Persuasion - The Ultimate Skill

How do you persuade someone to do something? What tactics do you use? Are you someone who:-

  • Uses your authority or position of power over them?
  • Pushes hard and sell using features and LOTS of benefits?
  • Uses your 101 Marketing techniques guide?
  • Uses logic and powerful arguments from solid foundations?
  • Uses persistence and staying power to get your message over and get agreement?

These are regularly used and sometimes work quite well but there are other means that are more effective. There are four critical elements (as outlined in a Harvard Business Review some years ago originally) that assist in becoming more persuasive.

  • Commencing with and maintaining credibility
  • Establishing common ground
  • Producing vivid evidence to support your arguments
  • Working the emotional connection

Persuasion isn't all about selling or getting an individual or group to agree with you. It's about getting to a shared understanding and agreement. You can then work together to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.

Of course Managers need to be good persuaders. This is because the good manager meets their objectives through their people. Tactically they could choose to bully, dictate, or coerce people to get the work done, but how successful would that be in the long run? Good persuasion leads to employees wanting to reach a shared solution.

Likewise, in any situation where you need to persuade someone to work with you or you want to promote your idea, if you badger them and sell excessively, you'll only create resentment. Establishing mutual understanding is what leads to an agreement; One that is negotiated not forced.


Do’s and Don’ts in Persuasion


1.  Commence with and maintain credibility

Credibility is often based on expertise. When you are perceived as knowledgeable in, and experienced with, a particular subject, you are more persuasive. The other basis for building credibility is through relationships. When you have built a reputation for taking a genuine interest in the well-being of your team and peers, your proposals and ideas are infused with that trust as well. Start by seeing the world ‘through their eyes’ – a great position to take.

2.  Establish common ground

Establishing common ground is the closest you will get to "selling" your idea. There has to be an upside to your position so you need to determine what the benefits are. One of the most effective ways to do this is to analyse what has appealed to your audience in the past.

  • Work out in your mind what your audience is interested in.
  • Meet with them and open up a dialogue about the issue you are tackling.
  • Listen to their ideas and concerns.
  • Run your ideas past people you trust first.

If you can't offer a clear benefit then you need to modify your position or proposal so that there is one. By talking with your audience first you can set up your position correctly from the start. This saves time, and it saves you from the potential embarrassment of presenting a poorly matched pitch.

3. Produce evidence to support your position

Having evidence to support your position is critical. However, factual data and reams of spreadsheets and charts are not highly persuasive. What people respond to is "vivid" evidence that brings your concept or argument to life. For example:

  • The use of metaphors to relate the concept to a shared reality.
  • Supplement data with examples and direct experiences.
  • Think of analogies to make your ideas tangible.

This type of experiential proof is what causes shifts in people's perspectives and allows them to "see" the situation through the eyes of others who support what you are doing.

4. Work on the emotional connection

No persuasive argument is complete unless you appeal to your audience's emotions. Some people think an emotional pitch has little credibility. When done correctly, however, it clearly establishes that you are plugged into your audience's needs and desires. So how do you appeal to emotions?

  • Use your own emotions – this may mean showing emotions (enthusiasm and passion) or it may mean suppressing them (anger and frustration).
  • Sense the emotions of the audience – adjust your tone and intensity to fit your audience.

Emotions are primary factors in motivation and decision-making. As much as we'd like to be totally objective, it just doesn't happen. Appealing to emotions is not manipulative at all. It is a basic premise of persuasive communication and it helps facilitate a shared understanding of the issue and what is at stake.



1.  Rely only on a great argument

An argument is one component of persuasion. One or two strong arguments can be used as evidence that your idea is good, but you need to connect those arguments to emotion, and make them real by creating powerful images of what things would be like if people adopted your viewpoint.

  • A strong argument would be something like….A recent survey has shown that 80 percent of our cosmetics salon demographic also purchases therapeutic massage treatments on a regular basis. If we were to offer in-house massages as an up-sell to our core services, we would tap into this business stream and create a niche market all at once. I believe this is an idea that deserves support and further analysis.
  • A vivid and emotional argument would be something like…We know our customers enjoy being pampered - they tell us this every day. I was talking to a lady called Janet Wilson, who's one of our biggest fans, just yesterday about how good scalp massages are. She says they are heavenly and thinks that we should utilise masseuses. I thought about this connection and realised that our customers treat their cosmetic appointments as an indulgent, luxurious experience. Why not offer them more indulgence? I did some research and analysis and found out that 80 percent of people who match our demographic profile also purchase massages on a regular basis. Can't you just see our customers being treated to a massage before their appointment? Usually when you leave a massage you look like a bedraggled mess. Here they come in, get pampered and leave looking more fabulous than they have in weeks.

The difference in the impact is clear to see. The argument is based on the same data but the presentation is what makes the persuasion factor.

2.  Make a hard sales pitch

Try and buy a car or some home furnishings – what experience do you usually get? Everyone knows the hard-sell game. How do you feel about experiences like this? You get your back up and you resist, argue, or discount everything the salesperson says. You become opponents even before you know what you are fighting about.

Turn the situation around and make your presentation appealing by finding out what you audience thinks, values, and needs. Then compose a position that isn't a target for attack, but one that has real merit and substance.

3. Take an "all or nothing" stance

Persuasion isn't about forcing someone to surrender to your will. There are many points of compromise and collaboration between your position and a shared agreement. If you are inflexible, how do you expect to build trust? If you're not prepared to compromise, the other person has no reason to believe you have their interests in mind and no reason to be convinced.

4. Believe you only have one chance

Persuasion can build over time. You will not win people over with your first attempt every time. People need time to process and assimilate what you are saying with their current perspectives, beliefs, and circumstances. A good persuader uses that to his or her advantage and layers his/ her presentation using more and more of the "Do" elements each time.

Therefore, to be good at persuasion requires an understanding of someone else’s position and also a willingness to practise techniques. It also requires an ability to relate to people and adopt their point of view.

Listen actively to people and put propositions to them that appeal and have great value. Also remember to remain flexible throughout the process. This puts you in a prime position to persuade.

When someone is potentially looking to buy from you, or is a potentially interested prospect, if you show them ‘what’s in it for them’ and support that by being genuine and truly interested in how they will benefit you will persuade them to do something that you want to do but that benefits you both – a true win/win position.

For help and support for your organisation in terms of becoming more persuasive contact us  or on 0116 232 5231 or contact me personally at the points below.

David Turner

Managing Director

07747 023610

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