Everyone has a message. Everyone wants to be more persuasive. Whether you are an employee working for someone else, an owner of your own business, a student, a blogger, etc. you need to be heard. In that sense we are all marketers. The world is drowning in information and when you speak you need to make sure your message gets results.
The following are 10 ways to be more persuasive. They are all proven effective in controlled experiments and many are taken from Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.
- Social Proof – When the course of action is not clear, people look to others for guidance (even though they will deny that fact). Put more simply, people tend to do what other people similar to them do. This behavior is programmed into our genes and is well established. Social proof is more influential when we are observing others we perceive to be similar to us. So if you are trying to sell someone on something, be it an idea or a product, a powerful method is to show how others like them have already bought into it.
- Mirroring – People respect, like, and are most easily influenced by people who they perceive to be similar to themselves (see Social Proof above). So one way to influence someone is to mirror them. Mirror their speech and their actions. If you verbalize back to someone something they have said and in the same words, you instantly become more influential. The same thing applies to posture and actions. If you want to influence Mike, then you need to act like Mike. If he is leaning back in his chair, then you would be wise to do the same.
- Offer Few Choices – People are paralyzed by choice and if given too many options, will simply fail to choose anything. So if you are offering up alternative products, services, or ideas, be sure to limit the choices to only a few. Two choices is often better than three.
- Reciprocation – Do someone a favor and they are more likely to return it. There is an interesting twist to this. People who do you a favor once are more likely do do you another favor in the future. Once someone has done you a favor, in their mind you become more important to them; you must be worthy of their time. So get someone to do you a small favor, and they are more likely to listen to you or do you an even bigger favor in the future. The best way to get them to do you a favor in the first place is to do one for them.
- Baby Steps – We want to act consistent with our previous actions. Further once we buy into something or someone, we tend to become much more committed to it or them. This is the foot-in-the-door technique. No matter how small a step you can get someone to take as far as agreeing with your idea, product, or service, those small steps will lead to larger steps in the future. This even works on yourself. Start small. Get your target to say yes to anything first, and then they will be much more likely say yes to what your really after.
- Labeling – Marketers use this one on you all the time: “You seem like a smart person and smart people buy X”. Tell someone they are smart, sophisticated, thrifty, a risk-taker, etc. and ask them to take an action consistent with that label. There is a powerful inner drive to stay consistent with what we have demonstrated in the past. If someone labels us, we believe we have demonstrated that trait (especially if it is positive).
- Ask the Right Question – Recently I was given a pitch for a timeshare. All throughout the pitch, the agent was asking me and my wife questions about what would we do or what we would like to do. This was leading to the final push on the actual sale. Before asking someone to do something, get them to say they would do it or something consistent with it. Get them to verbally express an inclination or desire to do something. Then when asked to do something consistent with what they have previously expressed, they are much more likely to agree.
- Smile – Smiles are powerful influencers. People like people who smile. But your smile needs to be authentic. Humans have a remarkable ability to detect false smiles (it’s all in the eyes). So find something in the other person that you can authentically appreciate and then smile about it. In general, just practice looking on the bright side of things and being happy. You will naturally smile more and thus be more influential.
- Keep it Simple – I once read that studies showed the most persuasive writing was written at an 8th grade level of comprehension. This is true even among people who were capable of comprehending much more complex language. There is a convergence of data showing that simple is better. Simple and easy to remember names and ideas are the best. Resist the urge to show off your knowledge and sophistication and instead K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid).
- Scarcity and Exclusivity – Making whatever you are offering, including ideas, unique and thus scarce is a very effective technique. People love and value what is scarce. Think about a high-end Mercedes sedan. Part of what makes it so desirable is the fact that it is rare; the overwhelming majority of people cannot afford it. At first glance scarcity might seem to be counter to the social proof phenomenon described above, but in reality they go together. When you buy the high-end Mercedes, you are joining and exclusive club of rich and sophisticated people who also value such quality and sophistication in an automobile. They are people like you. Mac owners are a small minority of computer owners, but they also believe they are a group of exclusive and sophisticated computer users. They know better. So offer something unique, but package it in a way that when people buy into it, they also are attracted by the social proof of others.
If you liked this and are interested in more I suggest you check out the very useful book: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.
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