Back in 2015 when I ran a call center, my director of technology issued an ominous warning: “You know, hackers are using the same persuasion and influence skills we use to reach top decision makers to gain access to systems they shouldn’t have access to.” He added, “There are conferences where hackers compete to see who can use these skills to break into a target company the fastest and collect the most information.”
I found this news disturbing and still do. Imagine the very techniques and abilities we use to establish a working relationship with people to help them achieve what they want are being used to scam people out of what they currently have.
Using persuasion and influence techniques to swindle honest, hard-working, and unsuspecting people is nothing new. They have been used since humans learned how to communicate. And there are people still using them for nefarious purposes today.
But it’s not the tools and skills that are bad. It’s the intent of the people using them.
Persuasion and Influence Used for Selfish Interests Leads to Destruction
For example, take the case of Anna Sorokin, better known as Anna Delvey. She racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt living the high-society life from New York to Los Angeles. In some cases, she even persuaded other people to pay her bills. She did this by convincing people she was a rich heiress from Europe.
Or how about the case of Elizabeth Holmes who at the age of 19 created the company Theranos. Holmes was able to “sell” her dream to high-profile investors when she knew the tech didn’t exist. She is now awaiting sentencing for defrauding these investors out of millions of dollars.
Of course, you don’t have to have laser-sharp interpersonal skills to cause a lot of damage. Having poor communication skills, being short on empathy, and lacking persuasion and influence skills can be just as detrimental to both your company brand and your personal brand. You only have to look at the recent events at Better.com and how its CEO, Vishal Garg, handled laying off 900 people using Zoom.
Now, letting people go is nothing new. We’ve all had to deal with the effects of economic downturns over the past decade. But your character is revealed, and your credibility is built on how you handle these events. What do you think happened to the character and credibility of Vishal Garg and Better.com when those 900 people on that Zoom call were callously told that they were all part of the unlucky group of people being laid off?
Using Persuasion and Influence to Align Your Team
Using communication and interpersonal skills like persuasion and influence isn’t all bad. They are also used for the good of the organization or the community. When I wrote The Human Sales Factor, I had held countless consulting sessions with sales leaders and hundreds of hours training freshmen sales managers. And the single most recurring theme in all these sessions was that leaders wanted to know was how to lead their teams with character, compassion, and credibility through difficult situations. You only have to listen to my podcast, Against the Sales Odds, to hear how sales leaders like Mike Ondrejko, Chad Estis, and John Clark handled these tough times while earning the trust and respect of their teams and organizations.
The skills and abilities that we talk about in the book, The Human Sales Factor, are what helps leaders carry their teams through economic downturns, to motivate an organization to move forward through a pandemic, or even inspire a nation to stand tall in the face of extreme adversity.
During the two years of economic devastation brought on by the pandemic, sales leaders have been searching for alternatives that would help them overcome those challenges. Yes, technology like videoconferencing provided part of the solution. But as I keep reminding my people, technology isn’t a complete solution. It just amplifies who you are and what you have. If you are lousy at communicating your ideas, using a cell phone won’t change that. It just allows you to communicate poorly at great distances. If you are undiplomatic and have no empathy, using Zoom won’t fix that. It only lets you do more damage on a wider scale.
The Human Sales Factor as a Roadmap for Personal Leadership
No, the journey to mastering these skills starts with you. As I mentioned in The Human Sales Factor, “If you don’t master the process of connecting with others and influencing their behavior by looking within yourself first, then success will be fleeting.” It all starts with you, your integrity, your character, your credibility.
Apparently, the business community found some wisdom in my writings. The book reached number one on the Wall Street Journal’s best sellers list and the USA Today best sellers list. So, the ideas are hitting a nerve with leaders of the business community and in sales organizations.
In the press release, Mike Ondrejko, the President of Global Sales for Legends said, “The process that Lance shares in this book has been the driver of over $5 billion in acquisitions for new NFL stadium projects we have partnered on in Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.”
You can read the full press release here.
Ultimately, as we move further into this new business reality created by these political, social, and economic upheavals, we have to recognize that the old methods don’t work anymore. Salespeople and sales leaders must be more agile, flexible, and make the best use of the latest knowledge gained in behavioral science.
But the thing that’s going to determine your level of success is your personal leadership, credibility, and your ability to communicate in such a way to get people to want to follow you.
Going it alone will only get you so far. You need to be able to move people to action, and to do that you need their trust. Strengthen your skills to persuade and influence with credibility and integrity and you will be the kind of leader that everyone will follow.