The other day I was in my favorite upscale food store and bought these perfect, glistening, deep red raspberries, the kind that make your mouth water when you look at them. Unable to resist, in spite of the price, I bought them. A day later when I went to serve my perfect berries for dessert, they were covered with mold! I was, shall we say, less than pleased. At this point you’re probably wondering what moldy raspberries have to do with the art of persuasion and how it is key to effective communication. Bear with me.
I decided to take them back to the store and ask for my money back. But I didn’t get around to it for about three days. When the sales clerk checked the receipt, she replied with disdain in her voice: “You bought these berries five days ago. Madam, raspberries simply do not last that long. You can’t expect us to refund your money.”
Of course, I didn’t walk into the store without a plan. I had a hunch I would encounter resistance when I asked for my money back. With my plan of action to the ready, I proceeded to carefully persuade her why I should be reimbursed. Firstly, I convinced her that the berries had indeed gone off almost as soon as I had bought them. The problem was that I just didn’t have the time to bring them back until now. Secondly, I reminded her that I was a loyal customer, who frequently shopped at the store, especially for the wonderful berries they always have. Thirdly, I assured her that I would continue to shop at the store buying berries and other fruits and vegetables were she to recompense me for my loss. Ultimately, I walked out of the store with my money, knowing that I had achieved my goal, by being persuasive. (No berries, but you can’t have everything.)
In most areas of life we are, at some point, either persuaders or among the persuaded. The entire advertising industry depends upon the ability to persuade people to buy a product. A relationship may depend on one person’s ability to persuade the other that there’s a future in it. A court case is often won by a lawyer’s ability to persuade a jury. And in business, products and services are sold because of someone’s ability to persuade a client that this product or service is the best one for their needs.
The crucial aspect of persuading someone lies right there – identifying a need. When I meet with potential clients, one of the first things I try and do is find out about what’s missing for them, what their problem is, in other words, what’s their need. It’s not “about me,” it’s about them. What problems do they have that I can help solve? What issue do they have that I may be able to unsnarl? It’s my job then to persuade them that I can, in fact, help them.
Employing the art of persuasion in business is essential. Without it, we literally would not be in business. So how, you may ask, does the art of persuasion work? Here’s a simple breakdown of the process, whether you apply it to oral or written communication:
- Clearly identify your goal.
-Reimburse money for moldy raspberries
-Gain the interest of a potential new client
-Improve employee productivity
-Increase sales of products or services for an existing client
- Determine your approach.
-Appeal through reason, logic, and factual information
-Appeal through values and emotions – less tangible, but frequently crucial elements of persuasion
-Appeal through invoking higher authorities (credible studies or spokespersons who endorse your point of view)
(For a thorough breakdown of how appeals work, have a look at UBC’s Writing Centre.)
- Be prepared with evidence.
-Demonstrate proof that raspberries should not go moldy after a day
-Provide your prospective client with proof your business will uniquely meet their needs
-Show your existing client the proof that demonstrates how increased use of your services will benefit their business.
- Use compelling language.
-Rather than saying “These berries are lousy, give me my money back,” consider: “Your produce is normally so wonderful; I look forward to shopping here in future.”
-Instead of writing: “Your business signs are shabby, I could fix that,” try: “We have some beautiful, reasonably priced signage available that would really draw attention to your business.”
-Avoid a barrage of statistics, instead simplify: “This graph shows you how your sales would rise if you use our service. I’m happy to walk you through the fine points at your convenience.”
Persuasion, I should note, may be either a gentle or an assertive art, but it is never a “hard sell.” Bombarding someone with your ideas and information is more a “Lack of the Art of Persuasion.”
Persuasion in any aspect of life works best when it is focused, calm, and determined. After all, in the end you are trying to win someone over to your side. Even if it is just trying to get a grocery store clerk to say: “Madam, I stand corrected. Raspberries should not go moldy after only one day. And you should not be required to pay for them.”
Any other tips for how to be an effective persuader, let us know and we’ll share them?