-up to the previous one. Know the boundaries that you have with your audience. Sometimes a solution you have to offer is not appropriate for certain relationships.
Why do they need to listen to you? What are the obstacles you’re helping them surpass? What are the consequences if they don’t follow your advice?
The setting is an important element. Knowing the right time and place to make your pitch can make a world of difference for your success rate.
Let’s say you want to give your friendly colleague a constructive criticism about his/her work, you don’t do it in front of the boss.
Bottom line: Know the answers to these questions if you want to be producing consistent results. The less you fail the more you succeed….duh!
This is an important point and I’d like to fully contextualize my stance by drawing on previous 2 points.
- The Why question from the previous point. You need to know exactly what they’re going through if you want them to take you seriously.
- The Believe in your proposition point. The more you believe in what you’re offering, the more profoundly you will speak to your audience in a language that will deeply resonate with their own experiences.
My advice would be, preach only the things that you are genuinely passionate about. Whatever solution you’re recommending, make sure it’s something that made an improvement in your own life.
The best way to make your audience feel like you’re in the same boat with them is by actually being in the same boat with them.
We don’t consciously pay attention to feeling an obligation to return a small favor, it’s hardwired into us. When someone accepts help or favor from you, they will feel indebted to do something for you in return.
If your proposition is actually solving people’s problems and having a positive impact on their lives as you promise, they will reciprocate by subscribing to your advice.
Commitment means taking a relationship to a next level, and it’s an important thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to build and sustain a relationship.
Being there for someone when they need you will make you a reliable companion and that’s a valuable thing to be. Small favors and thoughtful acts cost you next to nothing but can mean a lot to someone when they really need them.
Cultivate in yourself a reliable persona and be that way for anyone you take into your circle, be it in a professional or social network of people.
If you make a commitment to someone, be there for them whenever they need you. Everyone can talk big about their intentions but not everyone acts with integrity when the need arises.
Last but not least, be picky about who you take into your inner circle. Don’t waste your time on people who will not appreciate you and reciprocate your commitment.
Leave a strong impression
Sometimes you will have only a short window of opportunity to impress someone and influence their decision.
Let’s say you have an important job interview. You’re qualified and the job would mean a lot to you. How do you stand out from the other candidates?
Elevator pitch is the way to go. Have a clean, straight to the point pitch that you could deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
Distill your presentation into a simple pitch, showing clearly your best points of value as well as what makes you different and better than the other candidates.
Make sure you instill curiosity into your audience, so that you leave them eager to know more or feel like they’re missing out if they let the opportunity pass.
For this one, you need to reach for your aluminum foil thinking cap and plan well. Make the best possible presentation that can be made in 30sec-2mins, and that’s your elevator pitch.
Urgency is a vital factor of a successful proposition, especially with the elevator pitch. Be careful not to mistake this for pressure, because undue pressure will make you seem desperate and will take away from your credibility.
Instead you need to make the audience feel like you’re offering something unique, that will not be available for a long time and they will regret it unless they act soon to recognize and seize the opportunity.
Two ways to create urgency:
- Make urgency a part of your pitch from the start instead of springing it up at the very end and conveying pressure.
- Keep the focus on the problem you are trying to solve for your audience, and create in them a desire to get that problem out of their way as soon as possible.
Active listening is possibly the most useful skills of all of the above when it comes to influencing someone one-on-one. If you can handle this one, your success rate will go through the roof.
You need to give your audience as much opportunity to speak during your pitch, because this is how you build rapport.
You need to give your undivided attention to them when they are speaking. You’re not only listening to what they’re saying, but also you’re trying to understand why they are saying it.
Try to retain as much as you can of what they are saying, because this is where the secret sauce of influence comes into play.
You overcome their objections to your proposition by using their own frame of reference.
If you do this well, eventually they will exhaust their objections and see nothing but benefit from choosing to accept your proposition. Not because you wore them down, but because you listened to their needs and helped them see the benefit of your recommendation.
Always keep sharpening your skills and learning new tricks. These are some adaptable pointers but you need to look more specifically to the methods that work best for your agenda and time frame.
The more you know about you task at hand, the better equipped you can show up and increase your success rate of success.
As long as you are playing the influence game well – you will be able to influence almost anyone to accept your suggestions.
Think about an example from your own life where you are trying to influence someone. I encourage you to re-read the article using that frame of reference and see how you can use the influence skills to skew the odds in your favor.
How can you use these skills to get a promotion? How will you use them in networking? How would you use them to get your kids to clean up their room?
Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear what you have to say!