What is the Difference Between Persuasion and Influence?

Influence and persuasion are often used to mean the same thing. But they’re not!

For example:

  • “We need to influence customers to buy more from us.”
  • “We need to persuade customers to buy more from us.”

But to give us a better chance of understanding influence, and its relationship with – and difference from – persuasion, we need to distinguish between them. We can do this by thinking of influence as a noun and not a verb. In this way we understand …

  • Persuasion is an action.
  • Influence is a capacity.

Influence is a capacity. It represents the kind of latent power to hold attention and be considered significant.

Here is how it works.

Persuasion and Influence: From ‘No brainer’ to ‘No Thanks’

To illustrate the relationship between persuasion and influence, let’s consider why do some persuasive offers fail?

Here’s a very persuasive offer indeed. One where if the persuasive power of the offer alone was all it took, the outcome would never ever be in doubt.

Let’s imagine we offer someone a £10 note. And all we want in return is £5. 


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From Offer to Outcome

So, what happens next? We can represent the offer process on a graph where:

  • the x-axis represents Time,
  • the y-axis represents Influence.

And we’ll introduce a vertical black dotted line to represent the amount of influence required to deliver the outcome.

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Successful Outcome With Influence

If we offer the £10 for just £5 to someone we have influence over, perhaps a close family member who knows us well, you could imagine a particularly high outcome success rate.

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To represent this successful outcome visually I’ve included:

  • a green horizontal line to represent the level (the capacity) of influence I hold with my family member, and
  • an orange diagonal line to represent both the amount of additional persuasion required (perhaps a gentle reminder that the offer is only available today) to trigger the outcome, and the time it takes from the offer being made to realise the outcome.


Unsuccessful Outcome Without Influence

Without influence, the idea that someone might pass up a ‘no brainer’ of an opportunity offered by a complete stranger, for example, is no longer so weird to imagine.

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There is no ‘know, like and trust’ working in our favour here. You could imagine people being suspicious about an offer that sounded too good to be true, for example.

Visually, this unsuccessful outcome shows a shortfall in the combined amount of influence and persuasion required to trigger the outcome.

Successful Outcome Without Influence

Even if we do achieve a successful outcome in these circumstances, without influence, we’re going to have to work much harder and use all our persuasive tenacity to seal the deal with a stranger.

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This is indicated by the much steeper gradient of the orange line (Perhaps more inducements? The promise of an even more favourable deal?); compared with the amount of effort to deliver success with a family member, who perceives us as influential (in the first scenario).

The Irresistible ‘No Brainer’

And this is what an irresistible offer (or ‘no brainer’) looks like. Here, there is no persuasion required.

pic 8

You can see the outcome actually has little to do with the offer at all. But everything to do with the level of influence.

Just ask the thousands of Apple fanatics who queue up overnight to almost-automatically buy a newly-released iphone – no matter what the cost!

In this example, we are beginning to understand the kind of direct impact influence might have on brand equity.


The Relationship Between Persuasion and Influence

We can begin to appreciate how our ability to persuade others and deliver outcomes might also benefit from a focus on influence.  

Because the more influence we have:

  • The less persuasion we require – and the easier it is – to build trust and trigger an outcome.
  • The less permission we need to take part in stakeholder conversations, and
  • The less likely we are to be ignored in an overwhelming world of abundant information.

We can now also appreciate that persuasion and influence have very different roles to play as a joint force for delivering outcomes. So …

Persuasion bridges the shortfall
between influence and outcome.

Key Differences Between Persuasion and Influence?





Richard Glynn will help you stand out, build influence and become easier to buy from.
Click here to find out more.
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