Become More Persuasive in Business Communications
Increasing your persuasiveness
- Has anyone ever tried to persuade you, and when you don't agree, they say the same thing but louder or slower, because the problem can't be that they're unconvincing. It must be that you've lost your hearing or your brain. Our passion to persuade often exceeds our capacity to convince, because we tend to use a narrow range of tactics. But what persuades us might be unconvincing to our listeners. A broader range of persuasive tactics will help you succeed more often with more people across more situations.
Let's cover a checklist of 12 effective tactics. Identify which ones you can use more often. First is rational analysis. This includes reasoning, logic, data, weighing pros versus cons or costs and benefits. Rational analysis is important but often insufficient. People can differ, legitimately, in their reasoning, data is rarely complete, and the future is often uncertain. I worked with an executive at a major media company who had tried several times to persuade the CFO to adopt a much needed, improved customer relationship management software system.
The executive provided a compelling cost/benefit analysis, but the CFO had seen plans that look great on spreadsheets turn disastrous when they encountered the real world. The executive finally succeeded when he supplemented his analysis with several tactics that follow, such as number two. Cite credible sources. Credible sources can be reputable institutions, such as leading research centers, prestigious universities, or foundations. You can also quote individuals, experts with strong credentials or high standing.
The more credible the institution or person you cite, the stronger your persuasive power. Number three, if there are policies, rules, procedures, standards, laws, or guidelines relevant to your listeners, reference them. If your recommendation is inline with an important policy or process and not following your recommendation would violate that policy or process, make it known. Number four, clarify pain and gain. How does your recommendation help your listeners accomplish what they want, or what concerns, risks, headaches, or problems does it prevent or help them avoid? If they follow your advice, what rewards can they gain or what penalties can they avoid? Five, initiate reciprocation or exchange.
People tend to respond more favorably to others who've already helped them. Can you add value proactively to your listeners, even before you ask anything of them? Or can you pledge to do something of value for them if they adopt your proposal? Six, establish urgency or scarcity. Make it clear that now is the time to act. Create a sense of urgency. Explain why time, resources, or supplies are limited. Explain why your listeners will be too late if they wait. Seven, align with values, principles, or mission.
People want to be seen and known as acting inline with values such as fairness or generosity to others in need. People don't want to be seen as hypocritical, by acting contrary to important principles. The executive from our earlier example used this to persuade the CFO to approve the new software. The company was passionate about customer service, and the executive created a short video showing a dismal day in the life of customers experiencing current problems the new software would prevent. He showed the issue as a core values violation, and it hit home with the CFO.
Eight, show how what you propose advances the organization's strategy or important performance goals beyond your own personal tasks, goals for the larger team or organization. This presents you as the opposite of self-serving, committed to the broader good. Nine, share success stories. Especially when uncertain, we tend to look to others like us or in our situation to help us decide. Give testimonials and share examples from similar individuals, teams, or organizations who've done what you propose or something like it, and show how well it's working for them.
Ten, build from small to big. Show small wins that demonstrate progress in the direction of your larger persuasive objectives. Build momentum and invite others to join the bandwagon. Ask for small commitments or easy agreements to pave the way for even bigger commitments and more substantial agreements. Make it easy for them to buy in early and small, and it will be easier for them to buy in later and larger. Eleven, lead by example. Albert Einstein said, "Leading by example isn't a way to influence, it's the way to influence." If you show the strength of your convictions by doing first what you want others to do, it's more convincing.
You yourself become an additional source of credibility. Twelve, like and be likeable. This one's easy to underestimate, but research on the persuasive force of likeability is very robust. Show a positive attitude, smile, encourage. People respond to the message and the messenger. Here's a great tool I learned from a mentor years ago. Just before you show up for a presentation, take a breath, clear your head, and say to yourself, I'm happy to be here, and I'm happy to see you.
Then, act that way. So there it is, 12 different options. Before your next important meeting, go through the checklist and choose which tactic is going to advance your cause with your listeners. Going forward, use a diverse mix of tactics to appeal to your listeners' diverse perspectives. Don't focus on what's merely enough to convince you, but what's more than enough to convince them.
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