Influencing Skills – Ultimate Guide – Persuasion Skills

By Alison Cassidy| May 19, 2017 | Influencing Skills Tips

The Ultimate Guide to Influencing Skills by MBM

The Ultimate Guide to Influencing Skills and How to Use them to Best Effect

In his book Tribes, Seth Godin states that it is leaders – and not managers – who shape the future of business, political and social organisations. And the most powerful tool a leader has, he asserts, is Influencing Skills. Godin:

“Managers manage by using the authority the factory [or organisation] gives them… A manager can’t make change because that’s not his job. His job is to complete tasks assigned to him by someone else in the factory. Leaders, on the other hand, ….. use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them.”

Whether it is convincing a child to eat their veggies or inspiring members of our staff to deliver, influencing and persuasion skills go a long way. And in the world of entrepreneurship, there is pressure to make others buy into your ideas, products and outlook.

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The pied piper knew how to use his tools to influence and persuade

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Why we Fail to Influence

Herodotus, Greek historian:

“The most hateful human misfortune is for a wise man to have no influence.”

Many of us fail to influence because we don’t realise it takes a skill to do so – not an inborn talent. While some take to it like fish to water, the majority of us must work hard to learn and develop it.

As the case may be, without persuasion skills, we often resort to wrong approaches, which include:

1. Intimidating

Intimidation, coercion or blackmail isn’t effective. Research shows that we are more productive when we do things willingly. Using power might make those around you do what you want, but only for as long as you are around. When you are gone, everything slows down because there is no self-drive.

The right skills are essential tools to make those you lead or interact with know why they have to do a task, even when there’s no direct benefit.

2. Nagging

Some of us might think reminding others about something continually will – in the end – push them to fall in line.

A few might do what you want after your nagging but just to have some peace of mind. Most will get angry and shut you out. Imagining being on the receiving end? This often settles the debate on whether nagging works or not.

3. Overrating Our Persuasive Skills

Being too confident means you’ll stop improving your influencing and persuasion skills. This is especially so for those who are naturally persuasive.

As the world and people change around you, your skills should also improve. You should re-evaluate yourself, at least once in a while, and see whether the skills you have need some improvement.

4. Being Overly Enthusiastic

Excessive enthusiasm is a turn-off to many because it smacks of vested interests. Also, no one will take you seriously if you don’t express seriousness in what you want.

The threshold for your enthusiasm varies with your audience. In particular, different cultures and demographics have varied expectations on etiquette, even in business setups.

5. Talking Without Listening

It’s important to have a conversation with the person you want to persuade. So, a balanced approach is required. Have your say but ensure you are also listening.

Also, when you overtalk, you give up unnecessary information. This could make your audience reconsider their offers.

6. Being Too Anxious

Some anxiety is normal. Too much of it, however, may ruin it for you. It makes you come across as phoney. Also, you certainly don’t give a convincing message if you don’t look confident.

As you build confidence, you must take note of other people’s perception of it. You can’t succeed without doing this.  It is the reason why companies invest in brand image.

7. Misunderstanding the Audience

Misunderstanding your audience leads to giving erroneous feedback. And that’s how you end up making costly gaffes. When you give feedback based on misunderstood information, your audience doesn’t get persuaded because they get the impression that you take them for granted.

The good news is, a little effort to know your audience builds and perfects your persuasion skills. The study of your audience starts before the presentation. You need to know in advance, if possible, the demographics of your audience, why the topic is important to them and their level of knowledge (of the topic). The study continues during the presentation as you gauge the reaction of the audience to your presentation.

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Identify what stops you from influencing

Clint Eastwood, Renowned American Actor, and Filmmaker on Influencing Skills:

“It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.”

Influencing others entails making a special impact on them so that they:

  • Take your words seriously,
  • See things as you do,
  • Think as you do,
  • Take action and
  • Remain committed.

To achieve any of the above, you need to:

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Determine Your Level of Persuasion Skills

Before you improve your persuasion skill, you must first know where to start. The following are the seven indicators you can use to rank how good you are with persuasion skills:

  • Appreciating others
  • Making quality decisions
  • Being clear in your messaging
  • Engaging the audience
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Solving problems
  • Being innovative

Depending on where you fall, on a scale of one to ten, in each of these seven qualities, you would fall into one of these levels:

  • Level 4 – Fully delivering

People at this level score above average in all the 7 vital qualities of persuasion skills. This is the ideal level to be because you would, more often than not, succeed in having others agree with your viewpoints.

  • Level 3 – High level of delivery

Those at this level score above average in 5 of the vital qualities of persuasion skills. While they are lacking, they are pretty effective in having things done through positive persuasion.

  • Level 2 – Some delivery

At this level, people score above average in three vital qualities of persuasion skills. While they understand their personal style and know how to adapt it to persuade, they still struggle to have an impact.

  • Level 1 – Early stages of delivery

A person at this level scores above average in two or one vital qualities of persuasion skills. The success of influencing others is very remote but happens irregularly.

  • Level 0 – Not delivering

If you score less than average in all the skills indicators, you fall at this level. It is pretty hard for anyone at this level to be a leader or even a team player. Nevertheless, it is a state you can change with a little effort.

For even more accurate self-evaluation, you can use our Influencing competency framework, which will pinpoint the exact and unique persuasion skills you have and where you need to improve.

Influencing skills, persuasion skills, influencing skills training

What is your level of influence?

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What Improves Your Persuasion Skills?

Now you know just how much skill improvement you need. The next step is building these four qualities which form the foundation of your skills:

  • The listening ability – Good influencing ability entails listening to what people want.
  • Trust – If people don’t trust you, you won’t influence their decisions.
  • Likeable – If people like you, you can easily influence their decisions.
  • Articulate your opinion – People who clearly articulate their opinion can easily influence others.

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.

You can gain these valuable skills in our influencing training course.

Excuse the Interruption, but Here’s a Little Bit About Us…

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.

How does the sticky learning method work? Communication skills

Learn more about MBM’s signature sticky learning method

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.

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Understand HBDI to Improve Your Influencing Skills

We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). It’s a psychometric assessment tool which evaluates your preferred way of thinking. Also called the “Whole Brain Model,” it reveals which areas people prefer to think and which ones they don’t.

The 120-question HBDI survey is incredibly valuable in assessing thinking patterns of both teams and individuals. It measures preferences as opposed to skills and isn’t really a test since there are no right or wrong answers.

Although we all have the capacity to think in all ways, the survey assesses our preference for one of the following ways (it also assesses variations in stressful times):

  1. Fact – Logical, technical and financial.
  2. Form – Organised detailed and structured.
  3. Feeling –Emotional, sensory and people.
  4. Future –Risk-taker, intuitive and big picture.

By understanding how people think, we can more accurately gauge their motivations, abilities, personalities and many other attributes. Understanding these attributes is a critical step toward effective persuasion and influence. Hence, the tool can be very helpful in the management of human resources.

Most importantly, we can make the same assessment of ourselves, since our own thought biases can derail our persuasiveness. By figuring out your preferences, you can achieve a greater understanding of how and why you make decisions, learn, communicate and solve problems.

Practical Tips to Develop Influence

Maya Angelou, poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist:

“Anyone of us can be a rainbow in somebody’s clouds.”

Martin Luther King Junior is one of the most influential figures in American history. His “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the greatest speeches in the 20th century. In the speech, he called for equality for people of all races, including black Americans. Through his great influence and against all odds, he rallied masses against injustice.

The principles of persuasion are clearly evident in Dr King’s great influence. No doubt, his Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology gave him greater authority. Also, people rallied behind him to reciprocate his wilful dedication.

Even if you don’t have such charisma and power, you can start building your skills. Often this requires a delicate balancing act.

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So, in summary, ensure you do the following:

  • Let people know your abilities and qualifications, but don’t overemphasise your successes.
  • Show genuine interest in others, but don’t overdo it; otherwise, it will appear phoney.
  • Make sure your presence is rewarding to those around you, but don’t hog the limelight.
  • Smile, but not just when others are smiling back at you.
  • Yes, do correct people when they go wrong, but don’t be too judgemental.
  • Prove that you’re always reliable, but don’t take more responsibility than you can handle.
  • Learn to assert yourself without being overly aggressive, which could ruin long-term relationships.
  • Be flexible and open to new experiences, but don’t lose your authentic self.
  • Develop close personal relationships without intruding where you shouldn’t.
  • Take more action than words, but don’t neglect the power of your words.
  • Don’t always react to situations; instead, prepare beforehand how you’ll handle unexpected events.
  • Constantly evaluate the impact you have and make changes where necessary.
  • Don’t rely only on your own capacity, but build a strong network of influencers.

At times, you might assume your words have made an impact, yet they haven’t. Just so you can be sure of the impact you actually have, you should know how to get a better read on people:

  • Avoid confirmation bias – People often focus on aspects confirming their biased perceptions. To avoid this, always be open to revising your initial judgements about others.
  • Be aware of the influence other people have on you – As you seek to persuade others, many more are trying to do the same to you. Notice the incredible amount of external stimuli in this modern advert-filled life. You’ll surely need some time off once in a while.

Key Insights

Developing persuasion skill 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.

You can find further insight, detailed definitions and clarification of all the key influencing terms mentioned in this guide in our Glossary of Terms.

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Read the Ultimate Guide to Influencing Skills Infographic Here

Look at our Tutorial Videos

Click below to go to the “Influencing” area of our YouTube channel where you can find a full playlist of skills training for influencing tips:

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Contact Us

Feel free to get in touch to find out about how your Influencing Skills Training can help you. Simply visit here to contact us or email us at, and we will be happy to get back to you.

Alison Cassidy

About Alison Cassidy

Alison is pragmatic and results-driven, specialising in design, delivery and facilitation of personal, team and leadership development, behavioural training and change management via facilitation and coaching. She has project managed SME led programmes, capability frameworks/assessments and designed her own programmes. Alison has worked across fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), financial services, oil, gas and energy, public sector, retail and third sector.