Meticulous preparations, active listening, and perfect timing will convince others.

And — there are thousands of techniques on how to do this in various situations; some techniques are about power and authority, others about psychology and behaviour. Some techniques are scripts, others a matter of being persistent and not giving up

If you’re selling fast-moving consumer goods, it’s all about placement — where is your product when your prospect happens to be susceptible to suggestion. If you’re selling more expensive products, especially to other companies, a proven track-record might instill enough trust in your “target.” Or, if you’re trying to win someone over romantically, body language, mannerisms, and pheromones might just get you laid.

Still — how do you persuade anyone of anything?

Patience, active listening, and timing

At the risk of making you disappointed, dear reader, the golden rule to persuade anyone of anything is surprisingly basic:

Never suggest anything to anyone who isn’t yet ready to comply. Getting a “no” is your mistake.

What does this mean?

  • Persuasion is more about prep work than most people realise.
  • Compliance always comes at a cost; are you willing to pay it?
  • You must learn to tell when someone is ready to comply or not.

Prep work (“pre-suasion”)

In real life, the easiest way to prepare someone to be persuaded is to get into a casual conversation; you need to figure out how the person you wish to persuade would reply — without asking the actual question.

Example: Suggest similar scenarios and discuss pros and cons of related issues. Use if-statements and ask them, “what would they do if…”. You’re just conversing and no-one is being put on the spot.

If your targets would say “no,” you need to figure out what their reasons are. Don’t they trust you (or your judgment)? Are they unable to see how compliance would benefit them? Are they stressed out, fearful, or in a bad mood? Maybe they just don’t like you (or whatever it is that you represent for them)? And so on.

Example: Get to the bottom with how they feel and try to figure out how their reasoning mechanisms work. Don’t just listen to what they are saying; focus also on body language to get a more accurate picture of their emotional stance. You must to remove any obstacles through non-threatening suggestions, rhetorical questions, and intriguing reasoning before attempting to make your ask.

Example: If they have no reason to trust you, give them plenty of reasons to do so. If they can’t see any benefits they like, suggest ones they would like. If they’re fearful, instill courage in them.

The cost of compliance

Every time you try to persuade anyone of anything, there’s a “cost” to you, whether that’s pride, time, money, or energy. Anyone can be persuaded of anything, but are you willing to pay the price? Part of being persuasive is to be able to figure out the “cost of compliance” without making the actual ask — and then determine if it will be worth the effort.

Signals of compliance

The true superpower is to develop a sixth sense for when someone is ready to “play ball.” The most common mistake in persuasion is when people make their ask early on — and then find themselves having to change someone’s “official standpoint” (which is much harder).

Some people’s decisions are dictated more by the positive force, others by the negative force. It might also depend on the situation or how a person is feeling on that particular day. It’s a spectrum and most of us are at different points in-between throughout the day.

The ethics of persuasion

We’ve already discussed the “cost” of persuading someone and that you should, if the cost outweighs the benefits, walk away from trying to persuade that person. But there are other circumstances when you should walk away, too. You should also walk away (or reconsider your value offer) if there’s no win-win:

Persuasion shouldn’t be about coaxing anyone into compliance. Because that’s manipulation, not persuasion.

Hence, if you can’t clearly see the benefits for the person you want to persuade, you’ll be unfit to persuade anyone of anything. All you can do, then, is to manipulate them.

Persuasion is about getting someone to comply because they themselves want to. A master manipulator always has his own best self-interest in mind, whereas a persuader must see the world through the eyes of others. This is why all types of persuasion have a built-in ethical component. Even if you’re using various psychological techniques or scripts, you’re still trying to open your target’s eyes to an honest win-win scenario.

Priming your audience and framing your message

In 1984, Robert Cialdini wrote the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which has since become the closest thing to a holy book for thousands marketers and communicators — especially those who work with online engagement and social media. In his first new book in a long time, Presuasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, Cialdini shares his science-backed conclusion that successful persuaders focus on changing people’s “state-of-mind,” long before even trying to change their “minds.”

Priming is the process of getting your audience “ready” for your message. (Anyone working with email marketing knows the importance of “priming” your email list with a sequence of messages before asking subscribers to actually buy something.)

Framing is making your message appealing to your audience. (Anyone working with inbound marketing knows the importance of “framing” your message via UIX design, site structures, and call-to-actions to increase conversions.)

The golden rule of persuasion

The golden rule of persuasion: Never ask until you’re absolutely sure about getting a positive response. If someone’s not ready to comply yet, listen closely for what it will take for you to succeed and re-evaluate that cost.

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash.