Entrepreneurs: How to Move From Obscure to Influential

Business.com / Entrepreneurship / Last Modified: October 10, 2017
Photo credit: Liderina/Shutterstock

What does it take to become an entrepreneur with influence?

When you think about entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, what comes to mind? Aside from being wildly successful, they're all highly influential. Some of this comes with the status of running a well-known company, but a lot of it has to do with how they carry themselves.

What is influence?

Influence is a term that you've probably never taken the time to define, dissect or understand. It's such a common word that few people are ever forced to confront it head-on. But if you study the definition, you’ll find some pretty interesting takeaways.

As one definition puts it, "Influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something." In other words, influence doesn't exist without relationships. It's something that true leaders foster when they interact with the people around them.

In order to become an entrepreneur of influence, you have to be grounded in who you are, build relationships with others, and then impart knowledge and beliefs in an appealing manner that causes people to respond. It sounds easy when condensed into a sentence, but it takes many people decades to truly embody the label of "influencer."

5 tips for increasing your influence

So you want to move from obscure to influential? While not easy, it is possible. The key is to create a game plan and stick with it, even when the road becomes littered with potholes and speed bumps. Let's check out a few specific tips you can use to increase your influence over time.

1. Connect with people

Influence and relationships go hand in hand. The first thing you have to do is connect with people on an emotional level.

There's a difference between interacting with people and truly connecting with them. Influencers are able to do the latter. Instead of just having conversations with people or smiling when you pass someone in the hallway, make a commitment to engage those around you in conversation.

One really good way to do this is by asking open-ended questions that get people talking about themselves. People love to talk about themselves, and your genuine interest in their responses makes them feel special and builds trust that can then be leveraged later when you want to impart influence.

2. Make people remember you

What are you doing to make people remember you? People of influence don't just engage people in the moment – they also continue to have an impact on people when they aren't together. There are lots of things you can do to make people remember you, but here are a few simple examples:

  • Try sending unique gifts – from a site like Gadget Flow or Etsy – to individuals in your professional network whenever they achieve big accomplishments. As a result, they'll naturally start to associate you with their successes.

  • Make it a point to tell stories when you meet people for the first time. Even if someone forgets your name, they'll remember the story you told them the next time you interact.

  • Make people feel good. According to a study performed at the MIT Media Lab, people don't typically remember what an individual looks like or says as much as the way they made them feel.

Influence is built on the foundation of many different interactions. If you want your interactions to mean something, set yourself up for success by helping people remember who you are.

3. Add value to relationships

When we think about influence, we naturally think about imparting wisdom and ideals, but there's more to it than that. You have to add tangible value to your relationships before ever expecting people to listen to you.

Depending on what your skillset is, adding value might look like offering a service, coaching someone through a situation or simply helping out in a time of need (even if it's unrelated to business). When people perceive you as valuable in their life, your influence will skyrocket.

4. Be confident in your beliefs

Influential people are confident in who they are and aren't easily swayed by emotions. Even if other people are telling you that you're wrong or that what you're doing/saying isn't going to work, you have to stick to your guns.

Find an influential person in any industry, and you'll see someone who is confident in what they believe. Sure, their beliefs may evolve over time, but they aren't jumping back and forth just because the wind blew in another direction for a few minutes.

5. Attach your name to content

In today's world, influence doesn't just happen in person. There's a large degree of it that happens online. If you really want to be an influential person, you have to become a content creator in some form or fashion.

With social media and blogging, it's never been easier to carve out a platform online and become an influencer. Try guest blogging on popular websites or building a following on Twitter or Instagram. The more people see your name online, the more they'll come to trust you and recognize you when you have something important to say in the future.

Make yourself known

As you can see, there is no secret formula to suddenly becoming an influential leader. It requires both a steadfast commitment to the big picture and attention to the small details that allow relationships to thrive. While it's easy to talk about wanting to become influential, you have to actually take tangible steps in the right direction. Let this be the year that you progress in this area.

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