Three Reasons Every Business Needs to
Focus on Persuasion

Last week I wrote about a big concern for every business – ROI, their return on investment. I also made the case when it comes to persuasion there’s an ROI – return on influence – that’s greater than you realize. This week we’ll dig a little further into ROI as I share three reasons your business needs to be concerned with each employee’s ability to ethically persuade others.

Employees Use Persuasion More than you Think

If being polite took up one third of your employees’ days you’d probably want them to learn to be as polite as possible. Any skill used that much is worth focusing time, effort and resources on. Persuasion is one of those skills that deserves focus because of how often it’s used in business. In To Sell is Human author Dan Pink wrote:

“People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.”

Translated another way, it’s very likely your employees are spending about three hours a day using their influence skills. What would it mean for the bottom line if they were 10%, 15% or 20% more effective at getting people to do what needs to be done?

Persuasion is a Huge Economic Driver

Now you know your employees use persuasion more than you realized. However, you may not be aware of what an economic driver persuasion is for your business. Deirdre McCloskey, a Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, researched the impact of persuasion on the U.S. economy in the 1990s. In her book Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics she built the case that persuasion is responsible for 25% of our national income. More than 20 years since her book first came out, with the growth of the internet, some estimate that figure at closer to 30% now!

Why is persuasion so important economically? Because the underpinning of sales is the ability to persuade prospects and customers. Well-known author and sales trainer Brian Tracy put it this way:

“Selling is the process of persuading a person that your product or service is of greater value to him or her than the price you’re asking for it.”

Presuasion Helps at Home

As the business environment changes there’s a focus on considering “the whole person” when it comes to employees. In other words, when you walk into the office you’re not just a worker. You bring your whole self – beliefs, experiences, values, skills, and much more – each time you arrive at work.

Isn’t it nice when some of what you do at work can help outside the office? Transferable skills learned at work tend to add to employee engagement and satisfaction. While influence is a necessary skill at work, and a driver of business growth, it also comes in handy at home.

If you have a spouse or significant other it’s a good bet you want him or her to do certain things. If you have kids, you absolutely want them to do certain things and not do other things. Your ability to change someone’s thinking and behavior comes down to your ability to persuade and pre-suade people outside of the office.

Understanding how to ethically influence people is a 24 x 7 x 365 skill. It’s something you’ve been doing since you were born and will continue doing till you die because it’s an important way to get your needs met. So why not spend some time to get better at it?


Some skills may be beyond your ability depending on your age, fitness or natural abilities. For example, I’ve never been able to dunk a basketball. Jumping that high was not a skill I possessed. At 5’9 tall, weighing 200 lbs., and now in my mid 50s it’s a skill I’ll never possess.

Fortunately, influence doesn’t depend on age, fitness or natural abilities. It’s a skill you can master if you choose to do a few simple things:

  1. Learn. Take time to learn what the 70+ years of research has to say.
  2. Practice. Begin to practice and remember, perfect practice makes perfect.
  3. Apply. Look for opportunities to apply your skill strategically and ethically.

Given the importance of influence for your business and you personally, if you follow the three steps just noted you’re sure to enjoy more professional success and personal happiness.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 53,000 people! Persuasive Coaching went live earlier this year and Creating a Coaching Culture will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched these courses yet? Click either to see what you’ve been missing.