Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Sword of Influence

Perhaps you would like to wield some influence in your organization. You want someone to believe you, follow your plan, take your suggestion, promote you. You want someone else TO DO something! You have to convince that person that you are right, that he should listen to you. The first thing you need to know is how he is going to react to you.

There is one fundamental human reaction to all attempts to persuade, influence or sell. It is FEAR.

Why does the person experience fear in reaction to your persuasion? He is afraid of failing or making a mistake or buying the wrong product, getting ripped off, or getting blamed for messing up. He has been burned before and vowed not to do it again. The more experienced the person, the more likely you are to encounter these fear reactions. You are dealing with an intelligent person who intends to make good decisions, and he has promised himself not to make poor decisions. So, as you start to persuade, he develops anxiety, agitation and apprehension about the pitch. He wraps himself in a “brick coat” to defend himself. The coat is made up of all the arguments you must overcome to persuade him.

The Stages of Fear

1. When you first approach the person, the truth is he has no idea what you are approaching about. The first brick in his coat, therefore, is fear of the unknown. What do you want? What are you asking? What might you make him do? You will notice the person, especially if you approach enthusiastically, will instinctively back off until he knows what you are talking about. Even after that, he might not move toward you or join your enthusiasm for quite some time.

2. As soon as you have described your purpose in talking to him, the next set of reactions are called prevention or inhibition reactions. These reactions add time, prevent or prohibit your actions from happening. He is trying to hold you off, stop you, prevent you. “Let’s talk next week.” “I need to check with my wife.” “I’m not sure I have enough information; I’ll have my associate start some due diligence for us.” These are all prevention reactions. The most common of these is the “delay” reaction. As the persuader, you need to know that the biggest enemy you have is time. The more time he adds, the more likely he is to say no. Just know that these delay tactics are simply irrational fears and proceed with the conversation. Do not allow the person to “think about it” (thinking doesn’t take any time) or to take time off from the conversation. Just keep pushing ahead. While he wants time to work against you, you need to make it work for you by staying interested.

3. The next fear reaction is a bit tougher to take: enforcement. If you push through the delay tactic, he might even get a bit angry or frustrated that you called his bluff. He might (in extreme cases) yell or call you names. Don’t worry; you have simply arrived at the third (and final) fear stage. Congratulate yourself (silently) and proceed. Despite all the reasons, objections and arguments and doubts he expresses, just know they are all based in fear.

Confidently and calmly, continue to reassure him of you and your idea or plan. Stay upbeat and positive and INTEREST him in it by being interested in him and his ideas. If you can push through these fear reactions, he will eventually move through the fear and doubts and upsets. Your confidence and positive energy and INTEREST will win the day and he will agree with you. The best part is that you have both won. You used your impeccable influence skills and he made the right choice. It’s a win-win situation.