3 Steps to Real Influence

Ever get behind a car going slowly? How do you get them to go faster? If we tailgate they get angry and go even slower. We get a better result when we are in their sights (not too close) and they feel bad, and will, on their own, pick up the pace. Influence takes patience, a little more time and distance.

We need to revise our thinking. Nobody ever came home from a shopping trip and said, “Hey, look what somebody sold me!”

We are all, at home and work, in the business of creating buyers, not of pushing product. As parents we sell eating spinach to kids and as teachers we sell doing homework to our students. Threats work short term, but only when we are physically there – like tailgating may work too, but not often or for long. Companies hire sales forces, and convince salespeople through manipulation and incentives that they are in the business of selling. The very best influencers do promote like crazy, but they aren’t selling product, rather they are selling value.

When we begin to care more about the customer, student or child than our sale – that transformation begins the winning process. The key to our business success lies in what our customer says and does. We know that. It’s measured not in what they commit to do, rather what they actually do.

“To know and not do, is to actually not know”
~ Thomas Jefferson, made famous by Teddy Roosevelt.

Overwhelming research shows that what our customer does is the measure of our success. What drives our customer and our success is simply 3 things – what customers;

  • Ask us
  • Tell Themselves
  • Tell others

What do they ask us? 

Mistake #1 – when a customer, student or child says something and we challenge, disagree with or restate it, we have lost the chance to say “thank-you.” Thank you for being involved in our discussion, versus seeing it as an opportunity to correct them. No matter how right we are – nobody likes to be corrected – like tailgating. If they ask us something, does that mean they’re interested? If our customer asks us a relevant, curious question (not a question just to challenge us) they may be interested in learning more.

Our goal should not be just about ‘closing’ the deal. Rather, the goal should be to get others to think. If we do that, we are providing value. Heck, I’d rather a customer dialogue and question themselves into a commitment than me doing all the heavy lifting of explaining and directing in order for them to reach my goal. Their questions may shape their interest and possible action.

If no dialogue occurs, maybe there is a measure of trust that needs to be built. If they ask questions and get involved in the answers, that maybe valuable in moving toward action. We need our product (like spinach and homework) to be their goal not our goal.

What do they tell themselves?

We learn 80% from what we say and only 20% from what we hear!

So, in large part what our customers actually speak out-loud becomes a megaphone for teaching themselves. Think about those conversations where we are most confident, they  are usually the conversations we are having a third or fourth time. We have taught ourselves through speaking.

If our customer is speaking about our ideas or product in positive terms then as they talk, they teach themselves.

If they are speaking about our product in negative terms – it’s time to focus them less on speaking badly about our product, and more toward their needs and desires.

Conversely, if they are speaking negatively, about those ideas or products we value less, then let ‘em go!

If they are speaking positively, about bad ideas or products it’s time to shift their talking to focus on their goals, needs and desires. What they say is so much more powerful in teaching themselves, than anything that we can say.

What do they tell others?

Research has shown the top 3 factors for building product loyalty are:

  1. Product quality
  2. Relationship with the salesperson
  3. The best product in that category

Also, the #1 reason people are loyal is the relationship with the salesperson or teacher. This applies less to buying a house, car, or a pair of jeans – all those circumstances where it’s a commodity, and a one-time purchase. In these cases a relationship is near meaningless. However, in those purchases we make where relationship is equal to product quality and effectiveness, the relationship totally wins. Think about the products we purchase again and again – our mechanic, CPA, insurance agent, stockbroker, gardener, favorite restaurant, or hair salon. Are they the world’s best in their field or is their product the world’s best? These purchases we make every day are measured in Trust. Not just a virtue – rather a real economic fact. Building trust in the influence process is so important to loyalty, and what our customer says to others.

We convince ourselves our success is from our effort. And that may be true – as it relates to listening, building trust and caring about our customers. When I hear someone say they have a partnership with a certain client, I ask, “Do we know as much about the customer, as they have been told about our idea or product?” If we move from talking 80% to talking 50% – that’s called dialogue – we may be exerting effort in the right areas to build buyers, lasting influence and future success for us both!

Influence is only an eardrum away!


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