Foundation for Influence

After 10 years of my wife driving a series of minivans, I decided to get her a different vehicle. The kids were no longer little and my wife wanted something with a little more pizzazz. So I entered into the world that so many hate to enter—the world of car dealers. Since I travel around the world speaking to large sales organizations, I feel like I have a unique perspective on the sales process, specifi cally as it relates to infl uence and persuasion. I know that these salespeople have one goal: Infl uence me to buy their car. And they go through intense training to learn how to do it. The problem with most sales training is that it is techniquebased, and that alone doesn’t make a sale. Let me explain.

After all my online research and comparisons, I had narrowed the choice down to three kinds of SUVs. We fi gured that this will be the last big rig we buy before our kids are gone. After taking each one out for a drive through town and on the highway I narrowed it down to two finalists.

I continued my research by looking through owners’ reviews and the opinions of the consumer magazines; then I went back to the dealers a few more times to talk price and fi nancing. It was at this point that one of the sales managers made the fatal mistake of breaking the fundamental rule of infl uence—he lost his integrity. While trying to sell me on his SUV, he started bad-mouthing the other brand. Even worse, while discussing fi nancing, he told me that the average credit score for buyers at their dealership was an 830. I politely said, “You mean 630, right?”

“No, 830.”

“Well, 850 is perfect,” I said. “I don’t even know anyone with an 830.” He stuck to his guns.

From there it just got worse. He told me untruth after untruth. Finally I asked him for his absolute bottom price and told him I would make a decision the next day. He gave me a price and said, “I couldn’t give you another dollar off if I wanted to.”

I thanked him, told him I would make my decision the next day and let him know. As I got about halfway to my car, I heard him yelling behind me. “Hey, hey, hey!” I turned around and he approached me again. He took a look over both shoulders, I guess to make sure no one was listening. “I’ll tell ya what. If you buy the car right now, I can give you another $1,000 off.”

At that point I said something that set him back on his heels. “I can’t ever buy a car from you.”

“Why not?” he asked, shocked.

In a very quiet and calm voice I said, “You have no integrity.” He looked at me quizzically. He didn’t get it.

“Two minutes ago you told me you couldn’t go even one dollar less. Now I am halfway to my car and you drop it $1,000. I now know you are willing to lie to me. And if you are willing to lie to me, then I can’t trust you. And if I can’t trust you, I can’t trust your service department, your parts department, or your fi nancing department.” With that, I left and went to the competing dealership, where salespeople had been straightforward, had given me their best price and stuck with it. I bought an SUV from this dealer, and I told the salespeople it was their integrity that ultimately got them the deal.

You see, we have more sales training now than ever before and it is almost all based on persuasion techniques and human psychology. The salesman who lost my business was well dressed, knew his product, and made compelling reasons for buying his vehicle. But what we forget is that ultimately sales—and leadership for that matter—are based on infl uence and trust, and trust is based on recognized integrity. In my speeches and in my new book, The Art of Infl uence, I talk about what integrity really means. Integrity shares the same root word as the math term integer. The root means “whole.” To have integrity means to be whole, complete, undivided. In other words, it means: Don’t tell the truth sometimes and lie other times; don’t treat some people one way and other people another way. Anytime you do, you divide yourself, break your wholeness and, by the very defi nition, lose your integrity.

The problem we have when we do this is that other people make decisions about our trustworthiness at both the conscious and subconscious levels. Blatant and egregious acts that compromise our integrity are recognized at the conscious levels for sure, but even subtle breaks in our integrity register with others and affect our ability to infl uence them.

So how do we make sure we always act with integrity and thus keep our infl uence high? Here are some thoughts:

1. Always tell the truth. This may seem like kindergarten-level advice, but the fact is that a huge percentage of adults are comfortable with lying in many ways. From the “little white lie” to major lies to keep ourselves from getting in trouble, lying has become a way of life for too many adults. I believe it is why we have so little trust in business anymore.

2. When you make a mistake, recognize it and correct it. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. The people who buy from us and follow us do not expect us to be perfect. They know that we will make mistakes from time to time. When we do, admit it. As Nixon and other politicians and leaders have found out the hard way, it isn’t the mistake that gets you; it’s the cover-up.

3. Adhere to a strong moral code. People who are honest and ethical and live by good morals make more money and build bigger businesses. Sure, you can cut corners for a while and make money, but in the long run, if the people in your community know that you are honest and reputable and stand by your products and services with integrity, you will build a much bigger business.

4. Focus more on who you are than what you do. What you do is important, but what we do ultimately emanates from who we are. Spend more time on building your character than you do your skills. You will be much more successful in the long run if your skills are high and your character is even higher.

You never know how your integrity, or lack of it, will affect your business. I have told countless people about the lack of integrity at one local dealership and the integrity of another. When people ask how we like my wife’s new car, we always tell them not just about the car, but about the dealership and their integrity. In both the short and the long run, that story will bring them more and more business. Make integrity the foundation of your infl uence and your business will boom as well.


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