Influence is a popular word and subject online, and with good reason. Being an influencer in your field of expertise is what most individuals and brands are striving for through their online marketing and social media campaigns. Influencers can change the fortunes of brands, start the viral ball rolling or damage reputations with one update, share, like or +1. But what about the equally important skills of influencing others offline?
Influencing those around us offline, in the ‘real’ world, is just as important as it is online, where brands spend millions on each year. Knowing how to build influence will help grow sales, improve productivity, reduce costs and improve business. If you can influence people, you can achieve pretty much anything!
Below are elements of what makes a great ‘influencer’, many of these traits may come naturally to some but all can be achieved by everyone.
Show respect to gain respect
To gain respect and, as a result, trust and influence, you need to show that you respect others. Speaking to colleagues and clients politely and courteously shows respect, as does being punctual for meetings, answering emails in a timely fashion and not ignoring colleagues on updates/announcements. Being disrespectful by speaking to people rudely, being underhand or even bullying is damaging to your professional relationships, your brand and that of your employer.
Prove you’re trustworthy
Gaining the trust of colleagues and clients will take time and is a skill that requires ongoing effort. If you’re seen as a trustworthy person then people will listen to what you have to say and, more importantly, BELIEVE what you say. Maintaining eye contact with whoever you’re talking to, not appearing ‘standoffish’ by crossing your arms or fidgeting, and confirming what the other party require are all great ways to start to build trust.
Completing tasks as described and ensuring that any change to a project, schedule, contract etc is communicated will display that you appreciate the impact changes may have for all those involved, and that you can be trusted to provide updates when required.
If someone doesn’t trust you or what you’re telling them then they’re very unlikely to be influenced (at least positively) by you.
Gaining the trust of others can often be achieved by just being yourself (I’m assuming you’re an honest person!), and being open and honest is the hallmark of many successful brands, and their employees.
Being transparent, and not appearing to be hiding or sidestepping certain topics, questions or discussions is another trait of a good influencer. By showing that you’re not afraid to be open and transparent, to both colleagues and clients alike, will gain their respect and trust. Being transparent can be achieved in a variety of ways, some may come naturally, others may require a conscious effort. They include:
- Explaining your aims and desired outcome up front. This could be at a meeting, at the beginning of a telephone conversation or just at the beginning of an informal chat with a colleague
- Transparency with colleagues about internal processes and decisions. Honest, open discussion with the business as a whole and listening to employees ideas or concerns
- Admit mistakes and focus on improving next time
- Discuss business matters in plain english, without using nonsensical buzzwords or abbreviations to cover up topics which may require further discussion
- Influence increases as the trust others put in you begins to grow
- Problem solving becomes more efficient and quicker to achieve
- Transparency, trust and openness become part of the company culture, are encouraged and nurtured
- Performance and productivity increase throughout the business
No one falls for the ‘used car salesman’ approach to building a relationship anymore. Any professional will know that relationships, whether with someone you work with everyday or a client who’s business you want, take time and effort. Rushing such important elements of our everyday lives is pointless and detrimental to your influence, personal brand and the brand of your employer.
As well as improving your influence, being open and transparent will result in a number or advantages and benefits, both for you as an individual and your employers brand too, the benefits include:
Being empathetic to those that you interact with displays that you’re thinking about them as an individual, and have taken the time to consider their particular set of circumstances. Ensuring that you completely understand the goals, requirements or constraints of others are all traits of an empathetic person.
If you’re not sure that you understand a particular requirement of a client of colleague, don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify, and reiterate back to them what you’re taking away from the conversation as actions, and what you believe their requirements are moving forward.
If a client or colleague knows that you’re willing to put the extra effort in to understand them as an individual then they’re far more likely to trust what you say, reciprocate the effort you’ve displayed and go the extra mile to assist you with your personal or joint goals.
By making sure that you’ve fully understood what’s been said will not only minimise misunderstandings, but also ensure that projects or objectives are achieved within deadlines and expectations are maintained successfully.
Offering a reward for a job well done has always been a great motivational technique and is the most commonly used influence in business today. Explaining to a colleague or client ‘what’s in it for them’ is a powerful way to influence a decision or action.
Personal rewards, whether material, sociological or psychological are powerful as we’re immediately aware of the benefits they’ll have in our lives. If you’re able to offer rewards, and can explain the benefits and advantages that these offer individuals and businesses alike, then you’ve a great deal of influence over the decision making process and outcome.
Listen, really listen
By really listening and fully understanding someone you show that you’re not just in it for your personal goals, or those of your business. Really listening also gives you the opportunity to make sure you’ve fully understood the situation, the requirements of everyone involved and what each parties end goals are, enabling you to work towards these goals together in partnership.
Making assumptions about what others want or trying to dominate the conversation with what YOU want will prove unproductive, cause mistakes and have a negative effect on the relationship with those involved in the conversation.
Every time you complete a project or task for someone, and you have fully understood and completed their objectives, you’ll gain trust and influence.
Give without expecting to receive
If someone does you a favour, are you more or less likely to return the favour if asked or needed? The answer is almost certainly “‘more likely’ of course”. By helping others you’ll naturally start to build a resource which you can call on should you require help or assistance. You’ve gained influence as people are more likely to help you because they know they can count on you when the situation is reversed.
It should be mentioned that you shouldn’t only do favours because you might need the same in return. You shouldn’t expect anything in return and perform the favour selflessly, that way you’ll be performing the task for the right reasons and anything you get in return is a bonus.