We live in a world that talks far too much and listens far too little.
People love to tell other people their opinions, ideas or just what happens to be on their mind.
It seems that most people want to be interesting rather than interested.
As a professional person, being able to effectively influence others is an essential ability in creating successful client outcomes and building a thriving practice.
So, what is at the core of influence?
There is this very persistent idea that effective influencers have the ‘gift of the gab’. That it is all about being a good talker or persuader.
Do we tend to trust people more if they listen well or if they talk a lot?
Do we trust people more if they ask intelligent questions or if they tell us what they think or try to tell us what to do?
When you speak there are only three things that you can do:
- Make a statement
- Give a command
- Ask a question
Clearly, there is a time and place for each of these but highly effective questioning and listening skills are an art that few people get anywhere near mastering.
Because as Stephen Covey observed:
‘We’re filled with our own rightness, our own autobiography. We want to be understood. Our conversations become collective monologues, and we never really understand what’s going on inside another human being.’
Through our mistakes can come our greatest insights
Years ago, I remember getting a referral into a business that had three owners.
We met up and I asked them all about the business, what their challenges were and where they could do with help.
Then one of them asked me…
And why should we work with you?
I did the worst thing possible. I made it all about me and began to tell them the reasons I thought they should work with me.
The moment we bring neediness into any relationship, our ability to influence will plummet.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get the business and I didn’t deserve to.
But it was also a pivotal moment that became far more valuable than winning that piece of business.
As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
I came across Steve Chandler and through Steve’s teachings I realised how much insecure thinking I had and, more importantly, how these feelings generated behaviours in me that served no one – not my clients or me.
Steve has this saying…
Needy is creepy.
So, I learned to take myself out of the picture. I stopped believing my insecure thinking. Me and my (perceived) needs became irrelevant in my client conversations.
This changed everything – how I asked questions, listened, spoke – when you are 100% client centred then trust is never an issue.
An example of how this played out…
I received a referral to a successful entrepreneur who had built a business turning over in excess or £25m.
We had a good conversation and he asked me to give him a proposal for working together.
I did this and we met up again.
One of the first things he said was, ‘Your proposal is for far more money than I imagined!’
It was a perfectly reasonable statement and yet if my needs had been important to me at that point I would have got defensive and tried to justify my fee.
The reply that came to me was…
‘I appreciate it’s an investment but what makes it worth doing for you?’
It wasn’t a ploy. I was curious to understand what he was thinking. I was inviting him to say, ‘It’s not worth doing’, which would have been fine and would not have necessarily ended the conversation.
It happened that we did work together, and it was great. I was useful to him because I didn’t need anything from him and so our conversations were open, honest and powerful.
Influence has very little to do with tactics and everything to do with ‘where you’re coming from’.