About Brian Ahearn: Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CPT, CMCT, is a founder of Influence People, a company where they believe that Ethical Influence is the Secret to Your Professional Success and Personal Happiness. Brian is one of only a dozen individuals in the world who currently holds the Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT) designation and one of just a handful to have earned the Cialdini Pre-suasion Trainer (CPT) designation. He is also a faculty member of the prestigious Cialdini Institute. Brian’s passion is to help you achieve greater professional success and enjoy more personal happiness. He teaches you how to ethically move others to action using the science of influence. A cum laude graduate of Miami University, Brian has been in the business arena for more than 35 years and training people for over two decades. In addition to his influence, sales, and leadership work, Brian has been a business coach to regional vice presidents, sales managers, field sales reps, and wealth advisors. Check out the latest episode of our Conversational Selling podcast to learn more about Brian.
In this episode, Nancy and Brian discuss the following:
- The concept of ethical influence
- Why ethical influence is critical for success and happiness
- Revealing the secret of ethical influence
- The uniqueness of Cialdini certification
- What differs Cialdini Training from other training organizations
- The principle of liking as a foundation of success
- Leaders aren’t going to have success if their followers don’t say Yes to the initiative.
- Scarcity is one of the things that draws people to want to engage or make decisions.
- Persuasion is about setting up the moment so that it’s easier when you attempt to persuade somebody.
- We’re learning machines, and we can be proactive about it or reactive to it, but our brains are always pulling in information and assimilating it, so we’re learning.
“ People can get influence and manipulation mixed up. And it happens quite often where somebody, you’ll talk about influence, and they’ll say, oh, it’s just manipulation. And I think there’s a big difference between ethically influencing people into decisions that are good for them. And it may also be good for you versus just getting somebody to do something because it benefits you. So, I love it when people throw up the objection that it’s manipulation because it’s so easy to answer that and educate people at the same time.” – BRIAN.
“Well, one of the things that we talk about is that everything we do is based on research. This isn’t “Hey, Nancy, this worked for me; maybe it’ll work for you.” If it worked for me, I will tell you psychologically why and support it with the principles of persuasion. So, everything that we do is based on research. The heavy emphasis is on the ethical part. And then the third thing that we try to bring forth is practical application. When talking to an audience, I always share a little bit of research to get people excited about how this could be powerful. Okay, here’s a practical way to apply it. And I want people to leave, for example, if I do a keynote, to have at least half a dozen ideas they can start doing today to become more influential.” – BRIAN.
“I would encourage everybody to start with that principle of liking because in addition to being more successful at work, think about how much better society would be, Nancy. Everybody had this mindset: I want to get to know and like you. I will look for the things we have in common: positive qualities; I will compliment you when I see the positive; I will temper myself if I see something negative and have a constructive conversation. But the world would be such a better place if people had that mindset. So that’s what I would encourage your listeners to do today. After you hear this, the next person you look at, ask yourself, what can I do to come to know and like them more?” – BRIAN.
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Voiceover: You’re listening to The Conversational Selling Podcast with Nancy Calabrese.
Nancy Calabrese: Hi everyone, it’s Nancy Calabrese and it’s time again for Conversational Selling, the podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today. And it always starts with human conversation. Today we’re speaking with Brian Ahern, the Chief Influence Officer at Influence People, an international speaker, and consultant. He specializes in applying the science of influence in everyday business situations. Brian is one of only a dozen individuals in the world who currently holds the Cialdini Method Certified Trainer designation and one of just a handful to have earned the Cialdini Persuasion Trainer designation. His passion is to help people achieve greater professional success and enjoy more personal happiness. And he teaches how to ethically move others into action using the science of influence. Welcome to the show, Brian.
Brian Ahearn: Thank you for having me on, Nancy. It’s been a little while since we’ve been able to get this recorded, but good things come to those who wait. [1:23]
Nancy Calabrese: That’s right, here we are. So, the word influence is an interesting word, and I love how you talk about how to ethically influence. What do you mean by that?
Brian Ahearn: People can get influence and manipulation mixed up. And it happens quite often where somebody, you’ll talk about influence and they’ll say, oh, it’s just manipulation. And I think there’s a big difference between ethically influencing people into decisions that are good for them. And it may be good for you as well, versus just getting somebody to do something because it benefits you. So, I love it when people throw up the objection that it’s manipulation because it’s so easy to answer that and educate people at the same time. [2:09]
Nancy Calabrese: Yeah, so you state that ethical influence is critical for success and happiness. Why is that?
Brian Ahearn: Well, whenever I speak to an audience, almost the first thing I will ask is by a show of hands, how many of you would agree that much of your professional success and personal happiness depends on getting people to say yes? And inevitably every hand goes up because, for example, salespeople, they know that they’re not going to close a deal unless they hear yes. Leaders aren’t going to have success if their followers don’t say yes to the initiative. And even those who are at the top of organizations. It doesn’t matter how good the mission, vision, and values are if you can’t get people to say yes and execute. So, everybody gets it on the business side. But then when you start talking about going home, do you have a spouse, significant other, or kids? And isn’t life a lot more peaceful and happier when they more willingly say yes to you? That’s where everybody gets it. This is a 24/7, 365 skill. [3:11]
Nancy Calabrese: Huh. And so, give me an example of ethical influence.
Brian Ahearn: Well, I’ll give you one to start with on a personal level. My daughter, who is now 27 and married, but when she was a teenager, turning into a young woman, two-hour showers, boys, all those things, the last thing she wants to do on a hot summer day is help dear old dad by cutting the grass. But I traveled a lot, and I needed help. Now, I knew Nancy that I could offer her a reward. In other words, I could say, Abigail, I will give you a raise in your allowance if you cut the grass when I want you to. Well, now she can negotiate with me, and she might have said, no thanks, Dad, I don’t like money that much or how much? And she might have negotiated me up. And I wasn’t asking her to do this every week. And the worst thing I could have done was to say, fine, now you’re going to do it because I’m your dad. And I said so. That was not the kind of relationship I wanted with her. So rather than do that, I engaged in reciprocity. That natural feeling of obligation to give back to people who first gave to us. And what I did was, I just said, we were in the car one day and I said, Abigail, I’m going to give you a raise in your allowance and dollars a week. And she said, wow, thank you so much. Do you know why? And, and I shared with her things I was genuinely proud of. But Nancy, I also knew this when the time came when I needed her help, she would be more willing. And so, it was only a few weeks later when I was getting ready to travel and I said, Hey Abigail, I’m going to go out of town. Would you mind cutting the grass? And I could see she was ready to protest a little bit, but I just said, hey, time out just gave you a raise on your allowance. Can you help me out? And she paused for a moment, and she said, okay. And she never resisted after that because she understood Dad does nice things for me, and I should do nice things in return for Dad. And that was ethically engaging, right? She was getting a $ 10-a-week raise every week, even when she didn’t have to cut the grass, I was getting the help that I needed. We were both better off and we avoided so much friction that can come with the teenage years. [5:11]
Nancy Calabrese: Wow, that’s an awesome example. But why is the ethical influence such a secret?
Brian Ahearn: I think people get too focused on what they want rather than, okay, sure, especially salespeople, right? Salespeople want to make a sale. But an apparent wants their kids to do things, but you must think about, okay, what’s in it for them to, how can I make this in the language of Cubby Cubby, Stephen Cubby, a win-win? I like to put it this way I think that one of the components of being an ethical influencer is to create situations that are mutually beneficial so that if I can say, you know what, Nancy, it looks like it’s good for you and it’s good for me, that means we’re good to go. We’re both getting something out of this. And so, I think most people don’t think about how the other person can benefit from this because that begins to change how you interact with people when you’re looking to genuinely help others. [6:07]
Nancy Calabrese: Right. Yeah, wow. Let’s talk about Cialdini. And believe it or not, I just recently heard of him. So, it’s interesting that you’re a certified trainer and a persuasion trainer. Talk about the certification and why only a few people in the world hold that.
Brian Ahearn: Well, he practices what he preaches. So, scarcity is one of the things that draws people to want to engage or make decisions. And so, when there’s only a dozen around the world, and then only five that are certified for the pre-suasion, it adds value to people like me because what I offer people can’t get, excuse me, from other places had to, excuse me, had to wet my whistle there. But people, when people realize like, for me having spent time in the insurance industry, nobody else in the insurance industry is certified to do what I do. So, they can’t get the kind of training I offer with an emphasis on insurance. So, he practices what he preaches there. They have recently though formed something called the Cialdini Institute. They formed this because as Dr. Cialdini gets older, none of us lives forever, and he’s looking at what will my legacy be. And wanting to have an even greater reach than he already had. His books have sold seven or eight million copies, but he would like the word for ethical influence to be given to everybody. And so, they formed this, the Cialdini Institute and it has him online teaching his own very words on how you engage these principles and scope. That’s shifting things a little bit, but still, a differentiator for me is I’m one of only a dozen that can like walk into an organization and do in-person training. [8:09]
Nancy Calabrese: Sure. Yeah, but how is his training different than other training organizations?
Brian Ahearn: Well, one of the things that we talk about, everything that we do is based on research. This isn’t, hey, Nancy, this worked for me, maybe it’ll work for you. If it worked for me, I’m going to tell you psychologically why and support it with the principles of persuasion. So, everything that we do is based on research. The heavy emphasis is on the ethical part. And then the third thing that we try to bring forth is practical application. When I am talking to an audience, I always, after I share a little bit of research to get people excited about, wow, this could be powerful. Okay, here’s a practical way to put it into application. And I want people to leave, for example, if I do a keynote, to have no less than half a dozen ideas that they can start doing today to become more influential. [9:06]
Nancy Calabrese: Wow. Huh. What about the pre-suasion trainer designation? Talk to me a little bit about that.
Brian Ahearn: So, persuasion is about how you set up the moment so that when you make your ask when you attempt to persuade somebody, it’s easier. And I’ve got a wonderful story around this. I did a TEDx talk earlier this year and the opening story was me using persuasion to ask my wife to marry me. Now, I didn’t know anything about persuasion 37 years ago, but I instinctively knew I needed to do something big because I’d screwed up pretty badly. And when I asked her, I mean, I could have just done a straight-up, Hey Jane, I’m sorry for my mistakes. You know, we were on again, off again. I, so I could say, I’m sorry for my mistakes. I love you. Will you marry me? And she probably would have said no. But what I did was on her birthday on May 14th, 1987, I sent her a dozen roses to work. She liked that. I asked if I could take her to dinner. She agreed. So, I showed up at her apartment with another dozen roses and a bottle of wine. When we got ready to leave, we went downstairs and there was a silver cloud Rolls Royce and chauffeur waiting for us. We drove to one of the tallest buildings in Columbus at the time and had dinner at one of the top floors. So, it was very romantic. And then in the back of the Rolls, I asked the question. So, you know, when you set the stage romantically, right? That makes it easier for somebody to potentially say yes, but it’s not just romance, it’s business. So, in business, what can we say or do that would maybe put somebody in a mindset that’s more conducive to ultimately saying yes to us? [10:49]
Nancy Calabrese: Sure. Well, that’s cool. So, I guess you’re a charmer, a natural charmer.
Brian Ahearn: Ha ha ha, I’m a fast learner. That’s what I was. And I was highly motivated.
Nancy Calabrese: Wow. What is your unique idea that is different and sets you apart? What makes you unique?
Brian Ahearn: Well, in terms of what I do around the influence, well, I think around influence, what I have come to see over the years is the emphasis on what we call the principle of liking, which everybody gets this one, right? It’s easier for you, Nancy, to say yes to me if you know me and like me. It’s not that hard to get people to like you, but what’s the most important thing for anybody is that you get to know and like the other person. So, the more that I get to know you, Nancy, the more that I see your good qualities, the more that I find things that we have in common, that I offer genuine compliments, all of those things make me like you. And the difference there is when you begin to sense, hey, Brian really likes me, he cares for me, he has my best interests at heart. That’s what changes everything because it’s no longer a guy trying to sell you something, it’s somebody who genuinely cares and is looking to help. And even if you have to say no, your no is different than somebody who’s just trying to make a sale. So, I’m always emphasizing people, especially in relationship businesses, and insurance agents are in a relationship business with their clients, do everything you can to get to know and like the people that you are working with, the clients that you are serving the insurance carriers may be that you’re interacting with, because not only will you enjoy your days more, you will get a lot more accomplished when people recognize that you really do care about their interests and not just your own. [12:45]
Nancy Calabrese: Yeah. Huh. Is there something in particular you would like me to spotlight?
Brian Ahearn: I would say that is, for me, that’s the key. Because I think that’s the foundation. Once I get to know and really like you, Nancy, then when I want to engage reciprocity, as I did with my daughter, I understand how to give to you in more beneficial ways. I’m not just offering you a pen because that’s my company. I listen to you, and I know what you like, and so I try to cater to that in terms of how I help. It begins to inform some of the other principles that we talk about. And that’s why I think it’s the foundation for the house that you’re building on that we call influence. [13:25]
Nancy Calabrese: Yeah, huh. Tell me a fun fact about you.
Brian Ahearn: I was born on April Fool’s Day in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Nancy Calabrese: Somebody had to be born that day.
Brian Ahearn: But that’s right. And everybody’s like, oh my gosh, that must have been great. No, I don’t remember any of it. I was a year and a half old when we left. My dad was in the Marines, and he was stationed there during Vietnam. So, I was born in Tripler Army Hospital. And then again, at a year and a half old, we moved back to the New York area where the family was originally from. [14:01]
Nancy Calabrese: Wow, well, I missed it by a couple of hours. My birthday is March 31st.
Brian Ahearn: You know, that’s not a bad thing, because you get teased a lot, but I tell people, I may be a fool, but I’m not stupid.
Nancy Calabrese: I know. You’re not stupid. Tell me something true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Brian Ahearn: that I’m a fool, but I’m not stupid. No. You know, what’s interesting is that I don’t know about a Grion, but people have a misperception about me. And I have a very serious look about me. I mean, it’s just, it is what it is. But when people get to know me, they realize I have a great sense of humor. And my wife says I’m rarely serious. But I have learned that makes whatever I do that much funnier, funnier because if I’m on stage and I’ve got a serious look and then I kind of cut the grain with a funny story about me and my wife or something like that, it takes people back like, ooh, I didn’t expect that. So, I’ve learned that I don’t need to be anybody who’s any different, I just need to learn how to leverage this natural quality that I have in a way that becomes beneficial for me and the people who are listening. [15:19]
Nancy Calabrese: In your experience, so when you’re working with an organization or an individual, you know, about influence and persuasion, how long does it take for the light bulb to go off? When do you see that, okay, they get it?
Brian Ahearn: That can vary so much for different people. Some people almost intuitively do the things that I talk about. I mean, after all, it’s human behavior. And so maybe they had a parent who was good at this, and they observed, or they learned directly from them. And other people, you must hold their hand for quite some time because they can think that they understand these principles that I talk about, for example, reciprocity. And they may get into a reward negotiation, thinking that they’re engaging in reciprocity and they’re not. Reciprocity is about giving and then trusting that person will be open to doing something for you in return should you need a favor. So, it’s not a negotiation strategy, it’s engaging differently. So, there are so many little things that people can get mixed up. One of the things that we’re doing through the Cialdini Institute to help overcome that is, when people go through the online training, if an organization says, let’s say they put a dozen people through, they’ll have eight one-hour coaching sessions along the way as they’re going through to solidify with a certified individual how to put these concepts into practice. And we think that that’s going to help much more than maybe an immersive two-day workshop and then people just go about their normal lives after that. [16:59]
Nancy Calabrese: And then when they get it, is there, do you recommend ongoing training or is it like a one-and-done kind of deal?
Brian Ahearn: No, I think I think when you get it you start realizing how powerful it is and you keep looking to learn more and for more application, I’ve been associated with Dr. Cialdini for 20 years I’ve been a certified trainer for 15 of those years and I am still learning and I’m still amazed at how I can reread some of his books and go. Oh, wow. How did I miss that? That seems so important now. So, I think it’s an ongoing process we need this skill like I said, every day of our lives, so why not keep looking to perfect it? You know, for some people, just a 1% change is huge because they might already be really good. [17:46]
Nancy Calabrese: Yeah, you know, I’m a big believer in ongoing training. I mean, when I look back on my career, I was always a big fan of it. And as you said, even though I’ve been involved in training for so long, I always walk away with a new nugget of information or something’s brought up and I’ll say, oh my God, I’ve forgotten, I haven’t been doing that, you know?
Brian Ahearn: Yeah, I think we are, I mean, we’re learning machines, and we can be proactive about it or we can be reactive to it, but our brains are always pulling in information and assimilating it and so we’re learning, so why not direct how you’re going to learn. [18:25]
Nancy Calabrese: Sure, sure. I can’t believe we’re up in time, Brian. And last question, what is the one takeaway you’d like to leave the audience with?
Brian Ahearn: Well, there’s so many that I think about, you know, that influence is critical for their success that they need to know that. But I would encourage everybody to start with that principle of liking, because in addition to being more successful at work, think about how much better society would be, Nancy. Everybody had this mindset that said, I want to get to know you and like you. I’m going to choose to look for the things we have in common, positive qualities, I’m going to compliment you when I see the positive, I’m going to temper myself if I see something negative, and have a constructive conversation. But the world would be such a better place if people had that mindset. So that’s what I would encourage your listeners to do today. After you hear this, the next person you look at, ask yourself, what can I do to come to know and like them more? [19:25]
Nancy Calabrese: Huh, I love that. How can my people find you?
Brian Ahearn: Well, two sources are the best. I’m all over LinkedIn. So, if anybody is listening to the show, if you reach out, I’m happy to connect with you. And I promise that you will get a personal reply from me. If you don’t say, I heard you on Nancy’s show, I’m going to ask you, how’d you find me? But even if you do say that you heard me on the show, I’m going to still have a personal message. I think social media should be social. And so, I always will do that with people I connect with. And then the other place is my website which is influencepeople.biz. If people go out there, there’s a wealth of information. I’ve been blogging for almost 15 years every single week. There are videos, more than 160 podcast episodes I’ve been on, videos, and links to my books. So there is a wealth of information out there on the website. [20:18]
Nancy Calabrese: Wonderful. Hey, folks, reach out to Brian. I find what you do is so fascinating. And I guess, you know, when you think about it, we all want to influence or persuade people in a way to get what we want. And you are the guy, Brian, who can teach us how to do that ethically. So, thanks so much for being on the show, Brian, and for everyone out there, and making it an awesome, influential day. See you next time. [20:52]