Increasing Your Influence with Prospects and Clients

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

I don’t think I am a very influential person. I vacillate between being too forceful (directive) and not pushing hard enough with prospects and clients. I’ve heard you speak about the importance of influence, but I don’t think I have a good definition or clear understanding of what this really means in my day-to-day activities. Are some people naturally good at influencing while others, like me, just have to work with what they have?

Kelly T.

Dear Kelly,

Yes and no. We all have to work with “what we have,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn new things and hone our skills. Do you want to become more influential? Your note doesn’t say you are willing to learn and try new things. I always tell people when I do coaching and training that the first step is being willing to make a shift and try to implement a new tool or technique. If we think we can’t, or we decide we don’t want to, we won’t do anything differently. So, in order for me to influence your way of thinking, I have to know whether you are committed to change anything. On a side note, this principle applies to anyone who might want to do something differently: first acknowledge you don’t know what to do, then acknowledge you can do something to shift and then put the new ideas into practice!

I’ll assume since you took the time to write that you are interested in shifting this aspect of your behavior. What can you do to increase your influencing skills? Here are five things to consider:

  1. Influence is in the eyes of the beholder. In order to be influential, you have to understand something about the person you want to influence. This is why firms spend a fortune on “big data” for marketing. The more you know about your audience, the more you can craft a message and approach that speaks to them directly. Learn as much as you can about whom you best serve.
  1. Influence is not talking a lot. If you had a mother, as I did, who was capable of giving you just “the eye” without saying anything to put you in your place, you will know what I mean! Some people don’t say much but are able to influence because they choose their words carefully and use body language and tone that is appropriate and matched to their audience. Practice saying less and listening and learning about your audience instead.
  1. Influence comes when you can connect what you say to what your audience has agreed that they need. Once you get your listener talking, pay attention to the words used and how they describe their situation or expected outcomes. The more you can relay an answer that uses their frame and their language, the more it will feel tailored to them. If someone thinks you “get them,” they will respond much more positively.
  1. Influence happens when you can captivate and illustrate how action benefits the listener. This can best be done through telling relevant stories. People may say they need your services, or want to change something they are doing, but they may like the status quo better than rocking the boat. Sometimes telling a story of how someone was helped (or hurt) in a similar scenario can move a listener to action.