It doesn’t matter if you’re working on landing a new job or promotionor trying to get your bosses to sign off a new idea, being persuasive goes a long way in getting things done.
It’s a more nuanced quality than just being authoritative or demanding. The ability to win over others to see your way of thinking and support you includes a number of personal, presentation and perceptive aspects.
"Persuasion is all about making a deeper connection with someone, even if it’s momentary or a highly superficial trust. Even if you’re just selling something on Craigslist, people are taking in all these cues about whether to trust and believe you," says Marc J. Sachnoff, founder of Kirkland, Wash.-based Modern Wisdom Training Group, a consultancy that helps people make better decisions.
The next time you need to rally the troops and get them to support your idea or effort, keep these key actions in mind.
Knowing your subject cold and presenting your case succinctly help people stay focused on what you have to say and feel more confident in your opinion, says Bill McGowan, founder of Clarity Media Group, a New York City-based media training firm, and author of Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time Every Time . If your delivery is too lengthy, hesitant or unsure and peppered with filler language like "um" and "you know," you’re going to lose your audience.
When reporters have a story to tell, they typically give you the most important information in the first paragraph. Do the same when you’re trying to be persuasive, McGowan says. Talk about the problem you’re solving or the benefit you’re delivering and why it’s important immediately.
"If you build gradually to revealing your idea somewhere 40, 50 seconds down the road after you've tried to build this very airtight argument for why your idea is sound, you're probably going to have a fraction of the audience still engaged," he says.
Visual cues set the initial tone for your audience, so focus on your personal presentation first. What will your audience expect to see? Don’t show up in a suit if it’s going to be off-putting to your audience and don’t underdress if they expect more formality.
Beyond clothing, consider what the audience expects of you. If you work in tech, don’t show up with equipment that needs updating. While you may be able to overcome a poor first impression with a great idea and passion, why make it more difficult for yourself, McGowan says.
You need to understand something about the audience and what’s important to them, Sachnoff says. The case you build to sell your supervisors on a new product or service idea is different than the one you’ll build to get team members enthusiastic about the possibilities.
The former might be concerned about overall financial risk to the company, resource allocation, and brand implications, while the latter might worry about the impact of such a change on his or her day-to-day tasks and overall career trajectory. When you’re building your case, make sure it’s the case that matters and that you’re presenting it at a time when decision-makers can absorb it, Sachnoff says.
A 2013 study by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of California, Los Angeles found that making three positive claims was optimal when trying to persuade someone else. After three claims, people became more skeptical. So, when you’re listing potential benefits or proof that the idea will work, three claims may be the charm.
Anticipate objections beforehand and have honest answers, McGowan says. You don’t want to be too rosy about the potential for risk or else you’ll lose credibility. To be persuasive, you need to show that you’ve considered all of the angles and that you accept there is a measure o possibility the idea won’t work. Then, you have to show how you’ve thought through what will happen if things don’t go as planned.
"These objections wind up being a great litmus test for whether your idea really is really sound," McGowan says.