Influencing Skills – Ultimate Guide – Persuasion Skills
By Dan Silverman | Influencing Skills Tips
By Dan Silverman | Influencing Skills Tips
In this Ultimate Guide to Influencing Skills, we solve the mystery of influence and persuasion. There is no use in data and ideas unless you can use them in the real world. Our unique tips will help you improve the most necessary communication and persuasion skills. Furthermore, you will also understand influencing styles and determine how best to adapt your style. This information has a profound effect. It can improve your connection with employees, coworkers, and personal relationships. Moreover, it can help you recognise when you are BEING influenced.
Also, we will identify why most people fail to utilise their influence and persuasion skills. In fact, they do the exact opposite of effective influence, without even knowing it! We help you uncover your level of influence and become more transformational in your approach.
Lastly, we know you want real ways to improve your influence, power, and persuasion. We, therefore, give you a simple method on how to influence you can apply immediately. This vital information will help you get started with positive influencing today.
In the modern-day workplace, the days of an authoritarian leader pounding on the desk while workers abide are happily no more. However, this has resulted in experimental ideas on the best way to influence people and decisions in the workplace. Consider for a moment, a charismatic gentleman who turns on the charm at will. A stock replenisher working the night shift at a grocery store. Both can benefit from being influential
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, Influence is the power to affect people or things. Although we associate influence with power, you don’t need to be a leader to have power or to be able to influence others within an organisation. For instance, persuading others to support an idea, a project, give help or to show approval are just a few examples of how you can influence others. Persuasion is an important technique and skill which we will cover further in the guide.
Workplace influence is the capability to accomplish work through others. From the top-down, a leader will look to influence an entire company through their vision. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric is an example of a great visionary. Yet, a person in customer service will also look to influence others too. They may, perhaps, influence a coworker in the warehouse, for example. Both individuals are making an impact.
Influence is mysterious because it involves subtly changing another person’s mind or outcome. It uses psychology, communication, and interpersonal skills. When you have a grasp on what it is and how it is used, then you begin noticing it everywhere. The more aware you are, the better your negotiations, decisions, and relationships will be.
Influencing skills are the ability to get people to do something you want them to do. This might be just seeing your point of view or taking an action, or sometimes getting them to do nothing.
If you believe that influencing techniques involve a big smile, lots of compliments and a sales pitch, then think again. Skills of influence are matched to the root functions of influence. We know that influencing skills are a learned trait. Babies are not born influential. Therefore, we can all improve in this area.
Companies want you to have influencing and persuasion skills but can’t pinpoint what that means in the scope of the job. While reading the essential qualities below, think about the times when you used those same skills.
Some leaders do not get high marks in all qualities of the skills. In fact, many seasoned leaders do not fully deliver all seven skills and capabilities.
The assumption that influence is synonymous with authority is no longer true.
Fortune Magazine’s annual issue of the 50 Greatest World Leaders is a shining example of individuals of influence. The accolades are not limited to CEOs and industry leaders. Instead, it celebrates individuals that are doing amazing work with or without formal authority.
It is motivating to read about people making a big impact. Those celebrated could be a retail cashier taking on civil rights liberties and getting the support of others. Or the founder of a company influencing a movement for equal pay.
The more companies celebrate these change-makers, the more media reports on it. This promotes people to act on ideas and work together.
These acts of influence don’t require saving whales or grand gestures. Everyday acts can hold as much value and benefit to some.
Your child wants to watch a late-night TV show. She knows her audience (her mother) is concerned she will be tired the next day. She states logical reasons for wanting to watch. It is the season finale and will not play again. The mutual benefit is shown; time spent together. She picks up nonverbal cues of hesitation from the parent. In a reminder of credibility, she states her perfect record for never being late to school. The child has influenced and is now watching the show.
Charles is a new manager at Buy Now Foods with ten years of past grocery experience. He came to this job from a mid-sized market. Charles has been in the grocery game for ten years. He instantly sees some clear mistakes in the layout of the new store. Charles explains the problems that he sees to the Owner. To his surprise, the ideas are shot down. Charles is dismayed. He was hired for his expertise and is now questioning the move Charles could have improved his odds of success had he used the four-step influence method of influence.
Another example is of The Shark Trust, who changed the homepage of their website to say:
They then provided an infographic detailing the average annual deaths by animals in the United States. It showed that, in fact, sharks only account for 1 death per year. Whereas, deer and flying insects were responsible for 120 and 58 deaths respectively. In doing so, they were attempting to influence visitors to be less afraid of sharks.
The world now recognises influencing skills training as a benefit regardless of location or position.
More organisations are adopting a model of shared leadership. The workload and functions are getting too large for individual leaders and managers. They are more apt to hand over a project to someone that displays confidence and influence.
This also provides an opportunity for non-leaders to show their abilities which may have been confined by their role. Now more than ever, leaders can promote real change and impact a larger audience.
Global organisations prompt individuals to collaborate with people from different backgrounds, cultures and ethics.
So, if a person leans on their consistent practice of the four steps to influence then they are:
If you influence people you can achieve anything. Imagine if you had the skills of persuasion to enable someone to buy, someone to vote, someone to see your perspective, someone to love, someone to care…Through the skill of influence, you can change the behaviours of others to achieve your goals.
Soft skills are now the backbone of many job descriptions. Influencing, persuasion and communication skills cannot be overstated to advance professionally.
Human Resources and hiring managers actively pursue candidates with certain keywords indicating influence.
Companies understand that these skills are a return on their investment.
Like many career-minded individuals, you may ask yourself ‘how can I become more powerful in my job?’. People want to advance in their career, be seen by leadership as more business-minded, and be considered for future roles.
Take a look at research showing which leaders are influential. It ranked people having a positive attitude as much more likely to be ranked as an effective leader. Compared to those who just display extroverted traits. Previously, being an extrovert and being able to talk with anyone was seen as a leadership trait.
Researchers say that the link between being positive (happy) and leadership effectiveness is related to transformational leadership. In this style of leadership, an individual has flexibility, vision and creates motivation surrounding ideas.
Negotiation skills and influencing techniques are very similar. Both aim to get someone to behave in a certain way. In influencing you might want someone, for example, to see your perspective. In negotiation, you might want the other party to agree to a deal that is more favourable to you.
To demonstrate influencing and persuasion skills is to show someone that you can get someone else to do something. For example, one salesperson might show their ability to influence a customer by closing a deal. Or a project manager might show their ability to influence by persuading the stakeholders to invest more. Or a child might show their ability to influence her parents to buy them a toy.
There are 5 main influencing styles – The B.R.A.I.N model:
‘Control your own destiny or someone else will.’ – Jack Welch
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The ability to influence others is to use your personal skills to change another. The ability to change another’s behaviour, actions, motivations, or the effect itself is regularly occurring in the world. Simply put, you need to master the art of influence. Just as important, you need to recognise how YOU are influenced by others. To have a grasp on this will improve relationships and foster smarter decisions.
Harvard Business School Professor, Amy Cuddy, tells us that people judge you on two specific areas when they meet you.
The second question is viewed as competence in the person. In professional settings, people believe competence is first. However, you must win their trust before their respect.
Trust is won by showing warmth. You can do this through nonverbal cues such as smiling, nodding your head in agreement during conversations and staying present.
Below are examples of the 10 most effective ways to influence others:
This world has big problems to solve that require collaboration. Collaboration requires communication. Both require interaction and a personal connection. This is just the start of companies sharing data and ideas.
Some call it knowledge-sharing culture, others refer to it as a learning culture. Either way, the result could have a tremendous reward for industries. That is if employees are encouraged to offer their skills and expertise.
If your organisation does not yet integrate this process then it is up to key change-makers.
Showing up as both leader and change-maker requires a learning culture mindset.
The Four-Step Method shown below on HOW TO INFLUENCE OTHERS is easy to use. It applies to an individual or group, personal or professional. Consistency with using this process will help you from reverting to outdated methods of influence.
Therefore, you must practice perspective-taking. This means to view the problem from the other person’s point of view. Think of all the ways it will affect them. This may involve time, money, loss of resources, etc.
Research continues to show it is imperative to create a connection before leading.
This trust and connection happen when the person recognises these qualities in you:
Note that this should only focus on their ‘pain points’. Something they are having trouble with. Intimidation or coercion should not be used.
John is the manufacturing manager for a large facility. Mary, who is in customer service, approaches John with a request to purchase an inventory software. Mary knows that budgets are tight and John will have a concern for cost. Identify your audience is an important part of influence in the workplace.
She knows that John prides himself on accuracy, being level-headed and has excellent customer service. John is concerned about errors that are occurring with the current outdated system
Mary has used persuasion skills to convince John to take action. John upgrades the current system. Mary has influence because of her approach. Her audience is John. She knows John’s demeanour and his areas of concern. She has answers to expected questions. Finally, she presents her case with logical reasoning.
Leaders act as a liaison between the greater good and ‘here is the vision to complete’. They inspire and motivate them to achieve outcomes beneficial to the majority.
There are countless definitions of leadership. To make it clear: leadership is an interpersonal process that uses influence. Influence uses power to bring about change.
We better say that again…
Power comes from several sources and should not be thought of as inherently bad. People in power can do great things! Organisations hire leadership to promote change. That change could be in the form of reducing costs or bringing a new product to market, etc.
The leader is influential in conveying the message and direction of the company. While at the same time using influence to bring change.
You probably already know when someone is trying to influence you. However, you may put a different label on it. For instance, sales, marketing, ideas, change, request, and brand. All of these functions can be mutually beneficial.
Let’s start with an example:
At this point, you might think influence is getting someone else to do what you want. In part, that is right. However, it is not a one-sided relationship. Effective influence takes the other person’s perspective into account. This is important because it produces a win-win. Both individuals or groups get satisfaction from the exchange.
In the example above, the buyer got something they needed, a car. The salesperson got what they needed, payment. The salesperson did not use tactics of force or intimidation. The buyer was persuaded to buy. Thus, they had been influenced.
With the car buying scenario, the influence, and the outcome were positive. Had the salesperson tried to sell the most expensive car, this would be a negative influence. The salesperson would influence the buyer because they want the largest sale. However, they would not have identified the audience or recognised the specific needs of the buyer.
Influence does not require a sale or agreement to be positive. A disagreement or no answer is not considered exclusively negative. Change or effect shows influence.
‘It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.’ – Clint Eastwood
We showed what influence means, the four-step process to influence others and the skills needed to influence. It is just as valuable to grasp the relation between persuasion skills as it relates to influence.
Persuasion skills centre on convincing another to act on something. Persuasion can conjure up the image of someone being talked into something. One may believe that being persuaded to do something appears weak and negative. No one likes being talked into something not for their benefit.
On the same note, coercion, and persuasion can be confusing. The contrast between the two is that coercion persuades someone to do something by using force or threats. Force need not be physical. Threats need not be verbal.
For example, a CEO asking an entry-level employee for a special favour. The employee is intimidated by the level of authority. He feels pressure to say yes for fear of retaliation or loss of the job.
Someone could coerce someone else into doing something they don’t want to, out of pressure or intimidation. Within the workplace, it is referred to as harassment. Coercion and harassment are forms of negative influence and are not tolerated.
Have you ever convinced a friend to attend a wedding with you? Maybe you persuaded a police officer to let you out of a ticket? Persuasion is happening daily, to and by each one of us.
There is a science to persuasion skills according to Dr Robert Cialdini, PhD. After years of studying persuasion techniques, Dr Cialdini states that positive persuasion increases when ethically using the principles below.
This happens because it is mentally taxing to make a decision. It takes time to weigh all options, so people take shortcuts.
More of Dr Cialdini’s research and interesting studies into persuasion skills can be found in his books mentioned at the end of this guide.
Now you know just how much persuasion skill improvement you need. The next step is building these four qualities which form the foundation of your skills:
With these, you are on the road to being persuasive.
However, to be really good with influencing you need more. You need to know how to strengthen your self-awareness and inner confidence, understand the mechanics of body language and master the push and pull approaches.
‘Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.’ – Sir David Frost
We are the soft skills training provider to the UK Grocery Industry, helping Suppliers to win more business. They choose us because of our money-back guarantee, our relevant experience, and because we make their learning stick.
Our unique training method, Sticky Learning ®, ensures that your Learners are still using their new skill 5 months later, and this is supported by a money-back guarantee.
Raise your hand if you failed to influence this year. Most likely hands are not being raised. The question is ambiguous and when people lack skills then it is difficult to admit.
Failing to influence can be subtle. With problems arising daily, leaders may not connect influence to the heart of a problem. Countless projects could be lost without pinpointing lack of influence as the root cause.
Let’s make it easier to understand. Who would raise their hand if asked:
Without those aspects, it is merely a transaction. Whether between two people or between businesses, rapport is still necessary.
Failing to influence in a personal or professional way is often because we don’t know-how. Influencing skills exercises are not taught in grade school and rarely in university. When we attempt to influence, we use the only methods we know, saw or experienced. When this doesn’t give us the desired result, we then resort to a different tactic and then another and another.
All influence will give a result. Results that last and continue to inspire are from the positive influence and intrinsic motivation from the doer. Results that come from negative influence relies on external motivation from the doer.
People are using intrinsic motivation when they are doing work for the sake of it being rewarding. Even if they receive a reward such as a paycheck. Extrinsic motivation is something you do when motivated by reward or punishment. Even though you might get the result, it won’t last for long unless the intent and influence are genuine.
Frightening or threatening to get someone to do something you want. More laws being passed to make these types of tactics unlawful in the workplace. Research shows we are more productive when we do things willingly. Intimidation through bullying and coercion is a quick way to demoralise and demotivate your staff.
Repeatedly reminding others about a task has the opposite effect of what is intended. As part of an effective method, determine if outstanding factors are leading to the delay in completion. Managers and Leaders may not realise where the root problem is occurring.
Projects being completed can give the illusion that our persuasion skills are in top shape. Success in persuading and influencing can cause us to overlook our other skills and not improve.
Excessive enthusiasm is often synonymous with being erratic in your behaviour. Employees prefer a leader that is consistent with direction as opposed to directionless. The threshold for your enthusiasm varies with your audience. In particular, different cultures, and demographics exhibit varied expectations on etiquette, even in business setups.
Creating your response before the other person finishes their sentence. This shows that you did not consider the message entirely.
Some anxiety is normal. Too much of it, however, can make you look less confident. As you build confidence, you must note other people’s perception of your behaviour.
Failing to gain perspective on the audience.
Aside from royalty, people are not born into power and influence. You may be surprised that the valuable skills of influence are learned traits that anyone can possess. Regardless of your charm or title in the hierarchy.
Determine your influence on others by objective observation. Unfortunately, most of us are not objective when it comes to our strengths and weaknesses.
Research shows that leaders are more apt to tout their strengths and estimate their success as high. This is because they associate specific actions with positive business outcomes. For example, their excellent problem-solving skills saved the customer money and they won the contract.
Weaknesses, on the other hand, leaders see as inaction on their part. Inaction equates to failure and they are not readily interested in confronting this.
The same research states that leaders who are strong in one area may have a ‘fatal flaw’ in another area. Fatal flaws refer to major problems such as difficulty controlling temper. If they score very low in one area and high in another, overall it still brings their competency down significantly.
Surely this must indicate that we have good skills are competent at influencing. Sorry, but it doesn’t. Influence is not always about getting approval. The approval could likely be contingent upon outside factors and not a good indicator. Be open to an idea or willing to discuss it can also be seen as a win.
If you are in a position of authority, then you likely have taken part in assessments such as employee feedback surveys. These surveys can fall short when indicating how you lead and connect to staff and coworkers. Therefore it is up to you to find ways of evaluation and adjustment. Just like any continuous improvement, you cannot depend on an organisation to determine your personal improvement.
Thankfully, MBM has an incredible tool for assessing thinking patterns, which is a direct connection to how you influence. Take a look at our Ultimate Guide to HBDI to find out more.
The 120-question HBDI survey measures preferences as opposed to skills. It isn’t a test since there are no right or wrong answers. It can be used for individuals or teams.
By understanding how people think, we can more accurately gauge their motivations, abilities, personalities and many other attributes. These attributes are critical steps toward effective persuasion and influencing skills. Hence, the tool can be very helpful in the management of human resources.
Work is no longer performed like it was ten, twenty or one hundred years ago. Historically, influence and influencing skills have centred on title and authority as the decision-maker. When given an order, you were expected to abide without input. A one-sided process using intimidation or coercion to get a job done was commonplace.
Long before studies showed more effective ways to influence, there were internal cues. These cues indicated that an autocratic process of influence was not working.
High levels of turnover from dissatisfied employees. People leave a company to find a less unruly boss, has been mainstream for years.
To stem the loss of knowledge and reduce costly turnover, organisations made attempts to identify problem areas. Fast forward many years. There is a new revelation of work. Purpose-driven with new styles of leadership producing new ideas.
We are close to understanding how to create a workplace that benefits the company and the employee.
A company that benefits employees and leadership is important. People want to be collaborative, appreciated, and know that their ideas matter. Companies and leaders now realise the value of recognising and appreciating the skills of others.
With this future-focused workplace becoming more employee-centred, everyone has opportunities to showcase their ideas. It is time to make a real difference.
‘True leaders bring out your personal best. They ignite your human potential.’ – John Paul Warren
Developing your persuasion skills is an investment worth your time, effort and money. It becomes more necessary as you advance in your career or business venture.
All this might seem a lot to absorb and even too much to recall. However, the key is to regularly put into practice so it becomes part of your daily routine. That’s the key principle behind the Sticky Learning process. It turns these concepts from mental lessons into lifetime personal behaviours.
We hope that you take the time to evaluate and improve communication and influencing skills in this article. It just might be the best set of skills you didn’t know you were missing.
You can find further insight, detailed definitions and clarification of all the key Influencing Skills terms mentioned in this guide in our Glossary of Terms.
The following books are some of our favourites on influencing. They will help you further your knowledge and understanding of influencing and persuasion skills and are full of lots of useful tools, tips and ideas that you can put into practice.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Key Person of Influence by Daniel Priestley
Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini
The Pin Drop Principle by David Lewis and G. Riley Mills
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, you can get a preview by starting with our playlist on Influencing Skills (below):
Feel free to get in touch to find out about how our Influencing Skills Training course can help you. Simply contact us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be happy to get back to you.
Dan is an experienced career development professional and leadership coach. His strengths lie in defining goals and capabilities to implement strategic business plans and build relationships. He has a solid background in developing HR strategic plans, policies, and creating programmes designed to attract and retain motivated and productive employees.