The elements of persuasion
In The Necessary Art of Persuasion, renowned business professor Jay Conger outlines four essential steps to enhance persuasion. These include establishing credibility; framing goals to identify common ground; reinforcing your position with vivid language and compelling evidence; and connecting emotionally with the audience.
Begin with credibility
Whether you are trying to convince staff to adopt certain behaviours or customer to purchase your products or services, you won’t make progress if you don’t have credibility.
If you manage people, your credibility will pay a big role in how likely you are listened to and followed. Questions to consider include ‘Am I perceived as a competent leader by staff?’ and ‘Do people trust my perspective and opinions?’ If you are are not trusted or seen as a competent leader, you are likely to have challenges persuading staff. Seeking feedback and admitting mistakes is one way to gain the trust of staff and build credibility.
Credibility is also essential when dealing with current and potential customers. A company’s credibility can easily be lost as a result of high-profile scandals and unsatisfied customers who tell others or leave bad reviews.
Fortunately, business credibility can be enhanced in many ways. Providing excellent customer service and customer experience will go a long way to boost your company’s credibility. In a business-to-business environment, sharing your expertise will help you build your credibility in the eyes of your customers. This can include sharing knowledge through a blog, informative videos or other tools that help people achieve their business goals.
Positive customer reviews and testimonials are a very effective way to build credibility among potential customers. Industry awards and certifications are other forms of third-party support that can help to build your credibility. Also, getting experts to endorse your product or service is another form of credibility building. For example, getting a dentist or scientist to endorse a brand of toothpaste or research showing that 9 out of 10 dentists recommend the brand.
Frame for common ground for persuasive communication
After you have built credibility, you still need to show that your position, products or services have a strong appeal. In the workplace, identifying shared benefits will help you persuade team members to take the course of action you are proposing. So before making a proposal for change in the workplace, think about how it will benefit the people you are asking you to help you implement it.
For creating common ground with potential customers, study your audience to uncover their challenges, and show them the tangible benefits of your product or service. This intersection of customer needs and the benefits you offer is the common ground that you want to frame.
Provide evidence for persuasive communication
The next step in the persuasion process is providing evidence. This is much more than providing facts and figures. Numerical data should be supplemented with stories, examples, metaphors and analogies to bring it to life. The language used should paint a vivid picture and make your point of view tangible. To get buy-in for your proposal in the workplace, you could tell a positive story of how a similar change was successful for another organisation.
If you want to persuade customers, providing the facts and figures about the benefits of your product or service is the first step. This should be backed with stories and examples of how the product or service has delivered benefits.
Connect emotionally for persuasive communication
Experts agree that we buy emotionally and justify logically. This is backed by studies that show the part of the brain that regulates emotions is also responsible for decision making. In fact, some people who experience brain injuries in the part of the brain that controls emotions (the prefrontal cortex), are not able to make decisions. For this reason, it is believed that emotions play a key role in decision making.
How do you add an emotional element to facts and figures? One way to achieve this is by including a story that highlights a customer’s pain points. Let’s say you have a business software that can potentially enable a business owner to reduce their time on a task by 30%. You could tell a story how they would be getting home late each evening and spending less time with their family due to their workload. Now that the business owner is using the time-saving software, they are getting home earlier each night and spending more time with their family. If you look closely enough, you can usually find an emotional component that complements the factual information about your product.
Learn from the history of persuasion
Although he doesn’t mention it in his article, Jay Conger’s elements of persuasion match those that Aristotle wrote about almost 2,500 years ago in his book Rhetoric. For Aristotle, the three essential modes of persuasion are ethos (authority – credibility), logos (logic) and pathos (emotion). Fortunately, you don’t have to be a philosopher or professor to be persuasive. It’s simple if you remember the steps to persuasion:
- Establish credibility
- Frame for common ground
- Provide evidence
- Connect emotionally.