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"Influencing" is changing another person's
attitudes or actions without using force or authority. Synonyms
for influencing include: persuading, motivating, selling, convincing,
winning over. In practical terms, to influence you have to prove
to other people that accepting your proposal helps them to solve their
problems or achieve their objectives. "Negotiating" is
trying to reach agreement when two parties share an objective, but have
a conflict. Synonyms for negotiating include: bargaining,
haggling, dickering, give-and-take. In practical terms,
negotiating is trying to settle differences between two parties when
they share an objective.
"Group decision-making" (for example, SCAN) consists of applying the knowledge and skills of several people to finding strategies for achieving a common objective when there is no conflict among the participants in the process. The chart below compares the three activities: Ch 2 Exhibit.
Here's an exercise to help you to learn these definitions. Assign each of these examples to its proper category (group decision-making, influencing or negotiating):
1. A politician asks for your vote.
2. A car salesperson quotes $25,900 for a Toyota Camry and I offer her $23,000.
3. A couple discuss going skiing vs. inviting two friends for dinner and bridge.
4. You ask a bank loan-officer for $450,000 to start a new business.
5. Your brother-in-law asks you for $15,000.
6. My boss offers me a raise of 4%. I ask for 6%.
7. You work four week-ends to help your boss's boss with an important project.
The Influencing Process
In infancy, human beings do their influencing by making this irresistible offer: give me what I want or I won't stop crying. This works, for infants. For grown-ups, it's a little different. For most things, we simply offer to pay money for what we need. We get what we need but it leaves us with a need for money, and some of us seem to need a great deal of money. What do we do? We influence to get money and we negotiate to get even more money! We also influence and negotiate to get other things, besides money. Examples might include: a bigger office, a thicker rug on the floor, a better hotel room, extra time off from work. We influence for short-term gain and for the long term. We influence people we have just met and we influence people we have known a long time. We influence others and they influence us. The basic model is this: "Accept my offer (grant my request, buy my product) because my offer will help you to achieve your objectives or solve your problems." A description of the influencing process follows.
1. What Do You Need? Whom Should You Try to Influence?
The first step is to determine exactly what you need from the people you try to influence. The best tool for exploring your objectives, problems and opportunities and possible strategies, Strategic Creative Analysis (SCAN), as discussed in Chapter 1. It pays to perform this step very carefully and thoroughly to avoid making a time consuming influencing effort, only to discover later that the effort should have been directed at someone else, with a different offer. I use the term "offer" on the assumption that any time you use influencing (as opposed to demanding or commanding) you present an offer to the person to be influenced and if the offer is accepted an exchange will occur and your need will be satisfied.
2. What Are the Needs of Your Client?
Given the basic assumption of influencing that you will satisfy your needs by helping others to satisfy theirs, the next step is to figure out the needs of your client (the person you will influence). You will have some opportunity to explore the needs of your client when you meet, but thorough preparation increases your success rate. Do a Mini SCAN (first four steps only) on your client.
a) What is your client's relevant objective? List all the objectives and strategies the client is following and identify the objective that is relevant to you at this time.
b) What are the client's Problems and Opportunities? Some of the client's Problems are your Opportunities.
c) Considering your client's Mini-SCAN, will the client want to and be able to accept your offer? Does the client have the resources? If the answer is "yes," continue. If the answer is "no," identify a better client and repeat the process.
d) How can you help your client to:
(1) Solve problems?
(2) Exploit Opportunities?
e) Evaluate the risks that your client may see in your offer:
(1) Social risk. Is it possible that others will ridicule or criticize your client's decision to accept your offer?
(2) Functional risk. Is it possible that the product, service, arrangement, or deal that your offer will not work as promised?
(3) Economic risk. Can the client acquire your offer at lower cost from another source?
3. Human Behavior Concepts
Keep these human motivators in mind when you develop your offer:
A) People want to increase: income, security and esteem and to decrease expenses, costs and risks.
B) Even more strongly, people want to avoid: monetary loss, fear, anxiety, criticism and ridicule and to avoid increases in expenses and costs.
Also, expect these two common obstacles:
A) Most people are unwilling to change their thinking and their behavior. They resist or reject recommendations that may help them to achieve their goals or to avoid problems.
B) Most people distrust strangers. If you are approaching clients who do not know you, don't take it personally if they seem to avoid you. It's human nature.
4. Establish, Maintain and Increase Your Credibility
It may be difficult to gain acceptance for your offer. To smooth the way, you must establish, maintain and try to increase your credibility.
The basic components of credibility are good intentions and character. All of us are struggling to make our way in the world, so that no one expects you to be an altruist. But there must be no question about your integrity and the sincerity of your offer.
Competence and pleasing personality are the other two components of credibility. You should always be working to increase your competence through study and practice and as for personality, networking and formal evaluations will help you to determine whether you need to change.
An effective strategy for building credibility is to become a source of valuable information for your client. Keep informed about your client's problems and needs, and through reading and networking, acquire information that will be helpful to your client and pass it on. In time, your client will think of you as a friend and advisor and will also tend to feel indebted to you. This will help you when you try influence your client.
Other useful tactics, perhaps obvious, are to always be friendly, never combative or grouchy and to buy lunch once in a while.
5. Prepare for Influencing
To maximize your probability of success, you should plan your opener, plan answers to negative response, engage in role-play and engage in imagery. If your offer is fairly complex, it may also be a good idea to plan a formal presentation.
Plan your opener: Get your client's attention and stimulate his (her) interest
To accomplish the dual task, the opening statement should suggest the benefit that the client will obtain by accepting your offer. The opener should also include supporting information to make the benefit credible. The best supporting information is a disclosure of goal-satisfying results that have been obtained by people or organizations, who are similar to your client. Quantify the benefit that your offer will deliver. An example might be: "Ms. Smith, I would like to show you an idea for a 20% cost reduction obtainable with a new process. Mr. Jones at XYZ Company is already benefiting from this new process. Your company, should also be able to obtain these benefits because your company is similar in many ways to the XYZ Company."
If your offer is so novel that comparable experience has not yet been recorded, an alternative is to cite a unique feature of the offer that supports the claimed benefit, for example: "Ms. Smith, I would like to show you an idea for a 20% cost reduction obtainable with a new process. This process is so successful because it uses a patented alloy that allows a 40% reduction in processing time."
Plan answers to negative responses
What if your client expresses disbelief or tries to cut your visit short or tries to shuffle you off to a subordinate? Anticipate reasonable possibilities and prepare your reactions. Examples follow:
a) Client expresses disbelief. Your correct response is to probe by asking "Why do you say that?" This gives the client a chance to clarify whether the disbelief applies to the claimed benefit or to the supporting evidence. It may also turn out that the client did not hear you properly or did not understand what you said. The feed-back you receive will help you to clear up misunderstandings or to offer additional proofs to support your claims.
b) Client tries to cut the visit short. Ask for an appointment at a better time. Offer the client two choices, for example, today at 1 p.m., or tomorrow at 10 a.m.
c) Client tries to shuffle you off to a subordinate. Ask whether the subordinate has authority to make a commitment on his (her) own. If the answer is yes, accept. If the answer is no (which is the more likely situation) point out that the potential benefits from your offer will be delayed without any corresponding gain.
Additional Success-Building Techniques
Role-playing consists of actually practicing your influencing effort with a willing associate before doing it in the real world. You have to prepare your role-playing partner by telling him or her how tough you want the responses to be. The more you role-play, the more confident you will be when you do it in reality. Role-play the anticipated encounter to apply the ideas presented in this book before you attempt real influencing.
Imagery may be used instead of role-playing or in addition to role playing. In a quiet environment, where you will not be disturbed, you imagine yourself in the influencing situation. You enter the client's place of business, deliver your opener, respond successfully to objections, probe for needs, attempt the conditional close, give your presentation and ask the client to accept your offer. You hear objections, reformulate your offer and again ask for the order.
As you imagine the situation many times, trying different approaches to different obstacles, always with a successful conclusion, you gain familiarity with the entire process and build up your confidence and thereby increase your probability of success at the real influencing encounter.
A formal presentation should be prepared if your offer is complicated. Your offer may be accepted immediately, but if your client needs, or expects a presentation, you should be ready. The purpose is demonstrate the benefits in convincing detail and to explain how the benefits are realized. Diagrams, tables, charts, overhead transparencies, videotapes and computer programs help to make a presentation more interesting and understandable.
6. Present Your Opener
You have prepared thoroughly and now you are face-to-face with your client. Previous research may have revealed possibilities of establishing rapport by citing some common bond (same school, town, avocation, etc.) or recognizing a significant accomplishment of the client. The advantage of trying for rapport is that it may result in a favorable predisposition toward your offer.
Very Important Note: You must establish early that the client has the authority and resources to accept your offer. If he or she does not, find out who does and seek to see that person.
Next, make your opening statement: introduce the benefits others have experienced, in similar situations by accepting offers like yours.
7. Confirm the Client's SCAN & Get the Conditional "Yes"
After your opening statement, let your client's response guide your next steps. The client might agree to your offer, in which case you should secure the order, express thanks and leave.
Alternately, the client may show interest but express doubts as to whether the offer you described actually fits their needs. In that case, ask the client to tell you about their needs. Listen for a need to which your offer will be a magnificent response. Ask questions, probe and paraphrase.
For example, let's say the client is your boss' boss and she expresses concern with costly delays in completing certain types of projects.
Your planned offer is to reorganize the department with you in charge of a major section. Your goal at this point is to get the client to start saying "Yes" to your suggestions. That will make it easier for her to say "Yes" when you present your offer and "ask for the order." Your paraphrase would then be: "In other words, you are considering the possibility of changing the organization if that would lead to cutting out the delays."
As long as your paraphrase has a conditional tone (the "if" in the middle), it should not be difficult for your client to agree with your paraphrase.
If the client does not appear to be responsive, you are not addressing an important need. Try moving upward on his (her) hierarchy of objectives and strategies (see Chapter 1, Step 2) by asking "Why is that important to you?" Keep probing until you feel you have a good understanding of your client's needs hierarchy. Compare these needs with your offer. When you feel that you have a good fit between the client's needs and your offer, try the conditional close: "If I could show a way of satisfying your needs, would you be interested?" This is another way getting to "Yes." Of course, the better your preparation, the quicker and more certain will be your voyage to "Yes."
8. Make the actual offer
Make the offer, show that your offer will satisfy the client's needs and ask the client to accept it. If the client says "Yes," express your thanks, complete any paperwork that is necessary, say "Good-bye," and leave. Do not feel compelled to do or say anything else, regardless of how fine a presentation you have or what excellent stories you might tell. If, on the other hand, the client declines to say "Yes," go on to the next step.
9. Deal with Objections
If the client declines, one reason could be that they do not understand the offer well enough to appreciate its value to them. Encourage them to ask questions that may lead to clarification of important issues.
Another possibility is that you have not responded to his (her) needs. Go back to discovering higher level needs in the client's hierarchy of objectives and strategies (See Chapter 1, Step 2). Listen carefully. If you feel that now you can respond effectively to the client's needs, present your modified offer and go for the close. If you are stymied, thank the client and leave. Return another time with a more suitable offer.
You may also try the FAB (Features, Advantages, Benefits) approach, by presenting:
Features of your offer.
Advantages of your offer.
Benefits the client obtains from your offer.
To avoid confusing your client, limit your comparison to one, or two competitors.
If the client continues to decline, try using appeals to emotions.
10. Appeals to Emotions
If the client still declines:
1. Report testimonials from satisfied customers and then try to close.
2. Describe the need satisfaction your client will experience by accepting your offer and then close.
3. Refer to respected people or organizations that do what you recommend and are obtaining good results. Then try to close.
4. Stir up fears by pointing out what may happen if the client does not accept your offer: rising costs, missed deadlines, lost sales, lost customers. Then try to close.
If nothing works, say "Thank you" and "Good-bye" and leave. Then try again another time and/ or find a better client.
11. Mistakes to Avoid
1. Giving up too soon. When you influence, you want clients to overcome their natural reluctance to change. They may need time to mull over your offer and they may want to test your dedication by having you approach them several times. Sales representatives, who are professional influencers, report that they need five calls on the average, to open a new account. You may hope for acceptance on the first try, but be prepared to make several attempts. As you keep trying, you are also learning, so that your approach improves and your probability of success increases.
2. Being insufficiently prepared. Influencing is a complex process. If you are well prepared, your chance of success are greater. To be well prepared, you should:
a) Understand your needs and the client's needs.
b) Have a well thought-out offer that will satisfy the needs of both parties.
c) Prepare as much support for the soundness of your offer as possible:
(1) Advantages of adopting your offer.
(2) Disadvantages of not adopting your offer.
(3) Successes of your offer in similar situations.
(4) Testimonials of satisfied adopters of your offer or similar offers.
d) Practice: role-play and imagery.
e) Acquire personal data about the client to help in establishing rapport.
3. Overlooking the buying influentials. More than one person may be involved in the decision regarding your offer. You will have to influence all of them. Do not leave this task to the first member of the client team that you contact. This person is not as well informed as you are, nor as motivated.
4. Rushing the client. This is related to point 1, above. If you pressure the client excessively, he (she) may agree to accept your offer just to be rid of you and then cancel the agreement. You have accomplished nothing and antagonized a potential client.
5. Emphasizing features instead of benefits. Your clients are interested in benefits. Features should be brought into the discussion only to increase the credibility of the benefits.
6. Being insufficiently flexible. The client may want to adapt your offer to their special needs. If the adapted offer still satisfies your requirements, be open-minded about accepting your client's adaptations.
12. Continue Influencing
An influencer's work is never done. With respect to your boss, maintain your credibility and influence your boss to give you bigger pay increments and stronger recommendations for promotion. Follow the steps described above.
With clients who have not accepted your offers, consider trying again.
With clients who have accepted your offers, check whether they have questions or doubts. If they have, take them through the steps listed above, to the extent required.
13. Is Influencing Ethical?
The guiding principle should be: Do not do to anyone anything that you would hate if it were done to you.
This gets us to the key question: "Do I hate it if someone tries to influence me?" I give a qualified "no" as my answer. I don't hate it if someone tries to influence me, provided that they follow the steps presented in this chapter. I want influencers to come to me with well-thought out offers that will help me achieve my objectives. I will gladly listen to their presentations and if I become convinced that their offer will help me, I will accept it and thank them for their concern for my well being. Yes, influencing is ethical, provided that it is done according to the prescription presented here.
14. Writing Reports and Giving PresentationsIf you are preparing a written or oral presentation that recommends goal-oriented action, the SCAN process and the influencing techniques described here provide useful ideas. Follow this sequence:
1. Objective of your work.
2. The strategies you recommend.
3. The expected benefits to the clients of implementing your strategies.
4. Action programs for your strategies.
5. How you developed your recommendations.
b) Possible strategies derived from SWOTs.
c) How you selected the strategies you are recommending.
In a written report, a cover page should summarize the first three parts, under the title "Executive Summary." If you are giving an oral presentation, your audience may be interested only in the first four parts. Prudence would dictate that you have the fifth part ready, just in case you are called upon to present it.
15. Next Steps
Your next steps should be to practice and observe influencing. Review this chapter and apply the exercise in the next section to new influencing goals. Review your work and continue. Well conducted influencing is fun and helps you to achieve your business and personal goals and enables you to help other people, as well. You can also learn a great deal by observing other people as they try to influence you or others.
If you want to read more about influencing, just about everything that is published focuses on selling products and services. You will have to interpret what you read broadly, so that you may apply the information to a wider range of situations.
An Influencing Experience
Conduct a new influencing experience following all the suggestions presented in this chapter. Prepare a report on the entire influencing experience, covering the topics listed below. Your paper must report an actual, new influencing encounter. A report based on a hypothetical or old encounter will not be accepted. "Old encounter" is an influencing encounter that occurred before you studied the Influencing Chapter in this book.
Follow this outline in writing your report of the Influencing experience. Your report must contain all of the following headings:
A. Before the Influencing Encounter
1. Your objective for this influencing experience - what did you want?
2. Who was your client (person you wanted to influence) for this experience?
3. Your client's Mini-SCAN: Steps 1 to 4 of the SCAN Process. Which objectives and SWOTs did you use for the Influencing experience?
4. Your preparation for the influencing encounter
a) What opener did you prepare?
b) How did you conduct the imagery and role-play?
c) What else did you do to prepare for the encounter?
5. Did you have credibility with your client from previous meetings?
If you did not, how did you prepare for establishing credibility?
B. At the Influencing encounter.
1. How did you arrange the meeting?
2. How did you start your presentation?
3. Did you encounter challenges and/or rejection? If yes, how did you respond?
4. Did you get what you wanted?
5. Were there any surprises at the influencing encounter?
C. Analysis and thoughts after the meeting.
1. Should you have done anything differently? What?
2. From your client's point of view, should your client have done anything differently? What?
3. What are the three most important things you learned from this experience?
4. What are your plans for future influencing encounters?
Last update: Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 4:35:52 PM
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