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Do You Have Influence Skill?

What can Barbara Walters teach you? Influence skill—it will get clients to listen to you and heed your advice.

By Bill Bachrach

Do you know what it’s like when you nurture and cultivate a quality business relationship with a client? I mean when you’ve really done what it takes to earn his business, and he gives you the chance you deserve? From then on, the floodgates open up for business and referrals.

If you have ever had the positive feelings that come with quality client relationships, then you have experienced the benefit of influence skill. By the same token, you may be experiencing some of the frustration that goes with a lack of influence skill. Executives need to influence their staff and managers, managers have to influence their team, and trusted advisors must build strong relationships of influence with their prospects and customers. Being influential is important to us all.

Long-term profitable business relationships
Everyone has some level of influence skill, and we all have untapped influence capacity. People with high levels of influence skill enjoy better quality relationships, longer-term relationships and substantially shorter sales cycles from the inception of the contact to the reality of, what I call, long-term, profitable business relationships.

Everybody knows people buy on emotion, so why can so few create the emotions they want their prospects and clients to feel on purpose?

A perfect example of a person of influence is Barbara Walters. Yet, when people describe Walter’s personality, they typically use words like flat or dull. Do you know anyone who would describe her as dynamic or exciting? And Walters talks funny. Her ‘W’s were the basis of Saturday Night Live satire. Still, Walters is one of the most effective journalists in American, best known for her interviews. How does this woman with the flat personality and funny speech get interviews with people who won’t grant an interview to anyone?

Walters is brilliant at getting people emotionally involved!

Isn’t what Walters does exactly what you want to do? Don’t you want to get to the clients and centers of influence that most people have difficulty reaching? Wouldn’t it be great if they would tell you things they don’t tell anyone else? Why do they share that information with some people and not with others? The power is not in the questions. The power is in the questioning process.

So what’s the answer? What do you do, and how do you do it? John Sculley, the CEO of Apple, said, “The solutions are often obvious once you get the questions right.” I hope you are beginning to ask yourself some good questions about your own process or that of your salespeople. Here are some areas to consider.

A high TEQ process
I believe influence skill is a high TEQ process. The ‘T’ in the acronym stands for trust. The foundation for long-term, profitable business relationships is trust. Why do some people trust you and others do not? Have you really studied your quality relationships looking for clues on how to improve all your business relationships? Even if you are good at establishing trust, why does it take as long as it does to get trust and convert it into business? What would happen to your business if you could deliberately create trust in less time, on purpose instead of by accident?

The ‘E’ is for emotion. I can ask a room full of successful salespeople if people buy on logic or emotion and get a resounding “emotion,” but if I ask that same room of successful salespeople to “emotion me,” the room gets very quiet. Everybody knows people buy on emotion, so why can so few create the emotions they want their prospects and clients to feel on purpose? What about you? Do you think in terms of the emotion you want to create and then deliberately create it or do you fish for hot buttons and hope you catch the right one? Do you still think that benefit statements not linked to the right emotion create impact? Aristotle said, “No appeal to logic is ever as successful as an appeal to emotion.” I wonder if he could do it on purpose?

And the ‘Q’ stands for questions. Influence is a function of trust. Trust is a function of understanding. Understanding is based on the quality of your questions and your ability to listen empathically. Dr. Stephen Covey, in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, described empathic listening as “listening with the ears, eyes and heart—for feeling and meaning.” Have you ever noticed how much more you trust people who really understand you? Remember, the power is not in the questions themselves. The power is in how you ask the questions. People with high levels of influence skill are masters at asking questions. Weak salespeople just ask questions until they find a need they can sell to. Top producers and people of influence ask questions to truly understand and empathize.

Walters is extremely effective at using questions that stir emotions while establishing a high level of trust. Do you think this happens by accident? What about you? Do you have a strategically planned prospect or client interview you consistently use to create a predictable result? Or are you more inclined to “wing it?” Do you “fish for hot buttons” instead of deliberately creating the emotions that will cause people to be interested, to trust you and want to listen to you? Are you still under the false impression that trust is something that just happens over time between some people and not with others? An honest assessment of where you are now is the key to getting to your next level. Remember, the additional revenue generated at your next level will fall straight to your bottom line.

© 2003 by Bill Bachrach, Bachrach & Associates, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bill Bachrach is an author and speaker for the insurance and financial advising industries. He will be a main stage speaker during the 2003 NAIFA Convention and Career Conference in Kansas City, Mo. You can contact him through Bachrach & Associates, Inc., at 800-347-3707, or visit


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