As an executive coach, for the past 12 years I have been assisting clients to get different outcomes by using a very predictable and successful stage-by-stage model. I have called this approach ‘The cycle of influence’. After learning these skills people often achieve immediate results, after trying unsuccessfully to get things done for them by other people for many months or even years.
Being self-employed, I first developed this approach when doing some ‘warm calling’. In the past, before I had established my professional reputation, I had to do marketing which involved ringing people up to get them interested in the services I provide. Over the years I found that this is easier if you have a reason to call or a previous relationship – even if it was a long time ago.
Through the grapevine, I heard that a centre director I knew 10 years previously was still in post. Since his organisation was a major purchaser of training and development, I decided to send him a brochure and marketing letter and to follow it up with a phone call.
When I rang, he took my call (which, by the way, is always a buying signal). We had a pleasant enough conversation. We talked about whether they used consultants and how much they were paid, and he promised to call me sometime. As I put the phone down, I just knew he would not call me back and felt I had managed to change a partially open door into a closed one. I wondered what had gone wrong and realised that although I had met the guy a long time ago, I had not made any attempt to build any rapport or to find out what had happened over the intervening years. So I rang him back. Clearly, he was surprised to hear from me. I said, ‘I did not just ring you up to find out if you wanted any external consultants. I wanted to chat to you, because if you are still in business after 10 years, you must be doing something right.’
At this point he started talking and continued enthusiastically for the next 20 minutes. He told me how his centre was the only regional training centre left in the country, how he had to raise £2 million each year just to keep the doors open, how he had brokered an innovative Master’s degree with the local university and developed a team undertaking leading-edge consultancy work. I listened and did not interrupt. When he had finished, he asked me what I had been up to.
Then I was able to tell him that I had worked for a prestigious multinational drug company, undertaken a Master’s degree in Change Agent Strategies and set up my own successful consultancy, assisting organisations, people and teams with their change agendas. As I established my credibility (or why he should listen to me), he did not interrupt me. When I had finished, he simply said, ‘Why don’t you come andsee me?’. I had achieved my goal without even trying.
What I got out of that interaction was a model for influencing people, which achieves results and improves relationships between people. The model is incredibly simple. We follow the steps very naturally with people we like and feel comfortable with. For new contacts or people we do not like, it is a bit more difficult and we need to consider more consciously how we approach them.
Just think about it for a minute. You are extremely busy, and someone you like approaches you to do a favour for them. What is your response? Then someone you are not keen on or do not know asks you to do some work for them. What isyour response? I assume you will say something to the person you like along the lines of, ‘Well, I am incredibly busy, but since it is you, I will see what I can do’. If you have time, you will move their work up the priority list. For the person you do not know or do not have a good relationship with, you are much more likely to say, ‘I am busy, so leave it there. I am doing it in order and will get around to it when I can’.
It is a well-known adage that ‘people do things for people‘. So if you want things to be done for you, move away from the idea that it is your role that dictates who does what for you and when. You must get to know the people you want to influence, and then present your request at a time and a pace that matches your relationship.
As a result of talking to the centre manager, I developed a step by step approach to influencing. This involves building rapport, establishing your credibility (or why they should listen to you), making your request and finally thanking them for their assistance.
To find out more information about the influencing model and other step by step approaches to developing sophisticated people skills, read the People Skills Revolution.
Pamela E Milne is Director of Solutions Unlimited and is author of the People Skills Revolution published by Global Professional Publishing which enables you to develop all the skills required to achieve your goals.
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