Tag Archive for: Influence At Work

The First Day of My New Career and the Rest of My Life

Today is the day – the first day of my new career and the rest of my life!! In September I announced a huge change was coming and it’s finally here. After 28 ½ years I’ve left State Auto Insurance to pursue Influence PEOPLE as my fulltime endeavor.

When I decided to make this move back in September my feelings were primarily a mixture of fear and excitement. As each day passed and I began to see the future more clearly the fear subsided and my excitement grew. While there are no guarantees in life all I see is opportunity ahead.

One thing that’s really stood out with my career change is this – if you truly come to like and enjoy the people you support (principle of liking) and do whatever you can to help others (principle of reciprocity) you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many people will want to help you before you even ask.

Not only is this a career change, it’s a life change. I told my wife I’m going to look at everything I do – when I get up, how I work out, where I do my work, when I work and so on – and see what changes I want to make. I feel like I’ve moved into a new house and the opportunities to make it my dream home are endless.

With Thanksgiving soon upon us this is a good time to give several big THANK YOUS.

To all the State Auto employees, former employees, and agents who have reached out to ask how they can help me – THANK YOU! Your willingness to support me gives more even more confidence that I’ve made the right decision.

To my friends at INFLUENCE AT WORK – Bob, Greg, Bobette, Cara, Eily and Jandy – THANK YOU for your support and  encouragement.

To all of you who’ve been loyal readers of Influence PEOPLE over the years – THANK YOU! When I started blogging nearly 10 years ago I never imagined I would gain a following across the country and around the world. You also give me confidence in the choice I’ve made.

As I close I will be so bold as to ask for a couple of favors:

  1. If you’ve enjoyed the blog and have found it useful on a professional and/or personal level would you share it with friends and coworkers?
  2. If you think your organization could benefit from influence training, coaching or consulting would you share Influence PEOPLE with decision makers?

One last time – THANK YOU!

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

Robert Cialdini, Friend and Mentor

This week I’d like to highlight my friend and mentor, Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. I won’t go into details on how I came to know Cialdini because I shared that story last year in a post I called My Chance Encounter with Robert Cialdini.

Cialdini has been associated with the psychology department at Arizona State University for more than three decades and helped the department receive world-wide recognition. On Cialdini’s recent birthday the ASU psychology department released a video to thank him and his wife Bobette for their generous donation “to help push ASU psychology forward as a national leader.”

You need to understand when it comes to this field of study Cialdini is a rock star! In fact, he’s the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to the science of influence and persuasion. His books Influence Science and Practice and Pre-suasion are both New York Times best-sellers. He also co-authored Yes: 50 Scientifically Ways to be Persuasive and The Small Big. If you want to understand how to ethically move people to action these four books are must reads because they’re the gold standard when it comes to influence and persuasion.

For all his fame and the pull he must feel from people, he’s always been generous with me when it comes to his time. On many occasions over the past 15 years I’ve had the privilege of dining with him alone or in small groups. I always walk away having learned new things and brimming with fresh ideas to try. I’ll never forget the dinner we shared eight years ago as my daughter Abigail was getting ready to go to high school because he gave me some valuable advice.

For my part, I’ve always tried to encourage Cialdini with stories from the field as I look to implement his life’s work at State Auto Insurance and through my company Influence PEOPLE. I recall one dinner where my boss, John Petrucci, and I told him some things we were doing at State Auto with regard to the principles of influence. As we talked Cialdini had a wide smile, his eyes grew larger and he leaned in to listen. It was so apparent he was genuinely excited to find out how his work was being use in the real world. That genuine enthusiasm plus his stance on ethics are what made me want to be associated with him and his team at INFLUENCE AT WORK.

I hope you’ll join me in wishing him a belated happy birthday and to give thanks for his generous donation to ASU so they can build on his work and continue to help us learn how to ethically influence the world.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE and Learning Director at State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 130,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

My Chance Encounter with Robert Cialdini

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend Michael Halbfish, wrote during an exchange, “I am guessing there is a good story to how you wound up with your current career and working with Cialdini.” Michael is correct and I promised him I would share that story, a chance encounter with Robert Cialdini, in a blog post.

Back in 2002, Nancy Edwards, a former coworker at State Auto, stopped by my office to share a video with me and my boss John Petrucci. Nancy had just watched the video in an MBA class at The Ohio State University and thought John and I would appreciate it. How right she was!

The video was of a 2001 Breakfast Briefing presentation Robert Cialdini, PhD., gave at Stanford University. His topic was ethical influence – how to get people to do what you want without resorting to manipulation.

As John and I watched the video a light bulb came on and we could clearly see how the psychology Dr. Cialdini shared made the sales techniques so effective. We acquired a copy of the video for our own use and I began showing it to employees and talking about ways to incorporate the principles of persuasion into everyday things we were doing at work.

Around the same time I signed up for Stanford’s video catalog. In 2003, I received a catalog and noticed the headline for Dr. Cialdini’s video:

Call it Influence, Persuasion

Or Even Manipulation

I was shocked because he was so clear about non-manipulative ways to persuade people. I was so bothered by Stanford’s marketing that I sent them an email. I told them I didn’t know anyone who wanted to be manipulated nor did I know anyone who wanted to be known as a good manipulator. I concluded the email telling Stanford that one word – manipulation – couldn’t help their sales but it sure could be hurting sales.

I never heard from Stanford but some time later my phone rang and it was Chris Cibbarelli, a representative from Robert Cialdini’s organization INFLUENCE AT WORK (IAW). She said she was calling to thank me. Apparently Stanford was changing the marketing of Dr. Cialdini’s video because of my email!

During that call, Chris asked if State Auto ever had guest speakers and let me know Dr. Cialdini traveled the world to talk about ethical influence. I told her we did have speakers for agency events. As fate would have it, the event planner was in my department so I transferred Chris to Robyn Harper. One thing led to another and in the summer of 2004 Dr. Cialdini was a guest speaker at several agency conferences we hosted.

That same summer John and I traveled to Arizona to attend Dr. Cialdini’s two-day Principles of Persuasion Workshop. After that I persisted with John for more than three years to allow me to get certified on behalf of Dr. Cialdini so I could teach the workshop.

In January 2008, I spent a week in Arizona with Dr. Cialdini and the staff at IAW going through the certification process. The process culminated in March 2008 when Gregory Neidert, PhD., a partner at IAW, came to Columbus to audit my first workshop.

That’s the story of my chance encounter with Robert Cialdini. Here we are nearly 10 years later and I’ve hosted more than 50 workshops, have been blogging for more than seven years and have been using Influence PEOPLE to help people attain more professional success and personal happiness using the principles of influence.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “And that’s the rest of the story.”

Correct Ways to Respond to “Thanks!”

I thought it only fitting to share some ideas about the right ways to respond to “Thanks,” seeing as this week Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving.

A theme I repeat during the Principles of Persuasion workshop is this – small changes can make big differences. How you respond to “thank you” seems like a small thing but it can make a big difference to the other person.

During keynotes Dr. Robert Cialdini often shares a story about an Australian businessman who attended one of his conferences. Dr. Cialdini noticed the man visibly changed as he spoke. When they had an opportunity to talk the man shared a story.

He said he owned a software business located in Sydney and his largest client was in Melbourne, a distance of roughly 700 miles. This important client had a software problem so the business owner took his top two technicians and accompanied them on the trip. The good news was, they solved the problem rather quickly.

The IT director profusely thanked the man, noting how he, as the owner of the company, took time out of his busy schedule to make the trip along with his top two people. She said it was above and beyond her expectations. What the man did next sealed his fate because he never got any more business from this very important client!

Perhaps a little embarrassed by all the praise he said, “It was no big deal. We love to come to Melbourne. The nightlife is great as are the restaurants. Don’t think anything of it.”

Do you notice what he did? She felt his approach was above and beyond the call of duty. It made her feel special and he basically said, “You’re not special. We would do this for anyone to have the chance to come to Melbourne.”

Pay attention to how people respond to you when you thank them. I bet you get one of these responses at least 90% of the time:

  • “No problem.”
  • “No big deal.”
  • “Just doing my job.”
  • “I would have done it for anyone.”
  • Or worst of all, silence.

Strike each of these responses from your vocabulary! None of those does anything to engage the other person and make them feel special. It doesn’t matter how much effort it took you; what matters is what it meant to the other person.

I have a friend I used to reach out to for lunch every month. One day he thanked me and, not knowing anything about persuasion at the time, I replied, “It’s not that I’m such a nice guy; I’m just really good with my computer.” You see, I had set up a recurring task to remind me to call him at the beginning of each month. It was effortless for me BUT it meant a lot to him. I was fortunate he was a long-time friend because he responded graciously. I never forgot that exchange because was an “ah ha” moment for me about how to respond to “Thanks.”

How could I have responded to my friend? I should have said something like this; “Your friendship means a lot to me so I’m happy to reach out to you each month. I appreciate you making room in your schedule to get together consistently.”

How could the Sydney software executive have responded? Any of the following would have been better than his actual response:

  • “You’re one of our most important clients so I was happy to do this for you.”
  • “That’s what long-term partners do for one another. Thank you for trusting us.”
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with us. We appreciate you and your business.”

And how will you response next time someone thanks you?

  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (People like humor)
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me.”
  • “I was happy to do it. I appreciate you (or your business).”

So let’s wrap this up with a final thought. Thanksgiving is this week so let that day be a reminder for you as to how you should respond to “Thank you!” Use those opportunities to engage people in ways that make them feel special and even better about dealing with you. That added satisfaction will keep them coming back and increase the odds that they’ll share your fame with their friends and business associates.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Giver, Taker or Matcher – Which are You?


Do you look to help others? If you do, then
the next question is, why?
I just finished an excellent book, Give and Take, by Adam Grant. He
explores the principle of reciprocity but from a slightly different angle than
I typically do. Reciprocity is the psychological principle that tells us people
feel obligated to give back to those who’ve first given to them. Reciprocity is
triggered by the act of giving.
When it comes to reciprocity Grant explores
three kinds of people – takers, matchers and givers. As you might imagine, some
people don’t offer much help or only do so if they think they can get something
in return. These are takers and generally it’s best to avoid them because they
don’t really care about you except in so far as you can help them.
Matchers describe most people. You help them
and they’ll help you because they feel the pull of reciprocity.  They’ll offer help but usually not go
overboard. They’re almost keeping mental accounts because they feel if they
give too much they’ll be taken advantage of or not have enough time to tend to
their priorities.
Givers are those rare people who look to give
simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do. They’ll give far more than they
receive quite often and while they can be taken advantage of, for them that
doesn’t negate the reality that giving is the right thing to do. As a giver you
may give far more than you receive but you never know how doing something for
someone might just come around and be life changing for them as well as you.
As I read the book it reminded me of how I
came to know Robert Cialdini and his team at Influence At Work (IAW). I came in
contact with Dr. Cialdini’s work in 2002 when a friend, Nancy Edwards, was
studying for her MBA at The Ohio State University. Nancy saw a presentation Dr.
Cialdini had given at Stanford and was kind enough to share the video with me.
As I learned about the principles of influence a light bulb came on – the
principles explained all the sales techniques I’d learned and taught!
I purchased a copy of the video, began to
share it with small groups and we’d talk about how we could apply the concepts
at State Auto. One thing I appreciated about Dr. Cialdini was his emphasis on
non-manipulative ways to persuade people.
Sometime later, Stanford came out with a new
marketing piece for the video and it read, “Call it Influence, Persuasion, or
even Manipulation,” then went on to describe the video in more detail. Because
Dr. Cialdini was so emphatic about the ethical use of the principles I decide
to email Stanford. I basically said, “No one wants to be manipulated and I
doubt anyone wants to be known as a manipulator. That word can’t be helping your
sales but it sure could be hurting sales.”
Time passed and I never heard from Stanford
but one day my phone rang and it was Bobette Gorden, the vice president of
IAW, calling to thank me for sending that email to Stanford.
Apparently someone at Stanford read the email and decided to change how they
were marketing Dr. Cialdini’s video.
As fate would have it, during that call,
Bobette let me know Dr. Cialdini spoke about influence around the world in case
we ever needed a keynote speaker. It so happened we were looking for a speaker for
some upcoming agency conferences! In 2004, Dr. Cialdini spoke at State Auto
several times and that summer I went through his two-day Principles of
Persuasion workshop.
From there you might just say the rest is
history. I’ve now been a certified trainer for IAW for more than five years and
have been blogging on the subject of influence for more than four years.
The point of this post is twofold. First, for
those who are looking for ways to be more influential through giving, pick up a
copy of Give and Take. You’ll be a
more effective persuader because of it and more importantly, a better person.
The second point of the post is to encourage
you to be a giver because it’s the right thing to do. Trust that good things
will come your way as a result but in the meantime, look for ways to genuinely
help others. The late Zig Ziglar used to say; “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” There’s
wisdom and truth in those words so go out today and “give” it a try.


Brian, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

A Thanksgiving Message to People I’m Thankful For

In a few days most Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving. There will be turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and lots more food to go along with a day of family and football. It’s the day we pause to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. Rather than write a regular article I want to take this time to give thanks to many people who’ve been a blessing to me. That’s the principle of liking at work! I encourage you to click on some names and perhaps send a Facebook friend request, follow someone on Twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn because they’re all good, supportive, helpful people. That’s a big reason for my thanks! It’s not that they’re just good to me; I think it’s their nature so here’s a chance to hook up with really good folks if you want to expand your social network. I have to start with my wife Jane and our daughter Abigail. If you follow me on Facebook or have read this blog for any length of time then you know they’re fodder for much of what I write. They’re always great sports about it and they give as good as they get. You should take a look at some of our exchanges because they can be quite funny. When it comes to this blog I’d like to start by saying thanks to Sean Patrick, Marco Germani, Yago de Marta and Hoh Kim. These guys continue to help my readers get a worldwide perspective on influence and persuasion. To see what they have to say tune in on the first Monday of each month for the Influencers from Around the World series. Here are some other people who’ve been very helpful with this blog. George Black got me going on this blog simply because he encouraged me. Next is Mike Figliuolo who’s been a great resource for all my blogging questions. On several occasions I’ve written guest posts for Mike’s blog, thoughtLEADERS, and he’s returned the favor writing some posts for me. Then there’s Michael Franzese who’s provided some very cool drawings for Influence PEOPLE and designed my logo. To see more of his work and read some of his thoughts check out FranzeseInklings. There are lots of Twitter friends who retweet my stuff consistently: James Sims, Marcy Depew, Matt Fox, Maureen Metcalf, Anthony Iannarino, Paul Hebert, Aaron Schaub, Steve Miller, Warren Davies, Jon Wortman, Jim Canterucci, Justin Bryant, Stella Collins, Eldon Edwards, and James Seay. To follow any of them on Twitter just click on their name. Special thanks also need to go to several coworkers. First there’s Debbie Conkel who’s proofread my work for more than 15 years now. She takes her own personal time to read through every blog post for me. Next is my boss John Petrucci. I could not work for a better leader and friend. Imagine the most supportive boss you can then multiply it many times over. And then there’s Nancy Edwards, someone I look to for mentoring. It doesn’t matter if we’re face to face, on the phone or communicating by email; Nancy encourages me every time we interact. When it comes to getting stuff done on the influence side, Chris Cibbarelli is my point person at Dr. Robert Cialdini’s office, Influence At Work. No matter what I need, no matter how quickly, Chris is always there for me. To say she’s a joy to work with would not be a strong enough statement. Finally, I want to say thanks to all of you reading this today. Readership has now reached nearly 150 countries! That’s not something I expected in my wildest dreams when I started blogging. The best gift I could give you to show my appreciation would be to help you find the kinds of online relationships I’ve found. That’s why I hope you will take time to click on some names, start some conversations and make some connections. I know you’ll be glad you did. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Interview with Dr. Cialdini’s Organization INFLUENCE AT WORK

I had the good fortune of recently being interviewed by Dr. Robert Cialdini’s organization, INFLUENCE AT WORK. Below is the lead in to the interview from his blog, Inside Influence Report.

INFLUENCE AT WORK has over 25 CMCT’s worldwide. These CMCT’s are the only trainers endorsed by Dr. Robert Cialdini and allowed to facilitate the Principles of Persuasion (POP) Workshop®. All CMCT’s must go through rigorous training in order to earn and maintain this prestigious certification. Our goal in this CMCT spotlight feature is to help readers become more familiar with our CMCT’s background, expertise, and insights. Click here if you are interested in more information on our CMCT’s. If you would like more information on our POP Workshops, click here.

This month we are featuring Brian Ahearn, CMCT a corporate trainer for State Auto Insurance Companies from Columbus Ohio. He has been studying Dr. Cialdini’s research and the influence process for 7 years.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Influence At Work

By now some of you have noticed I’ve been posting twice a week. I’m going to make an attempt to have a short Thursday morning post each week to let you know about other resources that might interest you.

Some people might wonder why I’d promote someone else’s work, especially if it’s in the same field as mine. I’ve come to learn in the online world the principle of reciprocity is king. You help others, promote them, and they usually do the same for you. The online pie is plenty large enough that no one has to worry about getting their fair share.
This week I want to point you to Dr. Robert Cialdini and his organization, Influence At Work. Many of you reading this know he’s the reason I became so intrigued with influence and ultimately started this blog. If you want to read more about my association with him click here.

Dr. Cialdini and several of his associates have a blog called Inside Influence Report. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on t.v., but these guys are doctors – in the field of social psychology – so they’re worth listening to when it comes to mastering influence and persuasion. They do the social science research, dissect other scientist’s research and break it all down so you can use the information to be more a more persuasive person. I highly recommend you check out Inside Influence Report for great insights on influence and persuasion.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”