Influencing for All Seasons: Creating and Influencing Specific Business Relationships

by Libby Wagner on December 1, 2011

People want to imagine it takes different skill sets to influence types of different people— based on their position especially and their relationship secondarily.

For example, some believe that influencing “up,” toward your superiors, is the most challenging of all; others believe they have no power to influence vendors or suppliers or customers. In reality, the person sitting across from you is exactly that: a person. There are dynamics that come into play, but one thing I feel certain about: the relationship pretty much trumps anything.

When we help people learn to influence, we suggest that they assess the relationship based on two foundational elements: trust and commitment.

Question 1: What’s your relationship like with this person? What is your level of trust?

Question 2: Do you have commitment to shared visions and/or goals? Are you on the same page?

Following are some general things to consider and keep in mind when you find yourself in these influencing situations:

Influencing Your Subordinates: When you are formally responsible for managing the performance of someone, you cannot accept poor performance because that means you’re really not fulfilling your responsibilities.

Keep in mind the power dynamic here. You need to create opportunities for open, honest communication among you and your subordinates. Your relationship with your employees is the single biggest leveraging point in an organization, since the relationship between the employee and the immediate supervisor is what influences performance, morale, productivity, employee engagement, etc.

Influencing Your Peers and Colleagues: Having a high-trust colleague at work is invaluable. Cultivate these relationships and develop them. When you need to confront or influence a peer, keep in mind that saving face may be incredibly important to them. Be conscientious of where you might have conversations and keep them confidential, if possible.

Work to create win-wins. If a peer or colleague is creating a roadblock or not performing to standard, confront the issue and discuss it directly, rather than borrowing position-power and going above someone’s head.

Influencing your Superiors: Influencing up is necessary! One essential thing to try to keep in mind when using influencing as a power dynamic is that this person’s focus is most likely very different from yours. Appeal to the “what’s in it for me?” factor.

Ask them for what you want, and focus on how it will benefit them. Offer reassurance that you’ll keep them in the loop so they won’t be surprised by anything. Their reputation and their credibility are probably important to them. They generally want to be seen as competent, confident and carrying out the mission of the organization.

Influencing Customers and Clients: If you take the time to develop relationships with customers and clients, they will not only be satisfied, they will be loyal. Relationship-based selling trumps price and the competition almost all the time. Try not to focus on the one-time sale, but rather on the long-term relationship.

Most of the time, influencing customers and clients effectively involves more listening than talking. If you can discern through careful listening and clarifying questions what they really need, you can help them. Don’t concentrate on yourself—concentrate on them.

Your ability to use language well, to enter into conversations boldly and confidently, and to create strong relationships and demonstrate understanding across multiple groups and situations will absolutely determine your ability to create, sustain and maintain a profitable culture. Pay attention to the above tips for each relationship category and you will experience and watch your profit culture grow.

Image courtesy of Flickr user quinnanya.

Libby Wagner, Libby Wagner & Associates, is one of only a handful of published poets regularly welcomed into the boardroom. Author of the new book The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business (Global Professional Publishing), she has been labeled The Influencing Coach™ by her clients. Her expertise in leadership, strategy, management, and executive team development helps organizations create environments where clarity and increased trust lead to unrivaled results, shaping such Fortune 500 cultures as Boeing, Nike, Philips and Costco. Find out more at http://www.libbywagner.com/

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