Expand Your Influence

Feeling like your ideas just aren’t connecting with your customers, prospects, or employees? In this hyper-busy, “7-second attention span” world we live in, it’s easy to get drowned out by all the noise.

Let’s explore how to expand your influence and clearly communicate your ideas so that you can move others to take action.

[Full Transcript]

Feeling like your ideas just aren’t connecting with your customers, prospects, or employees? In this hyper-busy, “7-second attention span” world we live in, it’s easy to get drowned out by all the noise.

Let’s explore how to expand your influence and clearly communicate your ideas so that you can move others to take action.

Defining Influence

Influence is the ability to drive change by aligning with people’s intrinsic motivations. The ability to influence others isn’t a single trait, but a collection of skills that come together in various ways depending on the situation. These skills include:

  • Selling
  • Negotiating
  • Active listening
  • Critical thinking
  • Empathy
  • Emotional flexibility

The key to mastering influence is to first get clear about what it isn’t. Unfortunately, the most visible examples of selling, negotiation, and other forms of influence tend to be from the worst of practitioners:

  • The salesperson who won’t shut up long enough for you to get a word in.
  • The political candidate who manipulates voters by playing to their fears.
  • The parent, manager, or corporate leader who imposes compliance through thinly-veiled threats.

Influence isn’t pushing people to do something, or hard-selling them, or exerting force or domination over others.

True influence is about serving. It’s a skill built by learning how to understand other people’s worlds, not just our own. And it’s about gently pulling and aligning with customers, employees, and collaborators, not aggressively pushing in order to get our own way.

Skillful communication is the driving force of influence. What we say, how we say it, when we say it, why we say it—as well as when to stop saying anything and focus 100% of our attention on what the other person has to say.

Why Influence and Communication Skills Are Critical For Entrepreneurs

Influence is a Catalyst

Businesses, services, and products don’t have any inherent value on their own. They’re just concepts. It’s how you communicate those concepts that creates value in other people’s minds.

For example, a website someone builds for their client is just data in a server farm and some pixels on a screen. What makes it valuable is the concept of “better website will improve brand recognition which will lead to more sales and higher revenue.”

The skillful communication of those types of benefits is what unlocks the value of your product or service.

Influence Inspires Better Thinking

Moving others to take action requires clear thinking and focused attention where it matters most.

Take your business’s positioning and marketing for example. The marketing message on your company’s home page doesn’t just say “I design websites” or “we prepare your taxes” or “need a recruiter?” and then just leaves it at that.

Your messaging—what you communicate about your product or service—has to align with the needs and wants of a specific group of potential customers. You need to be able to explain the problems you’ll be able to solve for them and how those solutions will positively impact their lives. And you need to be able to do it as concisely as possible.

Accomplishing that requires thinking about your business and your customers at a very deep level, and answering critical questions like:

  • What are my strengths? What am I really good at and love doing?
  • What are my weaknesses? What do I loathe doing, even if I might actually be good at it?
  • What problems does my business solve for customers?
  • Why am I choosing to solve these problems instead of others?
  • What types of customers do I want to serve?
  • What types of customers are not a good fit for my business?

These questions are just the starting point. By thinking deeply about what you want to communicate, you’re able to be much more intentional about what you say and why you say it, and make the most out of your abilities and resources.

Influence Improves Collaboration

Influence is the glue that holds companies together and makes creative collaboration possible. Think about all the different types of business relationships you have to navigate:


  • Employees
  • Contractors/freelancers
  • Service providers
  • Partners


  • Customers/clients
  • Prospects
  • Partners and collaborators

Whether you’re leading a team or closing a deal with a new customer, you need to be able to clearly communicate your vision and ideas—as well as be able to listen closely to other people’s visions and ideas.

What’s Blocking Us From Becoming Better Communicators

Each of us is a born influencer. Since you were a baby, you’ve had to figure out how to communicate well to get more of what you want, and less of what you don’t want.

As an infant, crying was your go-to communication strategy. But as you got older, you learned more nuanced ways of expressing yourself in order to influence others. And at each stage of your development, your ability to communicate evolved as your life became more complex.

That said, many of us (and I totally include myself in this) developed some less effective communication habits as well. We took on certain beliefs and assumptions about how to get our way, leading to behavior that actually reduces our influence. These include:

  • Talking when we should be listening.
  • “Knowing” all the answers instead of asking good questions.
  • Needing to be right instead of being curious and open to different perspectives.
  • Pushing and cajoling instead of guiding and leading.
  • Relying on facts and data to change people’s minds.
  • Trying to sound “smart” instead of expressing ourselves simply, clearly, and concisely.
  • Trying to change people’s minds instead of aligning with their intrinsic motivations.
  • Selling harder instead of focusing on serving better.

Buying into these beliefs prevents us from becoming better communicators. We assume that we’re already great at influencing others because we’re good at talking, or we know we’re right, or that we’re able to overwhelm other people’s arguments with facts and data.

But the truth is that all of these beliefs are exactly what’s holding us back. The harder we try to sell, the more resistance we create. Influence is never about boxing people into a corner with clever tricks, better facts, or more sophisticated-sounding jargon.

How to Turn Things Around

The good news is that all these habits and beliefs can be changed. Influence is all about aligning with what makes other people tick, and learning how to do that can be as easy as becoming just a little more self-aware.

We’ll dive into more details about communication and influence in future posts. But for now, I’d like to invite you to see which of the following statements best describe you. Being honest with your answers will help you identify any weak spots in your communication game, and highlight where to focus in order to improve your influence skills.

  1. I tend to do most of the talking during meetings or sales calls.
  2. Smart people typically know the right answer.
  3. Asking lots of questions makes you look dumb.
  4. I like being right.
  5. I’m not that curious about other people’s perspectives or opinions.
  6. You’ve got to be aggressive to have a seat at the table and get your point across.
  7. The person with the better facts and data will win the argument.
  8. I shouldn’t have to simplify my message when communicating with smart people.
  9. Changing people’s minds is the essence of influence.
  10. Selling harder is what separates winners from losers.

Do any of these ring true for you? If so, you’re definitely not alone. But just consider for a moment if these beliefs may actually be holding you back. If you’re willing to pause and question some of these assumptions, you may find that you’ve simply been holding many of these beliefs out of habit. They just happen to be how you’ve always approached communication, not who you are as a communicator.

By taking a closer look at these beliefs, you may find that you’re able to gain a new perspective—and then shift your approach in a way that significantly impacts your ability to influence others.

In the next post, we’ll explore how to design and build your business around your unique talents, strengths, interests, and goals, so that you have a clear and compelling vision to move toward.

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