How to Influence People

In discussing how to influence people I will be referencing more the concept of how to influence a person in a sales context.

Our personal ability to influence and persuade largely determines the number of sales we make and how much money we earn. 
Not only that, but people actually want to be influenced. People are often torn between decisions of what to buy or whether to purchase at all and in our sales function we help them resolve those dilemmas. In fact a sales trainer that I know refers to salespeople as "decision engineers".

So you see, it's a win-win situation. 
When people buy from us it increases our income and also gets them feeling better having made a decision that has been on their mind after which they can hopefully enjoy the product or service they purchased.

So, the question becomes how to influence people?
We are not talking here about forceful influence or applying any form of coercion. We are talking about the use of language and the structuring of our presentation to bring about the result of our prospect buying or at least taking a detailed look at our offer.

There are a number of ways how to influence people that we can bring to bear:

  • Social Influence
  • Linguistic Influence
  • Personalized Pnfluence (personal factors)

These are the core influence and persuasion skills.

Note that I am not talking about presenting a logical argument here. This can be how to influence people, but only some people. Logical argument has its place and I'm confident most salespeople can present a logic argument. Remember though, that most people buy with their emotions and then justify their purchase with logic.

Social Influence involves those factors that influence the majority of the population. These often relate to cultural norms that have been bred into us from an early age. They have an almost unconscious effect on our desire to purchase something. This type of influence has been extensively studied by Robert Cialdini and there is a summary of his work elsewhere on this website.

Things like "scarcity" fall into this category.

Linguistic Influence relates to our ability to use our words to bring about compliance in the people we are speaking to. It involves the use of skillful phrasing to control the thoughts of our listener and bring about the result we desire. It has been said that words are the strongest drug used by mankind and when you examine the impact of great orators such as Churchill, Hitler, Martin Luther King and most recently Barack Obama you can see how that may have been said.

A simple example of this that many sales people would know is the use of tie downs.

You have heard of tie-downs, haven't you?

Personalized Influence is about modifying your language and the stories you tell so that they are in alignment with (and important to) the person in front of you (or on the other end of the phone).
One of the requirements in doing this is to remain who you are personally. You change your behavior and the words that you use not your beliefs and values.
Doing this will maximize your influence upon your prospects.

An example of this is determining whether your prospect is motivated by the carrot or the stick. Knowing this you could then present your offer in terms of what they will gain (the carrot) or what they will lose (the stick).

In order to do this you need to become aware of the characteristics and thinking patterns of the person you are communicating with.

This requires listening. 
The degree to which you listen to other people will have a significant effect on your power to influence them. Brian Leggett, Professor of Managing People in Organisations at IESE business school, said in his book Developing Your Persuasive Edge. "Without listening to our audience, it is difficult to match our message with their needs,".

Terry Brake, the president of TMA World in the Americas, a talent development company, said: "Listen not just to what is being said, but to what is not being said." Listening will help you to discover what motivates people - you can then use this information.

(By the way it's NOT just about listening; you need to use your eyes as well.)

Unfortunately, many sales people think about how other people see them and adapt their message, their delivery and their body language to make other people think well of them, rather than concentrating on adapting their communication to be more meaningful to the person in front of them.

Of course how to influence people is not just about the skills you employ, it's about you.

  • Do you seem trustworthy?
  • Is your communication congruent?
  • Do you speak with authority?
  • Do you seem like you care?
  • Does your communication make you seem credible?
  • How much control you have over the above factors?

Now I'm confident that most salespeople employ at least some of these skills on a day to day basis. However, the number of skills employed and the effectiveness with which they are used would vary greatly from salesperson to salesperson.

I believe it is possible to learn how to influence people more profoundly and more consistently by studying influence and persuasion.

I sincerely hope this is the case otherwise as salespeople we are doomed to play a numbers game. What I mean by that is that to make more money we have to make more and more and more sales calls. Eventually it gets to the point where there are just not enough hours in the day to see more people and earn more money.

As salespeople seeking better ways to influence our prospects allows us to not only earn extra money but have the time to enjoy it.

Much of this website is dedicated to these influence and persuasion techniques and skills.