Influential And Persuasive Strategies 101
Being able to persuade and influence people is an art. Contrary to the belief that only a select few have a talent, the truth is that anyone and everyone has the capacity to be influential and persuasive to get what they want in life.
It is true that people consider their needs and wants as more important than what rationally makes sense when others persuade them. Once this concept is clearly understood, influencing others becomes easier. Niall Cassidy discusses methods of successfully influencing the people around us.
The Art of Influencing Anyone by Niall Cassidy is a great guide to persuasion, influencing and convincing people around us.
Appearances And Communication
It is a common occurrence, where a person under-qualified and less hardworking gets a promotion over another who is more deserving, hard-working, and more qualified. Why does this happen?
It happens because decisions aren’t always logic-based. People have a tendency to put more faith in what they want to hear rather than focus on what is logical.
Consider an example of two executives presenting ideas for a new project. One proposes a reasonable, meticulous, step-by-step method of starting the project slowly, while the other proposes that they dive straight in. While the second person doesn’t give proper logical reasons for his idea, he is full of enthusiasm.
In most opinions, the probability of the second enthusiastic executive becoming the project lead is higher. The second executive’s enthusiasm was exactly what the boss wants to see and hear. It proves that the personality of a person and how he communicates is intrinsic to influence and is more important than either rationality or content.
The importance of personality can be understood better in the following example. Academic journals receive a number of papers from researchers for publication. Surprisingly, for selection, they first check the author’s name and then the quality of the content. An author with a Ph.D., whose paper –full of absolute nonsense – was shocked that his paper was published. Credentials such as a Ph.D. appeared to have more credibility than the content. His article was chosen only because he had mentioned his Ph.D.!
Therefore appearances are intrinsic to influence and persuasion too.
How To Appear Reliable And Convincing
To be influential and persuasive, one requires being reliable and convincing. And in order to do that, one has to be well informed, present detailed information, and have a warm and friendly demeanor.
For example, a bank robber arrested for his crime and presents a shady alibi. How would the shady alibi convince the police that his account of the robbery is credible?
Presenting the police with as much detailed information as he can, the shady alibi can seem to be more convincing. To come up with such details, the alibi would need to lie. Though lying is risky, it can be used to persuade.
In the case above, say if the alibi was to give the police details such as what clothes they were wearing, where all they went together and who were the people they met (fictitious, yet details that can make the police believe), could make the story of the alibi plausible.
In cases where conjuring up, or providing veritable details isn’t possible, mannerisms can help one to appear convincing and reliable. Having a warm and friendly manner, punctuated with humor can give the impression of knowing details and conceal the gaps inconsistency of knowledge.
An experiment was conducted, where an actor was told to give a talk to experts and pretend that he was a knowledgeable professor in their field. While the material that the actor presented was repetitive and included contradictory statements, his warm, friendly manner and humor content that he shared made many experts believe that the talk was very informative.
The mannerisms of the actor made him look authentic and thus reliable.
Simplifying And Organizing Information
At an individual level, appearances, communication, mannerisms and details can work. Businesses are however, a little different.
A salesperson requires the skills of persuasion and influencing all of the time. In the field of sales, it is always wiser to give a customer fewer options. While details are important, customers often get overloaded with too much information, and keeping it simple for them is key.
For example, if a customer buying jackets is shown an entire range of different styles and colors, he will tend to get indecisive, confused and decide to not buy anything at all. On the other hand, if he is shown 2 to 3 styles, and the customer pitches in his own opinion, after weighing in the pros and cons, a sale is more likely.
Persuasion and influence rely on organized information too. Presenting information to a buyer in a haphazard manner won’t catch their attention and confuse them. On the other hand, if the same information is structured and organized, and listed down in order, customers will be able to retain information better, ask their queries accordingly, and be in a better position to make their purchase decision.
How do fortune-tellers go about their business, get people to believe in what they say, when in fact all that they say has a slim chance at probability?
The truth is that fortune-tellers use a method called ‘cold reading’. Cold reading is a technique in which one uses a lot of vague sentences and statements that can be interpreted in a different way.
In business, cold reading helps to build a relationship of trust with the customers. Essentially, you have to appear to know a lot about the customer when you know nothing at all!
Say, a customer looking at washing machines in-store is approached by a salesperson. To initiate the conversation, the person could make a generalized statement such as, “laundry is such a painful chore, isn’t it?” Next, the salesperson can try to relate to a situation and the customer by saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could reduce laundry time by half?”
Such statements are general and relatable and show customers that the salesperson empathizes and “understands” him, even when the salesperson doesn’t know him at all.
The salesperson could next fortify the customer’s trust by saying, “I have worked in this department long enough, and for me, it is very important to understand what my customers’ needs are.”
One does not need to know a customer or delve deep into their lives to get their trust. Using broad and vague statements does the trick.
Curiosity And Persuasion
To persuade, one has to be able to catch the attention of people. And in order to catch their attention, they need to generate curiosity.
The Information and Digital Age that we are in, makes it very difficult to hold the attention of customers. Consider the number of ads, notifications, and alerts that vie for our attention every minute we look at our smartphones. Research shows that only 1 of 5 people actually read beyond the headline, and it takes them mere seconds to move on to the next. If we consider convincing customers face-to-face, the attention span is mere minutes, before they lose their focus.
It is therefore essential to tap into the curiosity factor. Getting straight to the point is common. Therefore to grab the attention of customers, one can start with something funny, unconventional, or even controversial.
For example, an ad grabbed the attention of its viewers because it showed a small boy playing good tennis shots and winning against an adult. The curiosity surrounding the boy’s talents kept viewers’ interests piqued. At the fag end, it was revealed that the boy was Steffi Graff and Andre Agassi’s son.
People Put Wants Above Needs
Commercialism works on the principle that people buy what they want as opposed to what they actually need. Keeping this in mind, marketing is based on the premise that it needs to evoke a desire for the product in customers, whether they need it or not. Most salespeople address the needs of their customers. It would be more beneficial if they focus on addressing customers’ wants.
If we consider the habit of smoking among teens, it is found that they smoke to fit in with the crowd, and not because their bodies need nicotine. For teens, rational arguments about why smoking is bad for their health don’t really matter. Therefore, marketing for any product should focus on reasons that provoke their desires, rather than practical or logical reasons to buy it.
Changing customers’ perspectives about what they want can spark desire. Additionally, marketers should aim at changing customers’ self-perspectives, thus aiming to change how they think and behave. Moreover, since people desire to align their behavior with their self-perceptions, changing one will change the other.
In an experiment, researchers asked a few people at a swimming pool about their water-saving habits (their attitudes). Most of them replied that they take saving water very seriously (self-perception). The same group of people was secretly timed by researchers while showering after their swim (the behavior).
It was found that the people who were asked about their habits took a significantly less amount of time while showering. The researchers were able to change their behaviors by making them aware of their attitudes towards water-saving and aligning with self-perceptions as well.
Influencing Without Seeming Desperate
It might seem a little incorrect, but influencing people depends on hiding ones true intentions so that the marketer does not seem desperate to sell.
It is a fact that people tend to be more trustful of other customers who have used a product rather than the salesperson selling it. Therefore, one is truly successful at marketing when their customers recommend their products to other people and refer friends and families. Achieving this makes marketers look less desperate to sell and increases sales. Many brands have found success when they have used the opinion of other customers to sell their products.
For example, a football club had started a ‘news updates’ via text service. However, because the service was a paid one, they had very few subscriptions. They hired actors to pose as customers, go to bars and pubs, and use the service one a match day. Other potential customers who saw the benefits of the service soon started registering, increasing the rate of subscription from 20 people to 120.
Another way is to use social gatherings and talk about one’s own product, by telling other people success stories of their products. This should however be done discretely so that friends don’t realize that they being pitched at. Promoting business within social circles should be covert and to do that it is wise to prepare an interesting story beforehand and engage in small talk that could lead to the story.
Utilizing Resistance While Persuasion
We have seen how the elements of surprise and provocation can be useful to grab customers’ attention. Similarly, salespeople can use the resistance of a customer towards their sales pitch to sell the product to them.
Often we see salespeople trying very hard to convince a customer who has resisted buying. Research shows that when salespeople persuade customers relentlessly, the opinions of the customer become affirmed and they do not buy the product. Additionally, when a salesperson hard-sells, his desperate intentions become clear and gives the customer all the more reason not to trust him.
In these scenarios, the trick is to embrace resistance and take advantage of it. For example, say a car salesperson finds that his effort to sell a customer a car seems to be going in vain. Here, the salesperson can actually agree with the customer. This agreement will surprise the customer and he will pay attention to what the salesperson has to say. Next, the salesperson should find a positive to the negative that he just agreed to, showing the customer that the product, despite what they felt was a negative has many pros to it too.
This tactic helps gain customers’ trust. Once the salesperson can get the customer to hear him out despite resistance, the customer can be easily persuaded.
People who wish to better skills of influencing and persuasion should focus on appearing reliable and trustworthy; keep communication and information simple and organized, use curiosity to grab attention to persuade. Those who wish to be more influential and persuasive should not appear desperate.
Influencing and persuasion is an art that can thus, be mastered by anyone.