Leadership coaching expert Lynn Scott, whose sector experience ranges from retail, food and drink to the NHS, recommends ten ways for senior executives to improve their influencing skills. Scott’s tips should be valuable for executives working at all levels of the life and health insurance industry, particularly as many in the sector argue that life insurance is ‘sold and not bought’.
1. Be interested more than ‘interesting’. ‘Receive’ more than you ‘transmit’. Listening is the most under-rated communication skill and yet the most powerful skill we possess if we want to influence other people. How to get better at it? Practise, practise, practise. There’s no magic bullet
2. It is said that emotion (and story-telling) drives many of the decisions we make. So however much ‘logic’ you might present, I might not be influenced. If you work on the first skill above, you’ll be much clearer on whether I’m being influenced by emotion or logic – or both!
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3. Do I want all the detail or just the headlines? Find out. Don’t assume! (One IFA I know took it upon himself to tell me everything I (didn’t) need to know about his products and services. He didn’t get my business.
4. Ask me questions. And REALLY listen to the answers. What’s important to me? What keeps me awake at night? What do I dream of? If I think you ‘get’ me, I’m much more likely to be persuaded. Understand my fears, hopes, challenges and opportunities. Then ask how you can help me.
5. Get feedback on your influencing skills. Keep it simple. ‘What can I do to improve my influence in the meeting/the presentation?’ and so on. We’ve all got blind spots and we can only improve if we know about them!
6. Look the part. Show your authority (without being authoritarian) and dress like you mean business (and that is contextual).
7. We can all learn to improve our gravitas. Think about the first impression you make when you walk into a room. Does it create the impression you want to create? Do you scuttle in like a frightened rabbit, avoid eye contact and shrink into your chair? Or do you march in, take over and dominate? Neither leads to positive influence.
8. Reciprocity works.
9. Forget ‘networking’. Build relationships instead.
10. People are influenced by people they know, like and trust. Are you that person?
Scott says: “You need to know yourself FIRST and do the work on yourself FIRST if you truly want to be able to build relationships and focus completely on your potential buyer. “
She adds: “I won’t buy you if you don’t listen, if you treat me as a number, if you interrupt me, if you don’t answer my questions, if you don’t find out what I need and if you don’t pay attention (I can see you trying to jump in with an answer before I’ve finished speaking).
“I don’t care how many smart-arsed questions you’ve got in your ‘toolkit’ if you haven’t got any self- awareness.”