Applying the Principles of Influence with InfluencePeople’s Brian Ahearn
Persuasion is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and perfected.
Brian Ahearn is the Founder and CEO of InfluencePeople.
Brian Ahearn believes in Aristotle's principle of persuasion. Whether you want someone to buy from you, your boss to approve your project, get a promotion, or just get your kids to do their homework, persuasion is the skill that can help you achieve those goals and more.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, where I'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
Right, with us right now we've got Brian Ahearn. Brian, you are the Founder and CEO of influence people dot biz, and you're the author of the book Influence People. Welcome to the program.
Thank you for having me on. Josh. I've been looking forward to it.
Well, Brian, this is a subject. As you can imagine, this is a subject I really geek out on like, I I don't think that people and here's my opinion. I don't think that Can over invest in this topic. I think it is so critical today. I think that we've never been in an economy where consumers and everybody's a consumer doesn't matter who you're marketing or reaching out to. I don't think we've ever lived in a time where people are more fickle, more protective of their attention, then we live in right now. And so the message that you share, I just want to make sure that if someone's just gonna casually listen to this podcast, I want to make sure you we have your full attention, because I think what we're going to talk about cannot be overstated. It's so critical today. Here's the biggest softball in the world would you agree?
Absolutely. I often share a quote
that comes from a man named William C. Taylor and in your field you You may remember this Josh, he had a quote in an article called permission Marketing for the magazine Fast Company and he said this year the average consumer will see or hear a million marketing messages. That's about 3000 a day. Now when I share that, and I ask audiences, how many of you have ever heard that? Almost no hands go up. And then I say, it doesn't surprise me because the quotes from 1998 back in 1998, over 20 years ago, they estimated that you and I, and everybody else was being bombarded with 3000 messages a day. And the latest stat that I saw is it's estimated to be about 5000. So there's no way a human being can can focus on that many messages. So understanding how to be clear how to tap into the how people think at the subconscious level is to use your word critically.
Yeah, you know, American Marketing Association, I know is done some work on that and it is it's thousands of marketing messages a day so So Brian, if that is just the way that it is. I mean, these are the facts and so It's, you know, we can hope and wish that our clients or our potential customers would see our solutions or our products and services like we do. The fact is that they don't, because there's way too many other things competing for their attention. So knowing that we live in this world, and what you know, how I refer to it is, you know, the world we live in is a swipe left swipe right world, and that is is that people are just continually swiping left on marketing messages until there's something that stands out. And so Brian, how, how do we stand out in such a noisy world?
And you've mentioned Robert Cialdini, and a lot of folks are going to be familiar with his work on Can you kind of talk about your relationship with with Robert?
Sure. I actually came across Robert Cialdini because a co worker gave me a video when he presented at Stanford back in, I don't know 2001 or 2002. And I was intrigued because I was involved in sales training. So I thought what he's talking about is the underpinnings of sales training. I appreciate shaded his view or his stance on scientific research, not anecdote to make decisions, but most of all his stance on ethics, he was very clear about non manipulative ways. Now the interesting thing is when I signed up for Stanford's marketing, and one day I got one of their marketing pieces and it had his picture and bold letters, it said, best seller, call it influence, persuasion, or even manipulation right in the headline. And I couldn't let that go unaddressed. So I emailed Stanford and basically said this, Josh, I don't know anybody who wants to be known as a good manipulator. And I certainly don't know anybody who wants to be manipulated. That word cannot be helping your sales, but it really could be hurting. I never heard from Stanford. But one day my phone rang at work and it was Robert Cialdini, his office calling me they said he emailed to Stanford and because of that, they're changing the marketing of all of our materials. And that was how my relationship with him started. Wow.
Yeah. So give me the basic premise of your book Influence People. And so by the way, in this book is available on Amazon, you can obviously go to influence people dot biz, and you can access this as well.
Yep. And hopefully my audio recording will be out in January last week I recorded that. Now we're in the editing stages. The premise of the book is this that there are many people who hear Robert Cialdini speak, they may read his book, some people might find this book too technical, because it goes deep into research. What I have found and having taught this now for more than a dozen years is quite often people are fascinated by the research, but they still fall short in how they can actually implement it. And I am not a behavioral economist or a social psychologist. I love that stuff. And I enjoy reading about it learning and teaching it but my my niche is to help people understand how to put that into practice. And so my book is is full of the practical application stories where companies did things well where they did think The wrong way, how to use it in your social media, but very short, practical chapters on how to apply the what we call principles of influence.
And so, let's say that someone is, you know, they they're kind of working on, they want to improve their website, they want to improve their branding, their messaging, I mean, what would be some of the first foundational things that they should like if they're doing a an audit of their own branding and messaging? What would be some things that they probably want to be looking out for in the year 2020 and beyond?
Okay, I think if somebody is going to be looking at you and others, and trying to make a decision as to where they want to do business, there are three things that really come into play immediately. One is social proof, or other people doing business with this organization. If lots of people are, that's usually a good indicator that it's probably a good thing to do that you can trust that organization The other is authority. Is this organization or individual really an expert? Do they bring something to the table that I probably do not get apart from interacting with an expert? And then the third thing would be scarcity is are they offering something that is unique and different that I can't get elsewhere? And quite often with products, there may not be one thing that unique it may end up being the combination of things. And so can I position my offering in a way that says this is unique? And I will give you an example for myself? My part of my uniquenesses Robert Cialdini, only certified 20 people in the world to do teaching on his behalf. I can narrow that further to say I'm the only person who is in the insurance space. I spent over three decades in that industry. There's a company cannot go hire somebody to do what I do, because there's nobody else who's doing what I what I do. So there is part of my uniqueness but also the expertise in my association with Robert Cialdini. Meaning my years of doing work. So I would say those are the three keys that somebody is going to want to start focusing on right off the bat.
Now, how about when it comes to someone who does a lot of retail sales? Like they're there, they have a lot of calls, they're just calling on potential clients, and how important is it? If someone is, is reaching out, they're doing their lead gen. And they hope to get people on a call, how important and what some, what are some things that we should do, just in terms of, you know, kind of doing our pre-suasion as it were to kind of warm up a client so that they enter that call, not with an attitude of like, all right, what are you going to sell me to one where they coming in with a little bit more trust?
Okay. Well, we when we deal with people and we talk about principle of authority, principle of authority says that we look to those with superior wisdom or expertise, you know, part of that is there, there's a credibility factor. You've got to know your stuff, you but if you also don't have trust, then you're not going to be viewed as somebody that they want to do business with. I mean, just think of Bernie Madoff, right. He knows more about investing than you, and I do. But nobody would trust him with the money. And then there's other people that we trust implicitly, like our loved ones, but we might not go to them for financial advice, you've got to have both of those. And in much the same way that we talked about the website, if somebody is going to take your call, they need to have some understanding that other people are doing business with you. They don't want to roll the dice and be the first customer. They need to know too, that you really do know your stuff. They're not as likely to take the phone call from somebody who's a brand new rep versus somebody who might have been doing it for 5, 10, 15 years. And then thirdly, and this one I think becomes really important is the scarcity. Are you offering something that is different enough that it piques my interest? And if you aren't, well, then there's Plenty of people that I can turn to. So why do I want to do business with you, you're just a dime a dozen. So you've got to be able to, in your communication, make those three things stand out. So somebody is willing to take that call. And then during that call, you've got to be able to reinforce that. And then the rest of it depends on how long your sales cycle is. I mean, for some people, they're trying to make the sale right there on the phone. For others, that first phone call is only can we get together in person so that we can talk in much greater detail. So it'll depend on that sales cycle. But But those are three absolutely have to have.
Well, and I know you have a lot of background in the insurance industry, and I know one complaint that I'll hear commonly is that gosh, it just takes so long to close people and I wish it didn't. Any tips for shortening sales cycles.
Well, I think when I talked to insurance agents, and that has been the niche market that I worked primarily with, especially when I was with the insurance company. I always tell them You know, while you want to increase sales, the biggest focus that you need to have is the protection of that customer. If you if you position everything right, the sales ultimately come. And so we like to talk about informing people along the way into Yes, by bringing up things that maybe their current agent isn't talking about, in a way that makes somebody say, you know what, I've been buying insurance for 10 2030 years, and I never knew, because that that agent is educating them across the board. I think the other thing too, for people in sales, and again, I'll use an insurance agent, as an example, is to very clearly set the rules up front in sales, we may call it the upfront close. But I want to say, you know, Josh, tell me exactly what you are looking for in terms of your product or in terms of insurance purchase, because if I can't do that, I'm going to remove myself from this and it's going to just save you time, it'll save me time. But if I can do these things, I need to know that You're serious about making this move. And so setting those rules up front can save a salesperson and in particular insurance, a tremendous amount of time. Because there's frankly, there's a lot of people who will go out. And every two years get quotes from three different insurance agents or carriers just to keep their current agent honest. Well, that becomes an exercise in futility. For a lot of people when you're a lot of salespeople when individuals are doing that you need to be able to sniff that out and become much more focused with your time.
Yeah. And obviously, social media is a very powerful tool that we can use in business and in kind of engaging and building our relationship with our audience. What are some of your best practices that you'd recommend again in the year 2020 and beyond,
okay, LinkedIn for most people, that is going to be the social media avenue of choice when you're in business. I mean, certainly You can generate some business through Facebook and, and Twitter, but the professionals rock aggregating and your customers are probably aggregating around LinkedIn. So whenever I reach out to somebody on LinkedIn, I personalize the message. I want to make sure that there's a reason I never ever ever send the I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn. Yeah, terrible. Yeah, they've dumbed it down and made it to made it too easy. So I will have a personal message now to ensure somebody reads it because frankly, there's a lot of people who will see the request and just hit Connect, and not read it. I will always follow up afterwards and say, Josh, thanks for connecting. Because that gets them to look at that message. And they read the prior message like, Oh, that's why he reached out, that almost always gets conversation going. Now on the other side, if somebody reaches out to me, I don't hold them to the standard that I have, because I don't know how well versed they are in LinkedIn. But if they reach out to me and they don't put a message, I will always put a message back that says, hey, Josh, thanks for reaching out to connect. I'm curious how did you find me now? What I get most of the time is people are saying, Oh, I just took your course on LinkedIn. That's potential customer for me. And if I held an attitude that I'm not going to connect with you, because I don't know you and you didn't send a message, shame on me, because I'm turning away potential customers.
Yeah. Yeah. I really love that. What has a speaking of LinkedIn specifically? You know, that's how we are doing, I'd say, of our new relationships. I'd say right now, it's like 85 90% of our new business relationships come through LinkedIn. It's, you know, if you are in the b2b world, I just don't think there's anything that comes close right now that I know of. How, how valuable has LinkedIn been to you?
incredibly valuable. In fact, I'm heading down to Miami on Saturday to do a second and then ultimately a third workshop for a company that found me through LinkedIn. And so when the individual called and we began this conversation, I said, How How did you come across and he said, I was familiar with child Dinis work. And I knew we needed to bring this into our organization. And I had one of my associates go out and just start doing a search on Cialdini, your profile came up and it was perfect for what we're doing. It was that marriage of sales and, and psychology. So I mean, that's gonna, it's a huge contract for me. And it's going to be, I think, a long term relationship, all because I worked really hard on my LinkedIn profile to make it stand out.
So Brian, when you obviously you've been in the insurance industry for decades, and at some point, you made the decision to kind of maybe I don't know if you're still associated with your insurance company that you were working with previously, but you went independent. And so what was that transition like and how are you because there's a lot of people that like, Listen, I really love teaching on this subject. You know, how can I grow my authority and or visibility and how can they land more speaking engagements, you know, how can I really grow my independent brand? What was your what were your secrets?
Well, when I came across this material, I was just fascinated by it. And one day I was talking to a friend and he said, Boy, this is really interesting. You should start a blog. And this goes back to I think, 2009 or 2008. I'm like, what's a blog? And I went out, and I looked and clicked on a blogger, and I started blogging. And it was at that point when I started to realize this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. And I don't know when the jumping off point will be from the insurance company, but I know I'd have to build the foundation now. So over the course of time, I was doing some work outside of insurance, but I was primarily honing my skills with sales people within the insurance space. I was working on my ability to speak in front of organizations because I can speak at the company. So I really looked at it as I am now laying the foundation for whenever that right Time is, and I didn't have a specific date. But all of a sudden last year, late last year, I made the decision that now was the right time. I already had the website I had built out the LinkedIn profile. I had the street cred with people well outside of the insurance company and I am so thankful Josh that I did that because even with all of that in place, I've been amazed at how much work it is I when somebody will say like, Oh, you retired I'm like, No, I work more days, longer hours than I ever have. But I will say this I love it because it's self directed. It's what I love doing and I get to choose where I'm going to place my time. Yeah,
excellent. Well Brian, Ahearn, you're the Founder and CEO of InfluencePeople on the web at influence people dot biz, and you are the author of the best selling Amazon book, Influence People: Powerful, Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. Brian, thank you so much for joining. So it's my pleasure, Josh, thank you for having me on.
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