Influence Principles

Influence Principles

October 21, 2015

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

In last week’s article on Emotional Hot Buttons, you gained insight into how to effectively use emotional drivers to encourage shoppers’ behavior change. Another element of inspiring healthier lifestyles is influence, and the number one technique RDs can use to be more influential is to be more likable.  

According to Pam McCarthy, MS, RD, there are a variety of ways to be more likable, including: 

  • Smile more. McCarthy suggests “nutrition doesn’t have to be so deadly serious and heavy. Smiling increases your influence rather than diminishes your credibility.” McCarthy encourages dietitians to spend more time listening than lecturing. RDs are clearly the expert in nutrition but the consumer is the expert on their own life. RDs who listen deeply and respectfully to hear the true desires of their shoppers before speaking will be more likable.
  • Be humble. McCarthy stresses the point that “RDs have something to offer but they are not in a position to tell people what to do, so they should suggest solutions instead of dictating the perfect eating pattern.” She continues, “It’s okay to admit personal struggles—it increases credibility rather than diminishes professionalism.”  
  • Recognize the consumer has the right to do and believe anything they want to. Retail RDs understand their goal is to keep the shopper loyal to their company and to help consumers meet their individual nutrition and food needs, which aligns well with this concept.  
  • Catch people in the act of being amazing. Rather than always telling them what they are doing wrong or what they need to change, McCarthy suggests “starting with respect and admiration for what the shopper is doing right will go a long way to influencing them to want to change.”

Putting all these principles today, Pam McCarthy provides the following example of an interaction with a shopper:

  1. Start by acknowledging what the consumer is doing right: “It sounds like you want to give your child/family the best. Your family is lucky to have you!“
  2. Ask permission to share a differing opinion to what they believe: “Would it be okay to share a different opinion on GMOs/high fructose corn syrup?”
  3. State your opinion in as few words as possible with a smile on your face, avoiding jargon, strong scientific terms or a sense that the RD is the expert on everything.  
  4. Ask if they are interested in hearing more: “Does that make sense? Would you like to hear more?”  Offer more if they want more or move on if they don’t.
  5. If they don’t “buy” your argument, allow them to buy their product without any judgment.  Remember your role is to promote the store and impact the bottom line, not convert people to your opinion or make consumers feel bad about their purchases.

If you can hit the right note, your shoppers will see you as a highly likable, trusted resource that genuinely cares about them and their needs. They’ll seek you out on return store visits, and you’ll have the influence to truly impact behavior change.