I just really must be influential—in order to survive. I’ll bet that’s true of you.
It might be a job interview, closing a big deal, or just convincing your partner to go to a movie you both would like, or getting a child to finish their food. Hearing “no” when you need to hear “yes” can be a minor blip in your day—or it may involve a decision that is so fundamentally life changing that it will have a major impact on your life.
Here are a few fundamentals to being influential—how to get another person to do, say, or believe what’s important to you.
- To influence someone, you need to know who you’re talking to. What I find most baffling is that people want to convince you of something, but they don’t have a clue of who you really are. You can only convince someone if what you’re saying is based on what is important and valuable to them. You have to be skilled at asking questions. People love you to ask questions about them—and they’re surprised because most people don’t. I used to try to convince people without having any information about them. I had a standard spiel and would repeat it like a talking doll—pull my string and the same words came out of my mouth every time. Whether I was presenting a product or a religious or political point of view, I assumed you’d agree with me if I recited it well. Not so. You have to learn about the person you want to convince. Today, great amounts of information about a person can be found with a few keystrokes using LinkedIn, Facebook, and websites.
- Be sure you’re talking to the right person. Does the person you want to influence really have the authority to make the decision about what you’re trying to convince them about? Many people spend hours talking with a friendly face in an organization who listens to what they want and nods positively—but they have zero decision making ability and little influence up the chain.
- Who influences the person you want to influence? I often find that the person you’re talking to may be very friendly to your proposition and may even be the official decision maker. Yet there are people that person needs to convince who are unknown to you and can usually be found out if you ask. A powerful CEO sometimes will never go against an outspoken person in their organization because it’s not worth it. It could even be an executive assistant who exerts a powerful influence and sometimes the person’s partner at home.
- Does what you want to convince a person of fit into their own agenda? Does it solve a problem for them? It’s true even for children. When my mother was trying to convince me to eat the green beans I hated, her question was, “Don’t you want to grow up to be big and strong?” Of course I did. Your closest companion or friend has their own reasons for being convinced by what you say. If you want someone to hire you or write you a big check, what you’re asking must fit into what they need, their own personal agenda. You must find out what that agenda is, how what you’re presenting solves a fundamental problem for the person you’re convincing.
- Does what you want violate the interests of the person you need to influence? You must align what you want with the interests of the person you’re trying to convince. Countless times people want to sell me something that I can’t afford, use, or need—something that works against every basic interest I have. Yet the person might be able to show how their product can open new doors for me to obtain what I want. We often blurt out what we want without seeing how it fits into the other person’s needs.
- Touch on the point that makes them act. Most of the time, unfortunately for us all, a person may be convinced by what we say, but they get distracted by all of the other issues that overwhelm them and take no action on what you want them to do. It’s important that you establish what you want to convince a person to do, but it’s even more important to convince them to do it now. What is there in your proposition that is so important they can’t put it off?
- Be sure the decision of the person you convince holds over time. I always draw on the wisdom of my West Texas relatives growing up, who said, “A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.” People often may agree half-heartedly with what you are convincing them of, with little commitment to carrying out the decision. We have often been disappointed by a decision that didn’t stick. Once you sell a person on something, you need the opportunity to re-sell them and re-recruit them to your plan of action. If they’re waiting for something to clear before they can act, find out what that is and work with them…yes “hand hold” them…until what you need is really going to happen.
Learning to be influential is not often taught in any course or business school. It is a subtle and nuanced set of skills and techniques and one of the most essential skills for professional success. Follow Delta, Inc. for these and other advanced techniques to catapult performance.