How to influence when working remotely

Students Friends Meeting Discussion Studying Concept

We have a number of clients who are asking how influencing skills change when working remotely.  Often times it’s been connected to customer relationship management, or procurement, buyer / seller negotiations.  The topic however is useful for us all to consider in this new post covid world.  

To be clear here, I am not referring to online influencing of consumer behaviour as they visit your website.  In this blog I want to address the simple idea that I (as a person) want to influence you (as the other person) although we are working remotely in some way.  

First off, don’t drop everything you’ve learnt about influencing in the real world.  Those skills and insights still apply, you just have to be more focused when working remotely at influence.  Here are two questions that can help you make things happen remotely.  

What is it you want to achieve?

Be crystal clear about your desired outcome.  It is pointless trying to influence an outcome when you don’t know the intended destination.  It is even more pointless when remote working.  It will help to define your intent in emotional terms as well as in rational logic.  The numbers only tell a part of the story in influencing; you can present as strong a logical case as possible, but recipients will still need you to fill in the emotional story.  Work out what the emotional journey needs to be in the mind of the other person and craft a story line that gets you there.  For example, you are trying to influence the section of potential supplier B over A.  Then express why supplier B is the better option, not only in the numbers, but in their values, aligned culture, style, ways of working etc.  

How do I look on webcam?

This may seem a shallow question, but it is far from it.  We communicate and influence massively through visual cues, this includes: what my environment looks like; what I am wearing; my posture; my animation; my expression; my gesture; my micro movements (e.g. a raised eyebrow).

Think about it, these are all areas you have total control of when connecting with another person remotely.  If that’s the case, why leave any of it to chance?  Think about it, analysis how you look and work at fine tuning it.  One of the things I really encourage influencers to do is to spend a small amount on a good quality external cam.  You can totally change the perspective if you have the cam 1 to 2 metres in front of you rather than the typical ‘up your nose’ lap top perspective!  Anyone doing a lot of remote working needs to do this.  

We all influence all the time, it’s whether we are influencing for good or bad that matters.  If you charge in and don’t consider the impact of these two simple areas, you will still influence, but influence others not to come with you.  Remember most influencing (with the exception of coercive power) is incremental.  It seldom occurs in a single movement, instead it’s in the many little nudges that bring change and buy into to a view or position.  Plan those nudges carefully and you will start to reap the dividends of being increasingly influential.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain