The Nature of Persuasion – Part Six

For the past five installments, we’ve been looking at the nature of persuasion.

We’ve seen that a lot of preparation and planning has to be done in advance and that the process of gathering and organising the information that we glean about the problem to be solved and the people that we’re trying to persuade are all part of it.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that although these “steps” appear to be discrete and linear, they in fact overlap to a considerable extent.

For example, it could be that as you learn more about the problem, you also enquire about the other person for a moment, before returning to the issue under discussion.

So you must not think of this as a checklist, but rather as a model which will help you to cover all the bases, so to speak.

And indeed, that’s what this is: a model.

The model is described by the eight letters in the word persuade.

Now we’re up to “A”: Address / answer the issues.

 

Address / answer the issues

It’s in this sixth step that you finally have a chance to say something.

In all of the previous ones, you asked questions and clarified responses; but you refrained from offering your opinion any more than was absolutely necessary.

The temptation is often to “save time” by skipping most of the first five steps and simply trying to drive home what you want.

Big mistake.

That time-saver could end up being a huge time-waster.

So in this step, you’re dealing with the questions or objections of the other person.

You’ve laid out your case, whether it’s to obtain the cooperation of the other person or to make a sale.

That person has responded to you with a somewhat different version. Heretofore, your comments have been limited to what was needed to help both you and the other person better understand what was being discussed.

Now it’s your turn to explain yourself, to “make your case”, or to give your presentation.

This is where you articulate what you want the other person to do and why.

It could be that you want the other person to take on more work, or maybe you want him or her to refrain from a particular behaviour, or to buy your product.

This is the place where the exploratory discussions largely come to an end, and you can tell your side of the story.

You need to have good answers.

It’s been said that “argument with facts is unnecessary; without them, futile”.

That’s worth bearing in mind. It recognises the intelligence of the other person, too. And it doesn’t matter if you think that person is clever or not. The majority of people believe themselves to be smarter than average.

Now if you’ve done the first five steps as you should have, the other person will be with you all the way by the time you get this far.

You may not need to say much at all.

Don’t oversell your position.

So what if the other person agrees before you give your bells-and-whistles presentation?

When your goal has been reached, thank everyone concerned, and move onto your next appointment or activity in the day.

In other words, make the deal, and then get out of there. You may have unplanned time in your day, but they have other things to do.

 

It’s possible that the other person won’t be with you and that you will have to spend time, maybe quite a lot of it, making your case.

If that’s what is required, then do it with a positive attitude. Not a shrug-your-shoulders-I-can’t-understand-why-everyone-else-is-so-thick demeanour.

Make sure that you have good reasons for what you say.

“Because I said so” is not among them.

That kind of response proves that you didn’t do Step One.

You see, in Step One, you will have already thought through the likely objections that you’ll get. This is especially appropriate for managers.

Objections are nothing more that the thoughts of others.

And so if you’ve thought about this for any length of time, then you know what the other person is likely to say.

You probably know, for example, that call centres have a list of the most common objections, and they also give their operators predetermined answers to those objections.

If you’re paying any attention to the pattern of their responses, then you can spot their script. If you’re really clever, you can wrong-foot them by raising an objection that’s unlikely to be in their list, or by cutting to the chase and forcing them to search in their list to see where you are in their sequence.

You can also save a lot of time by anticipating what they’re likely to say next and telling them before they tell you that the response they’re about to give is unacceptable.

As an astute leader, manager, or salesperson, you will have thought of all this in advance. You will have practised your response and be able to deliver it so naturally that no one would ever guess that that’s what you’ve done.

Of course, you won’t do this in an arrogant manner, but rather with that rare mixture of humility and confidence.

And because you’ve thought all this through, you’ll also have several solutions; and so regardless of the objections you get, you’ll know which one or combination of them to use in order to satisfy the concerns of the other person.

Not many people do this well.

Most fall flat on their proverbial faces.

 

Here’s a test for you.

How well do you think you know the facts - what the other person is thinking or feeling, the needs of the prospect, and so on?

If the scenario was a TV script filmed before a live studio audience, could you make it look natural and convincing?

You see, with a live audience, you can’t go back and retake the shot.

Same thing is true in theatre. If you make a mistake, then it’s there for all to see.

Robert Mitchum once said that he had been given two pieces of advice: “Remember your lines and don’t trip over the furniture”.

 

Do you know the script?

Have you learned your lines?

You have to be able to deliver them as if you just thought of them; as if you’re just having a normal conversation, like you do with your friends.

Nothing contrived.

Every once in a while, you’ll see a television programme that offers you the choice of endings.

Of course, they won’t entirely give the game away, but they’ll tell you enough so that you can phone in your vote for the ending that you prefer.

Then after some predetermined period of time, the most popular ending is shown.

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that the actors had to learn the lines for two or more endings?

And each one had to be performed with the same conviction as all the others.

That’s what the result of good, thorough preparation and planning looks like.

No matter what happens, it has to look like what happened was the only thing that could have happened.

It’s rare for these things to occur accidentally, even though they may look that way.

 

Conclusion

To properly address the issues, you have to have done the other five steps extremely well because to a large extent you’re addressing them all the way through your conversation.

On those occasions when you do have to address them more deliberately, you have to know not only what you’d like to say, but more especially what the other person will say.

You have to work out these scripts - all the mostly likely combinations - learn your lines, and then avoid tripping over any psychological furniture that they put in your way.

 

Want to read more about persuasion? Read this book

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