At work whether you’re dealing with colleagues, staff, vendors or clients there is always the need to make a good impression and to have an impact. And this is important because when you can connect with people and exert influence you can achieve your objectives much more quickly and with less resistance.
An interesting characteristic of exceptional business leaders is their ability to get the best from people, they know how to appeal to people in a way that makes them eager to give 100%. Thankfully, this is not a God given trait only some people have, this is a learnable skill anyone can acquire to have more influence and impact when dealing with people.
Let’s look at 10 ways you can be honest and sincere yet more influential in all of your business dealings.
One of the most impactful ways to influence someone is to identify his values and appeal to those values. Our values represent what is important to us, some people value success, achievement and recognition while others value honesty, integrity and loyalty. What we value varies from one person to the next.
People reveal their values through their actions more than through their stated opinions. You can identify someone’s values by his track record, his lifestyle and the kind of people he associates with.
You can then appeal to his values by framing any requests in terms of what is important to him. This requires flexibility on your part, you must be able to explain what you want in different terms for different people. If someone is highly achievement oriented talk about how his input will help him to get ahead, if he values security talk about how his support is a way to develop your long term business relationship.
The key is to be honest yet adaptable so that you can frame your request in terms of what matters to the other person. In other words, you need to speak their language rather than expecting everyone to adapt to your values.
The single most reliable indicator of behavior is our compulsion to be consistent with our identity. If you see yourself as dependable, consistent and a team player it can be almost impossible to reject a request for help from a close colleague. On the other hand if you see yourself as independent, bad tempered and stubborn you may find yourself reluctant to help even though you really want to. In each case your identity, how you see yourself, will dictate the range of behaviors you feel comfortable with.
The key is to pay attention to the clues people leave about their sense of self. Pay attention to statements such as “I would never do that!”, “that’s not the kind of person I am!”, “I am someone who…”, “who do you think I am?”, “I am…”.
Any request you make that matches the identity of the person you are dealing with is going to be very persuasive to that person. It justifies agreement because their identity and your request are a logical match. On the other hand any request that is inconsistent with their identity will often be rejected immediately even if it’s a fair and reasonable suggestion.
Whenever you can appeal to someone’s identity your request will be almost irresistibly persuasive so make sure to use this approach with integrity.
3. Give First
Always give first before asking something of a business connection. You need to do this to establish that you are sincere and open to a mutually beneficial long term business relationship. Because so many people just want to take, take, take or they make a game of giving first before immediately asking for much more, when you give without asking for something in return you define yourself as someone worth knowing.
Your generosity indicates you are looking to build a mutually beneficial relationship that doesn’t demand reciprocity out of a sense of obligation. Take away the pressure to return a favor and ironically people are much more likely to feel motivated to help you in return.
4. Small Request
The first time you make a request of a business contact or a colleague make sure it’s a small request, ask for something you need but make it a minor request the other person can fulfill with little effort. This is important because you want to remove any obstacles to receiving help up front. If someone cannot or will not help you then you know it’s unlikely they will assist you if you ever need help with a bigger issue. If that happens you need to focus more on building rapport and then see if you can get help with a small request at a later date. If you still can’t get any help then it’s best to move onto someone else, someone who is interested in having a win win relationship with you.
When you do get a positive response to a small request it means you’ve established the possibility of a mutually supportive business relationship. Make sure to thank the person, either send a thank you note or make a short phone call to convey your appreciation. And look for ways to help that person get ahead.
5. Big Request
Only after getting a positive response to a small request should you consider making a request for something bigger. In fact, often it’s best to wait until you’ve had a series of small requests and positive responses before asking for more. This will take time, you need to establish a relationship with a bilateral pattern of asking and receiving that benefits you and the other party. This will also let you know how capable and how reliable the other person is.
When you eventually make a big request make sure to do so without placing any pressure on the other person to help you. Be explicit about this, say directly with no possibility for misunderstanding that you’d appreciate help or advice but only if it’s a convenient time and only if the other person isn’t too busy with other commitments.
And only make a big request if you are prepared to reciprocate in kind at a later date. Please bear in mind that asking for help is not a way to get free help, it’s more like barter with the aim of building and maintaining a mutually beneficial business relationship. You must expect to pay in terms of time, skills and contacts.
6. Shared Goals
The easiest way to get commitment from someone is to find a situation where your goal and the other person’s goal are in alignment. By helping you succeed he will also succeed. This needs to be a genuine fit not a manipulated effort to find common ground.
Before this can happen you need to have an understanding of what the other person wants to achieve, how he plans to do so and why it matters to him. Take the time to get to know someone and you’ll see where your goals and their goals allow for the possibility of cooperation for mutual gain.
A shared mission to achieve success can be highly advantageous to both parties because it encourages people to pool resources and commit to a win win relationship from day one.
7. Congruent Agreement
When you have an established business relationship and you make a request for help make sure you get a congruent agreement to help you otherwise it counts for nothing. Probe a little more deeply, if you notice a lack of commitment and a reluctance to help you, to find out what the problem is.
If you notice resistance to your request it’s best to take the pressure off and withdraw the request. This allows both parties to discuss the matter in a more relaxed manner and to potentially find a new way to proceed that works for everyone.
Whenever you have an uncommitted response to a request you risk introducing unwanted pressure and awkwardness into the relationship and it’s nearly always better to drop the request than to risk the relationship. And that’s why you must always check for congruent agreement to your requests and address any resistance immediately.
8. Never Criticize
When you are still getting to know someone it’s best not to criticize them personally when they ask you for feedback even if they request feedback on their personal weaknesses. Always keep it positive and never offer personal advice unless it’s asked for. Even then, encourage people to develop their strengths but don’t point out their weaknesses.
In business we all like to project an image of invincibility but most people are simply hiding their insecurities behind job titles and achievements so don’t risk upsetting someone by agitating their demons.
Be friendly, be positive and refuse to be the one who points out personal deficiencies to his friends. This is the best way to maintain rapport and to encourage cooperation now and in the future.
9. Return Favors
Every favor demands a response in the business world. Don’t forget, this is not family, this is the dynamic world of business where every good turn deserves one in return. As you build a network of mutually supportive colleagues always be aware of their current projects and pressing issues so you can be ready to help with your contacts and expertise.
Don’t kid yourself that a favor received is a lottery win. It’s not! It’s a friendly way of receiving help that you must show appreciation for, by performing a favor in return, either in response to a request or as a spontaneous gesture to help a colleague solve a problem.
Think of favors as comprising a barter economy, it can be a highly efficient way to get things done without cash ever changing hands and it allows commitment relationships to develop that enable all parties to become more successful. Just bear in mind that the only relationships which last are the ones where people give and receive out of a sincere desire to help.
Everyone prefers to do business with people they know, like and trust but it takes time to get to know someone so don’t expect your ability to influence someone to happen overnight. Instead make a point of getting to know the real person when you meet someone, be curious about their interests and hobbies, talk about family and work but let the relationship develop at it’s own pace and make sure to also share more about yourself over time.
People are understandably reluctant to make commitments to people they can’t relate to so you must expect to invest time before people will trust you and see you as someone of integrity. Your actions will speak louder than words so know that what you say will be monitored but what you do will reveal your true character.
Be someone of integrity and value who is worth knowing and as a natural consequence you’ll become a person of influence.