Your Fast Track to Greater Impact on Influence Management

It’s no coincidence that powerful people are very influential. One universal characteristic of influential people is that they do not struggle to get others to do things or to listen to their point of view – they just seem to make things happen. an influencer is about changing the behavior of others; in other words, getting them to do what you want them to do in the absence of authority. To understand how to develop more influence, you must first become a bit of a student of human behavior, social science, and motivation.

Picture for a moment a freeze-frame of a cheetah chasing a gazelle across the plains. In that image, if you can see it in your mind’s eye, you have isolated the root cause of every animal behavior.

The cheetah chases the gazelle to get something to eat; to get something good. The gazelle runs from the cheetah to preserve its life; to avoid something bad. The root cause of every animal behavior – not just human behavior – but every animal behavior is some combination of getting something good or avoiding something bad. As you become more of a student of influencer management, motivation, and behavioral change, you will understand how that image should tie into your thought processes, because one of those two things is at the root of every customer buying decision and every behavioral decision your staff is going to make at any given time.

There are certain actions and behaviors that have been scientifically validated as effective in creating influence. Here is a very basic example: Did you know that in a restaurant, if a waitress during the course of the meal finds an occasion to touch the customer, on average she will receive a 23% greater tip? Touching physically, in this case, is a point of influence.


The word “because” is a point of influence. To understand why, consider the following study that was conducted at Harvard University.

There was a long line of people waiting to use the Xerox machine in the library (this was, of course, back in the day when people needed to use the Xerox machine in the library) and the researchers hired someone who was going to ask to cut into the line. There were 3 situations that the research team created. In the first situation, the person cutting into the line said “Excuse me, I have 5 pages may I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” In 94% of the cases, they were allowed to cut into the line. In the next situation, the person said “Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the Xerox machine” and 60% of the time they were allowed to cut in line. The last situation is the one that really makes the point. Here’s what they said: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies.” In this case there was 93% compliance – virtually the same rate as with a full, logical explanation. So what comes after the word “because” really does not matter – you get the same compliance rate regardless of what you say.

Are you using the word “because” enough – when you make a request, when you present an idea, when you present a proposal to a client? Because the word “because” is a point of influence!


The Law of Reciprocity is another point of influence. Anytime you give away something of perceived value, you will receive something in return. Cornell University did a study on this one – it was an art appreciation study. Subjects found themselves rating artwork with another subject who worked for the researchers as a plant. There were two conditions: During a break in the art appreciation study the plant either walked out and brought the other participant a Coke or walked out and did not bring the other participant a Coke. At the end of the art study, the plant asked the research subject if they would be interested in buying some raffle tickets because they were working for a charitable cause and there was a prize of $50 for the person who sold the most tickets. Far more tickets were sold to the subjects who had received the Coke as a favor, to which they apparently felt obligated to reciprocate.

Do you remember the Hare Krishnas in airports? Do you remember what they did before they asked you for a donation? They gave you a flower! In the context of the law of reciprocity do you now understand why that worked effectively in making people feel like they needed to reciprocate? Interestingly, if you go back and read the literature, many people – even if they just took the flower and walked away – would throw it in the garbage. The Hare Krishnas would go to the garbage, get them back, and use them again as their token gift to invoke the law of reciprocity on other unsuspecting travelers.

Understanding the law of reciprocity is also useful if you find yourself in a negotiation. When you make a concession, you are giving away something of value. Concession tends to foster a sense of obligation, just like you would expect from the law of reciprocity.

When you have an opportunity in a negotiation, are you strategically giving something away to be able to invoke this point of influence? Are you building room for concessions into your ideas and proposals, or do you tend to cut right to the bottom line? When was the last time you did something thoughtful and unexpected for someone who you would like to influence?

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