When was the last time you had to persuade someone? Was it today when your children forgot to make their beds or needed to do their homework? Maybe you needed to ask your manager for something, or resolve a problem with a service provider? Maybe it was a pitch to a potential new client who could really benefit from your product or service?
Interestingly, from one day to the next, despite the huge number of times we need to ask someone for something in a day, most of us don’t think of ourselves as ‘persuaders’. Most people think of persuasion as something for people in politics or the United Nations. Maybe you think persuasion is for lawyers and talent agents, people like Tom Cruise’s character (the sports celebrity agent in Jerry Maguire) shouting, “Show me the money!”
Actually, if you think about it, we persuade people every day. When we need or want something, we must get the attention, the support and the endorsement of our families, our stakeholders, our staff, our suppliers, our managers and our clients. Persuasion is pervasive, whether we are conscious of it or not and regardless of the name we give it.
What is persuasion?
Persuasion is the ability to alter or sway an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, or actions. When you understand the process of persuasion, you’ll know how to maximise your power moments (the moments in a relationship or interaction when you are best able to get what you want), whilst creating and maintaining trust.
And here’s the key…. first-rate persuaders fulfil their personal objectives while building and then maintaining trust, rapport and respect. There’s nothing cheap, manipulative or underhanded about effective persuasion. It’s an ethical process that relies upon integrity, trust and long-term relationships.
Successful people know how to persuade
The ability to be ‘persuasive’ is a key skill of successful entrepreneurs. When you’re talking with a power persuader it feels like you are just having a casual chat. It feels like they have your best interests at heart. And you always walk away from a power persuader feeling terrific, like you’ve just had the most rewarding moment. Persuasive people make other people feel good!
Anyone can be a master persuader!
Guess what? The good news is that I’ve seen first-hand, anyone can learn to be persuasive. It’s simply a series of techniques that you use one after the other to ensure your stakeholder feels they have freedom in their decision making, while they are giving you what you want.
Here are 7 tips for persuasion:
Tip # 1 Believe in yourself
The saying goes: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” The mindset of knowing you will reach an agreement requires you to eliminate all negativity from your environment. This is very contagious! No matter how the stakeholder responds, keep it light and maintain a ‘can-do’ attitude throughout the persuasion. When you let negative thoughts occupy your mind there is only one outcome and it’s not good.
Tip # 2 Be sure your desired outcome is reasonable
Work out what you want and make sure your desired outcome also serves the needs of your stakeholder. When persuading, ensure your outcome is reasonable, because no matter how good your persuasive strengths are, if your desired outcome is unreasonable, your stakeholder will always say, ‘no’ to you.
Tip # 3 Know your audience
Power persuaders truly believe that they can satisfy the stakeholder’s needs. They see the benefits, features, and limitations of their product, service or request from their stakeholder’s view. They weigh-up things on the stakeholder’s scale of values, not their own and they can pitch their solutions accordingly.
Tip # 4 Prepare your message
It’s critical to identify and understand the impact and diversity of different strategies and styles available and the impact they have. In general, an effective persuasion process generally has an opening that builds rapport, a middle that ensures your credibility (with good data and proof), and finally a close where you call your stakeholder to action. And yes, you need all three of these elements for your persuasion to work!
Tip # 5 Build Rapport
Rapport, rapport, rapport. Before you can persuade others, you must first build rapport with them. We like people who are like ourselves. This means, from the first word you say, make sure your voice, body and language patterns reflect the similarities between you and your stakeholder rather than any differences.
Tip # 6 Connect through Eye Contact and Smiling
Connect with the audience with your eyes and your mouth. When it’s time to influence get your focus off yourself and look at them in the ‘whites of their eyes’, really see them, whether it be one person or one thousand people. And smile authentically while you’re at it. Alicia Grandey’s smiling research in 2005 found a direct correlation between authentic smiles and an increase in persuasion. Conversely Grandey also found the more inauthentic the smile, the less effective the persuasion.
Tip # 7 Ask for what you want!
People are not mind readers. Be explicit when asking them for the thing you want and be sure to articulate the next steps clearly. Depending on the scale of your persuasion it can be really important that you get your agreed outcome in writing. In some cases, you need to assertively get the ‘yes’ from your stakeholder out loud. Take a pen to important persuasion situations so you can write important things down and even sign them if necessary.
You can do it!
Remember, it doesn’t matter how good your business is, how good your products or services are, how good your ideas are or how good your message is if no one’s listening. Anyone can be a power persuader – simply learn what to do and do it. Improve your persuasion skills today and reap the exciting benefits!
Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. Www.michellebowden.com.au