The Oxford English Dictionary defines Influence as The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.
In the context of building your business, it’s a “no-brainer” that “influence” would be important, right?

If you actually have the capacity to affect the character, development or behavior of someone or something it would certainly be worthwhile to focus on creating and building more influence.

Then why aren’t you doing it? Why aren’t you more focused on creating influence? Why aren’t you more focused on building the relationships necessary to gain influence?

Influence as a marketing focal point is too often sidelined for less impactful tasks when it should be the center of your entire marketing effort.

You understand intellectually & emotionally how important it is to create new relationships and deepen existing ones, yet it’s not a strategic or even day-to-day priority in your business or marketing operations.

Can this fatal business disconnect be explained? And if it can, is there a way to ensure you never forsake relationship building and the never-ending effort to create influence again?

Let’s break it down.

1. Influence is hard. Do the work.
The short game is easy and the long game is hard…and influence is most definitely a long game. It’s human nature to seek instant gratification. But influence requires effort and patience and then more effort and more patience. There are no immediate returns.

In business, there’s often a wariness and weariness about how long things take. So we keep putting it off hoping there are faster, easier ways to achieve results. There aren’t.

A business relationship is just like a personal relationship; they’re rarely built overnight. It takes time to get to know another person, to believe there’s a genuine exchange of value to be had and to create trust. And with that value and trust, a long enduring relationship can be firmly established.

So in considering the long game and to ensure your abiding influence, ask yourself these questions:

–      What do I truly want to create? What’s my big idea? (Someone with an overarching mission is bound to be more compelling and hence more influential than someone without one.)
–      What is the problem that my client needs solved?

–      How can I best add value to garner genuine trust?
–      What must I do to continue nurturing a relationship that endures long after the sale?

The reality is that the sooner you start genuinely fostering more relationships the easier it will be to attract your ideal audience and grow your business.

2. Influence is a giving game. Not a getting game.
Think about it. Did the people that are most endearing to you start off your relationship by asking for something from you? Most likely not.

In fact, if you recall the most effective approaches you’ve made in your work and business, did aggressive sales maneuvers ever serve you best? Most likely not.

The strongest relationships start with giving. And that goes for a selling relationship too. If you’re really relevant to a buyer or client it’s most likely because there was value in the interaction between you well before working with you or buying from you.

By going the distance…by providing valuable tools, training, information and recommended solutions…all of which demonstrate you are truly interested in helping…you are setting up the field of play for a winning relationship.

And that’s influence.

3. Technology is not a substitute for influence. Do what has always worked.
We’re all easily seduced by bright and shiny new objects and often resort to the digital glitz of computer apps and social media to create an influence edge.

Be acutely aware though, adopting new technology and trends is not a panacea for attracting new clients. While these digital tools are very important, they’re not in and of themselves going to build key relationships.

As Productivity Expert Michael Hyatt says, “Technology is a great servant but a terrible master.”

When it comes to influence modalities that work, follow these steps:

–   Find the communication method (or technology) that works best for you…the thing or things that play to your strengths. This is especially important for new businesses that have to get clients fast. Add new avenues of communication over time but don’t abandon the tried and true.

–    Put your primary communication method into action. Actually, do it.

–      When you do it, make sure you’re communicating with a clear intention, clear messaging and offering clear value.

–      Technology is never a substitute for thoughtful human-to-human interaction, so whatever method you’re using, no matter how digitally advanced, you still have to imbue your messaging with emotion, sincerity, and authenticity. Whatever technology you’re using, even in something as short as a text or tweet or simple image, your communication has to have compelling human appeal.

–      After your initial contact, implement a system for staying in touch and be consistent with it. You never know when a decision point you may benefit from is going to be reached. And remember, relationships don’t thrive when they’re neglected or treated as a matter of convenience.

4. Influence is the ask. Not the tell.
Influence is challenging when we’re not sure how to create it.
We assume that we start persuading by providing a recitation of our features and benefits. Honestly though, nobody really cares about that. They care about getting their problem solved or desire met.
And the best way to determine their needs is to ask questions. Questions help us cut clear to the heart of the issue and help to build rapport.

So start with curiosity and create a list of 3 to 5 high-quality questions that help show you care. This is an effective way to identify their needs, determine if there is a solution you can provide, or if there is a better provider that you can refer the person to. Even if it’s not your sale, but you helped provide a solution by referring them elsewhere, you are still building influence. And people will remember this and be grateful for it.

5. Influence is the way forward. But it’s a path with no guarantees.
Influence takes time to cultivate but you have to embrace that it offers no guarantees. That’s right. Embracing effort with no guarantees. But wouldn’t you rather spend your time on high-impact initiatives that have the potential to lead to something big rather than on mundane tasks that take you nowhere?

Although there are no guarantees, if you’re thoughtful about how you reach out, and how you cultivate your relationships, it’s highly unlikely there will be no rewards.

The key here is to continually make the effort and take the time to really connect with your audience. Do that with a genuine desire to serve and you’ll be engaging in game-changing influence.