A Superpower: Mastering the Art of Persuasion
It is the 21st century, an age where ideas matter more than ever. One may call the idea the seed that when nurtured and properly cared for, evolves into a beautiful plant. We could even say that ideas are the currency of the 21st century. Take a look around, from the buildings to the roads you walk on, everything was once an idea. Ideas are essential to growth but how do we convince others of our ideas?
Persuasion is all about influencing attitudes, behaviours and beliefs through communication. Businesses majorly rely on the art of persuasion as it acts as a catalyst that helps convince your audience of your ideas till both of you are on the same page.
Be it selling an idea, attracting new investors, building your brand or inspiring team members, persuasion plays a key role in business. Despite being such a critical component of business, the art of persuasion is sometimes overlooked by leaders and managers.
Persuasion is often seen as psychological where you plant seeds of ideas in one’s head that can impact their decisions. However, pushing people into agreeing with your thoughts, believing your ideas, and taking action are not enough. Persuasion is a much broader concept than what most of us assume.
We’ll dive into the natural challenges of persuading others and how to combat those hurdles with some simple tips to communicate with influence.
The First Step
According to Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and author of ‘The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind’, persuasion starts with recognising why affecting change is difficult and then developing strategies to overcome these difficulties.
In a professional setting, you’ll find yourself in many situations that you want to change. For instance, as a marketer, your aim could be to influence stakeholders or clients to support your products or services. As a leader, your aim could be to improve the culture of the organisation for optimal performance and as an employee, it could be to convince your manager or boss to change their mind about a decision they made. However, change is not as easy as it sounds. It requires much more than just presenting facts, data and information to support your argument.
Pushing for change comes with resistance. Change can be scary and it’s natural for others to walk away from it. Here are some obstacles you may experience when championing change.
The Theory of Reactance: Everyone wants to be in control. We are more comfortable with being the driver rather than being driven. This is one reason why accepting change from anyone else becomes so difficult for us. Oftentimes, when we are told to act in a specific way, we tend to behave in the exact opposite manner because we feel stripped from our control.
A great tip to combat this challenge is to give options to choose from instead of a single way. When you give someone a single option, they’ll think of all the reasons why they shouldn’t do it. However, if you provide them with options, they’ll compare them with each other and focus on which they like better, making them feel that they’re in control of their decisions
Uncertainty of Success: Change may also mean uncertainty. Humans are creatures of habit and stepping out of our comfort zone may feel risky at times. Especially from a business perspective, making changes may also mean an increase in cost, time and effort.
While costs are upfront, the benefits are sometimes unknown. We can only make a rough estimate of the benefits that follow. The cost-benefit gap makes it difficult for people to accept change especially when there is a lot at risk.
INSIDER INFO: Despite the resistance to change, our Pitch to Win™ communication workshop builds emotional intelligence and persuasion skills to create the perfect pitch that lands you a YES.
Mastering the Art of Persuasion
As business leaders, it is important for you to be influential. Oftentimes when we talk of business, we approach it rationally and make decisions with our heads. However, when we talk about influence, the idea must appeal to both the head and the heart. Here are five methods that business leaders can adopt to become a master of persuasion.
The menu card
We mentioned how when provided with a single option, people become more focused on why they shouldn’t take on that option. When you go out to a restaurant for dinner and the waiter tells you to try their speciality dish, you might feel unwilling to order it because it is human nature to disagree when you are asked to do something.
The solution is to provide options! For instance, if you want to change your team’s work schedule, rather than asking for one specific arrangement, give them two or more options to choose from.
Trust, the core element
Very often, the reason behind the failure of any business is its incapability of building trust. Before you can be persuasive, you have to be knowledgeable and trustworthy. One way to build trust is by showing your expertise in your field. Persuading others with your credibility and experience is an easy way to convince them.
Another way to build trust in teams is to show sincerity, honesty and fairness so others see you as reliable and reasonable. This will help you gain the trust of your clients, investors, customers and also your employees. In the long run, these are the people who’ll stick with you.
The end goal
Think about what you hope to achieve by persuading someone. In most cases, persuasion is about both parties walking away satisfied with a decision.
If you want to sharpen your persuading skills, you’ll have to learn to ask the right questions. Being straightforward and asking questions will help you get an edge over the other party and help you understand their priorities and needs. Once you have a solid understanding of their end goals, you can modify your presentation or business pitch to include their needs.
The magic of stories
Nothing leaves a bigger impact than a story. Persuasion and storytelling go hand in hand. Factual data can be used to support your arguments but tapping into emotions through stories improves your chances of influencing people. Stories can pull at your heartstrings and keep your audience engaged with a compelling narrative. Developing a connection is essential for persuasion and storytelling helps you do just that.
The Sullivan Nod
Eye contact is considered the most important element in human connections. Try making eye contact with your audience and nod at them and you’ll notice that they will also do the same. The mirror neurons cause others to imitate your actions and nod back at you, indicating they agree with your message.
“Persuasion is often more effectual than force.”
~ Aesop, Greek fabulist & storyteller
Presenting for influence
In the workplace, presentations are used for performance meetings, making a business case, data insights and so much more. A lot of these presentations are used to convince and persuade our audience so it’s important to have a solid foundation of presentation skills to master persuasion.
When your presentation is easy to comprehend and can hold the attention of your audience, that’s when you begin to influence your audience. Here are a few tips that will help you structure a highly persuasive presentation.
What makes an effective presentation?
In the words of Jerry Weissman, “Every communication has a goal to take the audience from where they are at the start of your presentation, which is Point A, and move them to your objective, which is Point B.” Now the question remains, how you, being a total stranger to them, can influence them to buy into your pitch ideas.
To be able to persuade them, you’ll have to understand the decision-making process, which involves focusing attention, building memories and influencing decisions.
Frame stories and ask questions
Storytelling is impactful when it comes to capturing attention. You can keep your audience engaged by telling narratives or asking them questions that move their focus to your main point. Make them the epicentre of the presentation, walk in their shoes, understand their critical points of interest and tie them with stories.
Building precise memories
Your clients or customers will rely on their memories when they make a decision. This is why you’ll have to highlight the most important part of your presentation creatively. Focus on what you want the audience to take away from your business pitch. Research shows that on average, people will remember only 10% of your presentation after 48 hours. You can focus on the key 10% of your presentation by telling a story, using compelling visual aids or recurring repetitions.
Good presentation skills include framing your slides in a way that encourages your audience to take action and make a decision. By sequencing your slides clearly and systematically towards an action, your audience will find it easier to follow your presentation. A presentation with a focused goal will also be more memorable.
INSIDER INFO: Advanced presentation skills incorporate a strong delivery and engaging visual aids. Amazing Sticky Presentations® is a visual communications workshop that focuses on creating a memorable slide deck that leaves an impact on your audience.
The ability to persuade is a valued skill that not many can grasp but when mastered, can make an impact in both your professional and personal life. Especially for leaders, persuasion is essential for decision-making and can improve your relationship with your team and clients. A true superpower – persuasion is a need for all professionals and leaders.
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