Your success at work has a lot to do with your ability to influence people. Whether you are an executive, a manager or director, you need to know how to influence others. Mastering this skill will allow you to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.

Here's how to win people's hearts and minds:

People buy people first.

Life is a popularity game. Someone who is well-liked tends to get more favours, clients and opportunities. People buy people first, even before your ideas, your products or your organisation.

People like those who are similar to themselves. Focus on creating as much common ground as you can. It can be via their passions, pain or values. The deepest way to establish commonality is through values — what is important to the person.

People only take action when you make them care enough. Over the years, I have realised that if I want a person to take action, I must engage his heart, and not his head. Here’s how you can get others into that emotional state:

* Pleasure. Many influencers are quick to take advantage of this emotional hot button by appealing to their listeners’ self-interest, because ultimately what most people care about are themselves.

Answer these three critical questions your listeners are silently asking: “So what?”; “Who cares?”; and “What’s in it for me?”.

* Pain. To successfully influence a person, help him to re-experience his pain. Help people uncover their pain points with these questions: “What are the key challenges you face at work?”; “What are your most pressing problems?”; and “What are the consequences if you fail?”.

The more people talk about their pain, the more real it becomes for them.

* Direct experience. Personal experience is so much more powerful than words. Show and involve your listeners, and it will lead them to the conclusion you want them to make, without having to say a word.

Facts tell, but stories sell. When sandwich chain Subway was first opened in the United States, it was quickly categorised as fast food. Subway tried to change the perspective by highlighting the healthiness of their sandwiches with facts and figures. But they failed. That is, until Mr Jared Fogle came into the picture.

Severely obese, Mr Fogle weighed about 111kg. His doctor told him that unless he lost weight and changed his lifestyle, he may not make it past the age of 35. Desperate, he decided to give Subway sandwiches a try. After staying on a Subway diet for three months, Mr Fogle lost 100 pounds and his story was told to millions of Americans.

Since then, his story has helped change the minds of skeptical consumers and turned them into big fans of Subway. This clearly illustrates that facts tell but stories sell.

Here's what to do when telling an effective story:

* The change idea behind the story must be crystal-clear. If the story is going to work, you must be clear about what you want to change. In the earlier example, the change was in the consumers’ opinion of Subway sandwiches, from “unhealthy” to “healthy”.

* The story must be based on an actual example. Remember to give details: the name of the person, the date and place where your story happened. They may seem trivial, but they signify that your story is true. 

* The story must be told from the point of view of a single protagonist who is someone the audience can relate to. No one will care about your story unless they can see themselves in the protagonist’s shoes. Therefore, it is extremely important to tell the story from your listener’s point of view.

* The story must be told with little details. Don’t fill your story with too many unimportant details or the main message will be lost.

* The story must be linked to the purpose of telling it. A story is simply a recount of the past, but what makes it powerful is its ability to move people into the future.

With these pointers, your story will be persuasive and memorable. More importantly, you don't have to resort to threats when you need to influence someone in future. Instead, you can just tell a story. You will be surprised how much more effective and effortless it is.