When was the last time you tried to persuade someone? Chances are you already made an attempt today. Whether persuading a client to buy a product, your boss to give you a raise or even your kids to clean up after themselves - helping others see things your way is a part of everyday life. Editor's Note: We are pleased to present this article courtesy of Paul Endress, a noted business consultant and keynote presenter at the 2009 Human Capital and Learning Symposium.
While research suggests that most people believe they can’t be “sold”, most of us can be persuaded when the selling technique isn’t obvious. That’s why smart professionals employ the art of persuasion, rather than sales, to help others see things their way.
Please understand that persuasion does not have to involve tricks, gimmicks, lying, or anything unethical. When using persuasion techniques, you are merely following modern psychological research to make your message more credible and believable.
For persuasion to truly work, whatever message you’re conveying must be truthful and delivered with the right intentions. After all, you’re persuading someone to see your point of view, not conning someone to do or think something questionable.
With that said, what follows are persuasion principles that offer an edge in helping others see things from your perspective.
1. Aim at a specific target
Many perform a data dump on the listener. They offer every fact, figure, and feature hoping that something will stick and be persuasive. Instead, keep your focus as narrow as possible. Determine what’s important to your listener and persuade on those points only.
The best way to uncover what’s important to your listener is to simply ask! Consider how your listener replies and speak only to his or her concerns. If asking directly doesn’t seem appropriate, couch your question within a statement. For example,
“I was talking with a friend the other day about buying a car, and she believes that gas mileage is the most important consideration. Do you agree?”
The listener’s answer will kick-start the conversation and provide you with perspective in the persuasion process.
2. Use stories to convey your message
Sharing a relevant story is an effective way to persuade, but if you’re too obvious it can come across like a sales spiel. The key is to share something similar to your concept. For example, suppose you want to convey the idea that your product offers peace of mind. If so, what’s similar to having peace of mind?
You may decide that “relaxation” is the answer, so what conjures up images of relaxation? Perhaps a day you enjoyed at the beach? Tell the story, and the listener’s unconscious will draw the necessary connections and do the persuasion for you.
Here’s another example: Say you want to motivate staff to try something new, and you want to convey the idea of being open to discovering new ideas. What is that idea like? What is similar to discovering new ideas? For many, it’s similar to being surprised. So then, what else elicits a surprise? How about opening a present? Tell a story about that.
The point is to pinpoint what you want to convey, decide what that idea is like, determine something similar and tell a story about it. This indirect approach works wonders and keeps people from feeling like they are being “sold”.
3. Use a second or third party quote
Sometimes you have to share bad news in order to get others to see things your way. If you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, use a second or third party quote. For example, you might tell a client, “I was talking with Joe Smith the other day, and he said that ABC Company has trouble making deliveries on time.”
Also consider this example: “My father used to always tell me [this]”, and then relay the information. Who can argue with your father? The only caveat is that you cannot use this technique to say something false. The goal is to make a point that doesn’t reflect poorly on you or make you appear as though you’re selling.
4. Use pacing and leading to prove your point
Pacing and leading are based upon the idea that if the brain can verify two things as true, it will accept a third (related) fact as true, also. If you tell someone, “My name is Mary Jones, and I’m with Acme Corporation,” the listener’s mind can easily verify those two facts.
Whatever you say next, such as, “We have the lowest prices on your office supply needs,” will likely ring true to the listener as well. Again, do not use this technique to say something false. Your third piece of information must be factual, or you risk losing credibility in the long-term.
A slight edge yields huge rewards
None of these persuasion techniques offer the equivalent of magic or “smoke and mirrors.” They simply offer a slight edge in your dealings with others, and a slight edge can make all the difference.
After all, in the Olympics, the difference between those who win gold and those who win silver is often just a few hundredths of a second or a fraction of a point. A slight edge goes a long way.
So arm yourself with these persuasion tools and use them each day. When you do, you’ll find that others are more likely to see your point of view, resulting in more win-win solutions for everyone.
About the author
Paul Endress is a nationally recognized authority in the application of psychology to business communication, leadership, team building and workplace synergy.
Paul is the creator of The Everything Principle™ and is founder and president of Maximum Advantage, a consulting firm dedicated to helping businesses seize the demographic and cultural challenges of today’s competitive and diverse workplace. The firm empowers organizations to turn these challenges into a positive force that takes great companies onward and upward.
Paul established nine companies during his extensive business career. His commentaries and expert strategies covering communication, hiring, and retention have appeared on the front page of USA TODAY, in the New York Times, Entrepreneur and Forbes, and in hundreds of trade publications.
Paul’s “Effective Communication” workshops, held across the U.S., have helped countless participants solve their most significant communication challenges. More information about these workshops can be found here.
Learn more about Paul here. Contact him directly at 800-788-2068 or email@example.com.
A note from the author
I learn a great deal from real-life examples, and so do my audiences. Please take time to share with me your communication challenges and achievements, and as a way of saying thanks I’ll pass along a link to my exclusive, online library of communication tools. I also regularly select a few messages for individual reply with specific suggestions and advice. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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And remember: Your greatest challenges contain the seeds of your greatest successes. Life is an adventure to be lived, not a problem to be solved. Enjoy the journey!