The Science of influence – pt. 2

Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 in Business Partnering | No Comments

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In the last blog I was talking about how people with influence have traits and skills that can be learned. Therefore everyone has the potential to gain more influence in the workplace.

I focused on the work of Robert Cialdini who has done much of the recent research in the area and related his work to the world of finance.

I would be interested to here whether you have had any success in applying the techniques discussed.

As there was a lot to take on board I decided to split the blog into two sections and this time I am going to look at how we can show influence can also be achieved through:

  • Social proof
  • Liking
  • Authority

Social proof

Social proof is based on the principle that one reason people use to decide what to believe and how to act is to look at what other people are doing or believing. (E.g. McDonalds – Billions served). It is particularly influential in conditions of uncertainty and when people are unsure of what to do and then follow the actions of others believing them to be correct. People are more inclined to follow the lead of similar others (e.g. kids and their desire to fit in to the social norm)

A good example of this was demonstrated by a TV shopping channel which reframed their message to customers from “operators are waiting for your call” which could create a picture in peoples minds of a huge call center with lots of operators waiting by silent phones, to a message which said “if our operators are busy can you please try again”. This message created an image that everyone else was calling and therefore I better call up too and led to a massive increase in call up rate. Again a great example of it is not what you say but how you frame it!

In the world of finance we could create a newsletter that mentions how division X has benefited from some great suggestions from the current finance team working much more closely with them. This will deliver an underlying message to people in the organization that maybe your area might be able to similarly benefit if they engaged more with finance too!


This is based on the principle that people are likely to say yes to people who they know or like.

People tend to like people who are like them and sales people for years have looked for clues from their customers to try and find out their interests and then include it in a conversation. E.g. the car salesman when looking at a car of a customer who is now in the show room may have noticed some golf clubs in the boot and then slip into the later conversation something about golf thus making the customer like the salesman more

The liking principle is the whole foundation of the success of house selling companies like Tupperware where people will go even if they don’t need any more plastic boxes because it is for their friend. As a finance person with influence it might therefore be beneficial to try and find some common ground with your stakeholders e.g. where they live, what team they support, where there kids go to school etc. before you engage with them.

At the very least you should know the persons name and something about them. I am quite loyal to a hotel in Malaysia as every time I go there they say welcome back Mr. Purcell – it makes me feel loved even though the cynic in me knows they have a scan of my passport from a previous stay and they could predict what time I was arriving as I was flying in from London – despite all that I still choose them over other hotels

A successful CFO I knew used to make sure he memorized the names of all his teams spouses so he could greet them personally by name at the annual company conference when spouses were invited. No surprise that he was highly influential and successful in the organization


This principle is based on the principle that we are psychologically programmed to comply with requests from an authority figure.

This is the reason that professionals from finance, medicine and law will normally hang their certificates on their office walls. It explains why Frank Abagnale immortalized in the film “Catch me if you can” was so successful in committing cheque fraud dressed as a fake pilot.

As someone in  finance it is important for you to emphasize that as an expert in all things financial you are there to help.

Another strange outcome of the principle of authority is that people who take responsibility for their failures and say what they have learned from them have much more respect than those that blame external factors outside of their control. This is also reflected in corporate reporting where research has proven that organizations which take the blame for poor outcomes in their annual reports have higher stock prices a year later than those companies that don’t take the blame and blame the economy or the weather

If you are interested in learning from other peoples experiences in this area there is a linkedin group with members who are similar to you and you may want to join and maybe even share some of your stories of success with our linked-in group.

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