Opinion Column

Connecting better to influence better

By Larry Schruder, The Delfi Group

Larry Schruder

Larry Schruder

We are all in the business of selling - which we will define here as the art of influencing another person to change a behaviour, a belief, or a state of being.

We often think of sales as a business skill - the art of getting a customer or client to give us money in return for a product or service that we can provide. But almost all of us operating in non-business settings are also selling - working to influence people to do something different.

Parents with children, teachers with students, fund-raisers with their network, religious leaders with their congregations, managers with their employees, spouses with each other - these are all examples of where we individually work at influencing someone else. So back to our definition - we are all sales people - using most of the same sales principles in different situations.

Previous Delfi Columns have shared our thoughts on the sales process - and also on a personal assessment tool called Everything DiSC. Today we want to marry these two topics to help you connect better with others in such a way as to have greater success in influencing them to change.

There are two main dimensions where people can be fundamentally different. The first dimension is anchored at one end by sense of urgency or fast-paced and at the other by a sense of reflection and caution. The second dimension runs from skeptical and questioning at one end to trusting and accepting at the other. With a little practice, you can become quite proficient at recognizing where your other party is on these two dimensions.

When you put these two dimensions at right angles to one another you get a four-quadrant picture like the one here - and it enables a fairly simple description of four very common but different behavioral style preferences that exist in humans. These four distinct style preferences, often called Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness, form the basis of DiSC theory.

A person solid in the Dominance style is characterized by a powerful personal drive, strong will, a focus on results, a firm and forceful style, a track record of impatience, with a general attitude of Get it Done. Words like action, results and challenging or skeptical are often the best descriptors of how the Dominant style interacts with others.

As a potential buyer or target for influencing, 'Ds' usually appear assertive, results-oriented, fast-paced, openly skeptical, quick, decisive, impatient with small talk, but willing to take risks. They expect competency from an influencer, quick action, forward motion - with a strong preference for impact and results, and a distinct impatience with schmoozing and needless time wasted building personal relationships.

A person solid in the Influence style is characterized by a fast work-pace and high energy when it comes to tasks and getting things done. These people, with a general attitude of Get it Together have very strong positive feelings about interpersonal relationships and seen as encouraging, enthusiastic, passionate and high spirited, very outgoing, talkative and placing a high value on collaboration and teamwork.

As a potential buyer or target for influencing, 'Is' usually appear upbeat and enthusiastic, positive, fast-paced but friendly, relying on intuition or gut instinct, considerate of others, and enjoying small talk. They expect passion, enthusiasm and excitement, with an emphasis on key points and impact to help them reach their intuitive decisions. They have a distaste for lengthy analysis and excessive detail - but highly value friendly and trusting relationships.

People who are solid in the Steadiness style are soft spoken, tactful, accommodating, unassertive, and have a general attitude of Get Along. Although consistently strong performers, people with this style are seldom seen as comfortable shaking things up with daring ideas, or overly results-driven. They are seen more as humble, collaborative, a team player, patient, and somewhat hesitant to make decisions.

As a potential buyer or target for influencing, 'Ss' usually appear agreeable, attentive, calm, accommodating, cautious, and reluctant to quickly embrace change. They expect sincerity and a genuine caring approach from an influencer, to feel comfortable in your presence, a trusting relationship, someone who cares about their unique situation, someone who is dependable and will be there for them in the longer term.

Incumbents of the Conscientiousness style are more reserved and systematic in tackling a task, more analytical and precise as they work to Get it Right. Residents here are more quiet and private, less outgoing and talkative. They are cautious and skeptical about risk, appear more conventional than daring, and want to check their work over two or three times before being satisfied.

As a potential buyer or target for influencing, 'Cs' usually appear stoic, methodical, slow-paced, cautious about making a decision, and possessing a high interest in details with a strong desire to have things exact. They expect high quality products and services, dependability, freedom from surprises, commitment to deliverables and influencers who have high competency and expertise. The want discussions based upon analysis, data and evidence, and have little time for small talk or personal questions.

It is critical to understand that people differ in their relationship style and preferences. These differences definitely translate into how they like to be influenced - what personal interaction style will be more effective. By learning more about the styles of others - and that of yourself as the other party, you will be in a stronger position to make better connections with others - and achieve better results. Happy influencing.

Larry Schruder is president and co-owner of The Delfi Group, Pembroke and can be reached at larry.schruder@thedelfigroup.com