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The Potential to Influence

It was 10 years ago when Stacey Hanke learned that how you say something can be as important as what you are saying.

While making the first sales call after starting her business, she was debating if she should follow through and take the elevator up to the offices of the “…enormous advertising firm” she would be courting. After she convinced herself to make the presentation, she started developing a game plan.

“I focused on two points I wanted to clearly state,” Hanke says. “Sitting across the desk from the individual that would predict my company’s future, I asked open-ended questions to encourage her to do most of the talking as I listened to what was important to her. I shared with her very succinctly in bullet points how my services would provide value to her, the firm’s teams and the firm’s profit. I learned a powerful lesson that day: less is more. Learn to speak less and listen more.”

Hanke says that a decade after that meeting, the current hectic business environment makes a message’s delivery that much more critical to convince an audience to act.

“In today’s world of emails, text messages, Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy to overlook the importance of face-to-face communication and the skills it requires to do it well,” she says. “Whether you’re influencing through a presentation, a meeting, virtually or a face-to-face conversation, how you deliver determines whether or not others see you as credible, knowledgeable and trustworthy. Without doing this effectively, you inhibit your maximum potential to influence, increase profits and grow membership.”

According to Hanke, the most common communication mistakes many business professionals make involve not having an accurate picture of our communication skills (“Most individuals believe they are better communicators than they really are.”), mistaking delivering a message with getting the point across (“…we assume if we communicate a message, we are heard, understood and we have influence.”) and thinking that knowing the material and having confidence is enough (“Don't let feeling be your guide. Just because you ‘feel good’ doesn’t guarantee you are perceived confident and influential.”).

For meeting professionals, Hanke offers these three tips for developing the skills to influence others.

  • Constantly focus on verbal skills. “If [meeting professionals] are trying to avoid non-words and filler words, during a conversation write the word “PAUSE” on a Post-it note and place it in front of them. This will be a friendly reminder during their conversation to replace the non-word or fill word with a pause.”
  • Know how you look and sound. “Have them video and audio tape themselves to hear and see what their listeners hear and see rather than what they believe to be true. Until individuals view themselves on a playback, it is nearly impossible to develop to the next level of influence.”
  • Partner up. “Identify an accountability partner who they can share the action steps they commit to enhance their verbal skills every day. The accountability partner is also someone who they can rely on to give them constructive feedback on what is and is not working about their communication. Feedback that sounds like ‘good’ or ‘nice job’ is not feedback.”

Learning to effectively communicate ideas can not only help develop influence, but could also have important, long-lasting effects. For example, that client Hanke almost didn’t see on her first sales call?

“Ten years later they are still one of my largest clients I partner with.”

Stacey Hanke will be presenting her keynote presentation, “Speak to be Heard,” on October 14, from 9-10 a.m., as part of Smart Monday, powered by MPI at IMEX America in Las Vegas.