We all want and need influence, especially in business. Influence can help you become a better leader, convince investors to fund your startup and motivate employees to do their best.
It's a quality every entrepreneur should master. And yet, there are many misconceptions around the concept of influence. Namely, that influence is all about what you say and how you say it.
Those are merely components. What and how is the tip of the iceberg. The real process of wielding influence lies in determining the right triggers for those you wish to persuade, be it an individual or a group.
Concentrating on your message sabotages your efforts.
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The world's best influencers -- CIA field operatives, hostage negotiators and con artists among them -- never ask, "What should I say?" Instead, their first question always is, "What do I need to know?"
If you're preparing to deliver a speech, pitch investors or sit down for a sales meeting, asking, “What should I say?” sabotages your efforts before you've even begun. And you probably don't even realize it.
"What should I say?" frames the question to direct your mind's focus inward, to you. This triggers all your internal anxiety and stress. Now your mind is ramped up to judge your thoughts and words according to your own worries and securities -- and then measure them by what your prospect might think. It's a winless proposition because your prospect's thought process likely is a complete unknown.
You can bypass so much of your stress by shifting to the more influential question: "What do I need to know?" Now, your mind focuses on the person you want to influence. You're in a curious frame of mind, and curiosity cancels out those judgmental feelings. You're free to explore options and possibilities.
Related: 13 Habits of Super Persuasive People
The person you want to influence has all the intel you need.
So, what exactly do you need to know?
Master influencers always look for persuasive trigger points. You need to figure out what's most important to the person or people you're trying to convince. What do they want to achieve? What do they want to avoid? At the most base level, humans are oriented toward pleasure or away from pain. It’s your job as an influencer to find how to trigger each response.
Observation is the foundation of influence.
Once you've determined the right triggers, you have something to work with. Because you're no longer starting with a blank slate, you can find opportunities to connect triggers to your goal.
Imagine you're a consultant who helps small businesses shore up internal systems and processes. Your pitch might include a well-crafted line about how clients see improved productivity in only three weeks. That's great. But is it influential?
Now imagine this: During your conversation, a prospect reveals he lost six clients in the past few months because the company's lack of systemized checks and balances allowed details to slip through the cracks. Your impressive line about increased productivity suddenly has lost its luster. Why? The prospect isn't all that interested in productivity at the moment. He wants to avoid the pain of losing more clients.
Connect the individual's triggers to the solution you offer.
An influential person tunes into that divulged pain point and connects it to the offering. You might then might swiftly shift to describing how your consulting process has been proven to retain clientele. Or, if you can't back that up with data, you could adapt your productivity line: "With our process, you'll see productivity improve in three weeks. And functioning more efficiently plugs the leaky holes where lost costumers escape."
From this standpoint, the influential process is simple:
- First, as the great Stephen Covey puts it, start with the end in mind. Know what you want from this conversation, marketing campaign or business relationship.
- Next, observe. Learn what's important to your prospects. What do they move toward or away from?
- Finally, connect those triggers to your goal and your proposed solution.
Follow these steps, and you'll find yourself becoming more influential with every interaction.