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Business Instructor, Dr. John Daly, Offers Techniques to Influence Others, Sell Ideas

Dr. John DalyDr. John Daly — the Liddell Professor of Communication in the Moody College of Communication, Regents Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Texas Commerce Bancshares Professor in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin— instructed the 2019 AFT Spring Summit gathering, in Tucson, Ariz., on influencing others and selling ideas.

Daly presented his model of influence that comprises the need to create a plan, answer the “why now?” question, and provide the potential impact if people don’t adopt. “What happens if we don’t adopt? People fear regret more than losing an opportunity.”

A great influencer, Daly indicated, also comes from responding to the WIIFT (what’s in it for them) question; and overcoming self-doubt. “Stop negotiating with yourself in secrecy,” Daly said. “The single biggest mistake we make is we literally talk ourselves out of opportunities.”

Daly suggested lives revolve around stories. “We think narratively.” People learn many of their values via stories, as well as creating and sharing through stories. “Stories are an especially effective way of communicating your ideas.” That is because people get the message when others tell stories. Communicating and selling ideas and products likewise involves utilizing a vividness bias, where people take advantage and emphasize what is the most available information.

Daly provided keys for effective story narration:

  • Have a point: what do you want your listener to feel, and remember from your story?
  • Telling the story quickly.
  • People need to sense you care about it, make it personal.
  • Interesting: arouse curiosity, suspense, unexpected, thematic complexity (the degree to which multiple interpretations lie below the surface).
  • Include familiarity and relevance. Others need to grasp ideas and feelings.
  • Vivid delivery with details that matter, but not too many; identify with characters.
  • Validate basic values — the emotions and lessons need to be true, even if the story is fiction.

Daly also shed light on a huge challenge facing many behavioral economists. “Every model they work with assumed rationality, but we now know something. People are not rational, are they? But perhaps they're consistently irrational.”

Almost every organization utilizes “God terms,” also known as power words, especially by sales people, that often appeal to basic needs. Six Sigma and “customer focus” are some recent popular God terms followed in an almost cult-like manner by many businesses. In financial services industry phrases such as disruptor, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning appear frequently.

Those God terms might also present a barrier toward influencing or selling ideas. “So, here's the question. How do you fight a God term?” Daly asked. Sometimes the influence over others needs helping along, or in Daly’s vernacular, nudging. This incorporates creating a setting or events that make people engage in different behaviors without feeling forced. “We're temping them before they’ve made a decision,” Daly suggested.

Contributing to the selling of one’s ideas is having a leader that will “advocate for your ideas to get the buy in for your ideas…to simply be persuasive.” Daly recommended the first step is always creating a need. “The secret of change is very simple; no pain, no gain.”

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