Being More Influential, Parts 1 & 2

Hi, Everyone!

I just received the latest edition of Dave Miller’s newsletter and I wanted to share his key article with all of you. I realized that I hadn’t shared the first part of his article which he published last month, so I’m going to provide BOTH parts of it here for your review.

BTW, for those of you who haven’t already done so, I’d encourage all of you to sign up for Dave’s newsletter.  You can find it here:

Dave Miller’s Newsletter

So here’s the article:

Being More Influential, Parts 1 & 2

No matter what you do, you are in sales in some way.  The word, “sales” or “selling” brings up negative connotations for many people.  It may be helpful to think of it as “influence”.  Whether you’re a sales professional, coach, consultant  or executive – there are key stakeholders in your world you need to influence.

To persuade successfully and non-manipulatively, it’s important to understand five key principles of influence. Over the next few newsletters, I’ll be covering these five principles that are based on human psychology and behavior.   Let’s look at the first two now.

Principle #1: A person’s primary motivation is “What’s in it for me?”

As cynical as this sounds, its truth can’t be denied. We all view the world from our own self-centered perspective.  By “self-centered” I don’t mean “selfish” in that we put ourselves above others.  Rather we are motivated by what’s important to us.

One person may be motivated to make a lot of money; another is motivated to make their children happy; while another is driven to serve the world for the greater good.  The list is as endless as there are people on the earth. It’s tied into what each of us values.  And it can be complex because people aren’t typically motivated by one thing.

If you’re a consultant or have had any training in sales, you’ve probably heard of this concept – “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM). This concept can’t be overemphasized, even if you’ve heard it one thousand times before.  Most sales professionals and consultants I observe do a less than adequate job focusing their marketing and selling activities centrally on WIIFM.

A common mistake professionals make is to focus on telling their prospect what’s great about themselves or their organization. They’re ignoring Principle #1.  Think of it this way:  Your prospect’s antenna  is tuned in to WIIFM.  Most consultants broadcast on WWD (“What We Do”) or WWTYN (“What We Think You Need”).  They’re transmitting their message on the wrong frequency!  Thus, the message is never heard.

So when you’re serving one of your internal clients, preparing for a meeting or selling one of your ideas, you want to be ready to answer this critical question (WIIFM?).  Put yourself in your client’s shoes.  What’s important to them?  Why would they care about your proposal?  What do they get out of it?  Beyond helping their organization, how will it benefit them personally?

Principle #2: A person’s behavior is based on their need to either avoid pain or gain pleasure.

This principle explains a core reason why people do or don’t do something.  People on diets don’t succeed, in simple terms, because they’re linking more pain to doing what it takes to drop the unwanted pounds than to keeping the weight on.  A person may complain about his job because he hates his boss.  But does he leave his job?  No, because the uncertainty he associates with finding another job is more painful than dealing with his boss.

Why do people get surgery?  Why would you inhale anesthesia and then allow someone to cut you open?  There’s one reason: because the pain associated with not getting surgery is much greater than going through that process.

Think about how often you see this dynamic with your clients (or in your organization).  For example, your client may be have a problem with the skills of their sales force, a legacy system or a leadership team in conflict.  But the money, time and effort to fix these problems are more painful in their perception than living with them.

We all avoid pain. We like to stay in our comfort zones.  Like all living organisms, we gravitate to a place of equilibrium or homeostasis.  Growth and change only takes place when we move outside our comfort zones.  It usually takes considerable pain or inspiration (or both) for significant change to occur.

For example, some of the largest revenue-generating engagements for consultants are compliance-driven.  To a company, the pain of bad PR or the consequences of violating regulations outweighs the pain of paying lots of money to consultants for their expertise.

On the other hand, pleasure can be compelling as well.  A CEO may be inspired to transform an entire organization based on the pleasure of realizing his or her vision of how great the organization could be.

Deal or No Deal?

You may wonder which pull is stronger: avoiding pain or gaining pleasure?  How would you answer this question:

Would you work harder:

(a) To earn an extra $100,000, or

(b) To protect $100,000 you already have?

Our family enjoys watching the show “Deal or No Deal.”  The game consists of 26 briefcases that each secretly contains a number from $1 to $1 million.  The object of the game is to eliminate all the cases except the one containing the $1 million.  The contestant wins the amount of money that is contained in the last case (after eliminating the other 25 cases).

At various points throughout the game the contestant is offered a sum of money to quit early.  The contestant must decide whether to take the money offered or continue eliminating cases to go for the big money.

What’s interesting to me is to watch the psychology of the contestants.  In the early stages of the game, the contestant may be offered a relatively small amount, like $15,000.  When you have 7 to 10 cases still in play that contain $100,000 or more it’s easy to say “No Deal!” and continue playing.

Later in the game, the psychology shifts.  The contestant may be offered $100,000 or more to quit playing.  Usually at this stage, there are very few high dollar cases left.  You may still have $ 1 million case out there, but you will also have several cases that contain much lower amounts.  If you happen to select the $1 million case, your offer drops substantially, maybe as low as $5,000.

Most people will elect the “certain money” and quit, because they don’t want to risk losing it even if it means forgoing their dream of walking out with $1 million!! That said it never ceases to amaze me how many people on this show (who usually can’t afford to pay their next mortgage payment) will “roll the dice” to go for the million and forgo the $150,000 offer that would have gotten them out of debt.

Discounting the people who are “playing the lottery”, a key principle of influence emerges:

The vast majority will spend more energy to avoid the risk of losing what they already have than they will to gain more money! In general, pain is a stronger motivator for change than pleasure.

Many professionals don’t fully explore the problems (or pain) a prospect has that would cause them to want to buy in to their Product, service or idea.  They spend significant time conveying the benefits of a solution, but neglect exploring the pain of the status quo. They forget one of the greatest aspects of motivation and influence: “An undisturbed prospect will not buy!”

Remember this:

Change in an individual or organization happens only when the pain of change exceeds the pain of the status quo.

Principle #3: Immediate pain/pleasure is a stronger motivational force than future pain/pleasure.

This principle is why so many fail at dieting. The delight of having chocolate cake now outweighs the consequences that show up on the scale later. Alternatively, the pain of giving up that cake now is a stronger force than the satisfaction of sticking with the diet and dropping unwanted pounds.

The vast majority of smokers stop smoking only after a serious heart attack or cancer diagnosis. Few stop for the promise of better health. So even though the health hazards of smoking are well-documented, the pleasure of taking another drag overrules.

So what does all this mean to you? This principle is important because the solutions we offer our clients will involve future benefits, and require some immediate pain in order to achieve them. For example, it may be desirable for your client to engage your product or service. The future benefits are undoubtedly valuable. The problem is that the cost in terms of money time and resources to make these changes happen is immediately painful . Any change will involve pain, because it represents movement from the status quo. From the client’s perspective, it’s easier to keep things the way they are, even if they aren’t perfect.

Even the distraction of having to consider your proposal is painful. Your prospect already has too much to do. You’re competing for your prospect’s time and attention. So unless your idea provides instant benefits without having to change much, the odds of getting buy in are stacked against you.

How do you counteract these obstacles? One way is to bring the future pain into the present moment.

For example, Roger, a financial planner client of mine, lamented about how the lead time to get a client was more than nine months from the first meeting. Why does it take so long to get prospects to pull the trigger and start building their retirement assets?

It isn’t because Roger wasn’t excellent at what he did. His investment philosophies and strategies were rock-solid.

It also isn’t because Roger doesn’t have an engaging personality. He has great rapport skills, so he comes across as very likeable.

Let’s look at the pain-pleasure dynamics:

1. Roger was asking clients to part with their dollars. Even though they’re not spending the money, but rather investing it, they are still giving up immediate access to the cash. (Immediate Pain)

2. As a result of having less disposable income to spend now, the client can’t make certain purchases that are near and dear to his or her heart – like that 60-inch plasma TV. (Immediate Pain)

3. But Roger explains to his client about the accumulated wealth that will result from the compounding interest, dividends and fund growth. As good as it sounds, this wealth won’t be enjoyed for 25 years. (Future Pleasure).

4. In addition, for Roger to design and implement the financial plan, his potential client must fill out a myriad of paperwork consisting of risk profile surveys, applications and agreements. The client must also hunt for mounds of detailed personal and financial information to supply to Roger. You may think, “Shouldn’t they have this at their fingertips?” Maybe – but most do not. (Immediate Pain).

So it’s not hard to see why Roger feels he’s swimming upstream. For Roger’s client, the pain of implementing a plan was more immediate and, thus, felt greater than the pleasure of taking this step.

Bring Future Pain Into The Present

One way to counteract this dynamic is to bring the future pain into the present. The human imagination is a powerful thing. When we imagine something vividly, the associated feelings occur in the present moment (even if the event we are dreaming about occurs in the future). So as an influencer we need to become skilled at helping people future-pace the status quo. In other words, we need to get them associated with what will happen in the future if the proposed action is not taken.

My financial planner, George, applied these techniques with me. Although I was funding my financial plan better than the average person (which I know is not saying much), I was uncertain if it was enough.

George showed me a projection that illustrated the probability of me running out of money before age 90. I didn’t like the answer. I became associated with the pain of how awful it would be if I outlived my savings – what would my wife and I do? I immediately increased my monthly funding level.

Influencers are skilled at helping people get associated with the pain of the status quo. Look at the pain-pleasure dynamics of what you are selling. Is there too much immediate pain and not enough future pleasure? How can you help your client’s make better decisions by bringing the future pain of the status quo into the present moment?

We’ll cover specific techniques on how to do this in future newsletters.

In the next issue, we’ll explore the fourth principle of influence.


If you enjoyed Dave’s article, please take a moment to leave a comment here for him or send him an email.



4 Responses to Being More Influential, Parts 1 & 2

  1. Please put me on your mailing/blog list for future articles. I really enjoyed this one it really hit home for me.


  2. Please add me to your mailing list.


  3. Dave Miller says:

    Thanks for the kind comments, everyone!

    Since I’ve gotten requests from many about the newsletter, here’s where you can go to subscribe:

    You will also get my “12 Ingredients To Explosive Business Growth” audio course as a bonus.

  4. Thornton Prayer says:

    Thanks, Dave. Really good insights for my needs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: