Influence & persuasion: Driven by behavioral science


Influence and persuasion: Driven by behavioral science

Understanding principles of influence and persuasion helps CMOs become better leaders, says Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Pfeffer, reminding NextGen CMO Academy attendees about power and influence within organizations, asserted, “where you stand depends on where you sit at the management table in your organization.” He advised attendees to use behavioral science principles of psychology to “build interpersonal, informal influence skills so that CMOs can make things happen because marketing can be an enormous source of competitive advantage for organizations.”

People in an organization see things differently. Therefore, the idea “you’re going to resolve everything just on the basis of data is a myth—everybody has different data and a different perspective about that data,” says Pfeffer. What then is a CMO to do?

Build interpersonal skills based on principles of behavioral psychology “to informally influence not only other C-suite executives but also employees and customers, so you can make things happen and make yourself successful,” said Pfeffer.

For marketers, the principles Pfeffer claims matter are:

  • First impressions: Be strategic in your initial approach
  • Psychological commitment: Ask for help
  • Mirroring: Imitate others’ behaviors to create perceptions of similarity and interpersonal attraction
  • Likeability: Do things to flatter those around you
  • Authority: Show confidence; resolve problems; be prominent
  • Scarcity: People value things they presume to be harder to get

By understanding these principles of behavioral psychology, marketers can learn to influence and convince other people around them, both internally and externally, to buy into ideas, products, and services. Pfeffer summed it up this way; “there are no great products or great business models, or great ideas without great marketing influence practices.”

As a CMO, you can take a few strategic actions: Learn to make good first impressions, be strategic in your approach, be prominent, be authentic, demonstrate confidence, mirror the actions of those around you, tell people how wonderful they are, be available—but not too much—and most of all, recognize that nobody is born with all these capabilities. With practice and coaching over your career, you can develop the skills and use them to improve your influence inside and outside your organization.

Access Pfeffer’s perspectives on organizational leadership, the power of influence, and other publications to learn more.

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