The Three Core Elements of Influence


Fortunately for all of us, the pathway to influence is well established.  What we need to do to help our clients really “get it” has been researched and practiced for literally centuries.  Three elements of influence that Aristotle laid out thousands of years ago are still valid today.  We just need to understand how these three core elements apply to us.

Everything we will ever read on influence can be placed within this structure, so understanding these elements provides a framework for our efforts.

    1. Logos– The logical appeal.

For us analytic types, this is our strength.  Logos is about the numbers, the facts, and rational arguments.  The stronger our numbers and logic, the stronger we can make our case.

Unfortunately, it is not just about our data.  It’s not just about our insights.  It’s not just about us!

To illustrate, I did some consulting with a large international firm in Mexico.  Their in-house analysts were frustrated that their recommendations were not accepted.  When asked why, the analysts told me their internal clients relied on sales data and not market research data.  When the data conflicted, they always went with the sales data.

This story illustrates how we must be aware of other data within the organization.  Our data lives in an ecosystem of data.  We need to understand how our data fits with analytics, sales patterns, finance, etc.  If our data conflicts, we need to understand why.  If our data is inconsistent with other data, we run the risk of it not being believed and used.  If it’s consistent, we should point that out to gain credibility.

    1. Pathos – The power of emotional appeal

This is where us analytical types start getting squeamish. Most of us just want to stay out of the politics, networking, and all that self-promotion. Why can’t we just give them the facts? This is why…

We now have a ton of research proving that us humans decide on emotion and justify rationally. We know this from a consumer behavior standpoint. But guess what – the CEO, CMO, and Operating Committee are people too! That means they also decide based on emotion first. Ignoring this is relegating us analysts to data with no influence.

Fortunately we can overcome this by understanding how to present our data, to tell the story, to present in a way that creates interest and acceptance.

    1. Ethos– Influence through credibility and character

Put in modern terms, this is about establishing trust.  I believe this is the most important of the three points. This has to do with who we are, not our data, not how much we know,  or our good story-telling techniques.

Seth Godin has said,  “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust.  Then you can worry about the rest.”

Unfortunately, trust is more than just being dependable and delivering on time.  This is an inherently emotional concept.  I will talk more about this in future posts.

When we have a new client, our first task should not be to wow them with our technical expertise, but rather, to build trust.  With trust, our insights will be heard.  Without trust a large sample size, advanced methods, and a beautiful presentation will mean nothing.

Next Steps

There is a lot to unpack within each of these three elements.  We can spend a career improving on all three (and we should).  But there are also things we can do that will help us right now.

The next few posts will dig a little deeper into each of these elements.  I hope to provide some fundamental things to think about while also offering some suggestions for what we can do right now.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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