Sweet Emotions: Choose Your Words and Phrases Wisely

Logic makes you think, emotions make you act. You’ve heard this before, right? But you know what you haven’t heard? Someone telling you how to leverage emotions.

Until now.

The language you use and the phrases you choose can help you stir emotions of the person you’re trying to persuade. One way to create an emotional response is by using adjectives in your persuasive conversations.

Relax: I’m not going to go all “Schoolhouse Rock”  on you, but here are some great examples you can use to punch up your language.

• Adjectives can be absolute, comparative or superlative.

Good, better or best. Caution: Don’t overuse superlatives. A few add impact; using them a lot blunts their effect and erodes your credibility. Because not everything can be the best and the most.

“The Basic package is good. The Open Road is better. The Enthusiast is better still. But the Legendary is the best — and most comprehensive — package we offer. That’s where we should start.” 

Notice how this builds anticipation (a fundamental emotion) and finally joy at reaching the summit of your offering.

(Note that I don’t say the biggest, most expensive package is also the most popular. It makes consumers suspicious when your most expensive is also — curiously enough — your most popular. If it’s true, fine. But otherwise, avoid it.)

• Turn nouns and verbs into adjectives by adding an ending.

Try “-ic” or “-ish” or “-ary” or “-est,” as in “Our savviest customers typically put 20 to 25 percent down.”

Savvy is an adjective, but what’s really great about it for this example is that it also is aspirational. Everyone wants to be savvy.

• Add an adjective to a noun.

Understand that — when working with you — your target will make important decisions. “Decision” is a noun; “decide” is a verb. So add an adjective in front of that “decision.”

– A big  decision.
– A critical  decision
– A crucial  decision.
– Afar‐reaching  decision.
– A significant  decision.

“Picking the coverage for your Harley‐Davidson experience is a significant decision, and I want to make sure you have all the facts.”

Another variation involves stressing to your target that they are making not only important decisions, but also informeddecisions. Your role is really to educate others to help them make the best decision possible. Here are some variations:

– We want you to make a knowledgeable decision.
– We want you to make an educated decision.
– We want you to make a wise decision.
– We want you to make an enlightened decision.

“Picking the coverage for your Harley‐Davidson experience is crucial, and I want to make sure you have all the facts so you can make an informed decision.”

Note: It can also be helpful to identify decisions as “responsible” or even “irresponsible”:

– The responsible thing to do is consider and plan for these possibilities.
– It would be irresponsible not to consider these possibilities.

These descriptors amplify the importance of the decision and subsequently the significance of your advice. This goes a long way toward creating a trusting relationship.

Similarly, when talking about decisions that involve an element of risk, make your language more interesting by trying some of these variations:

– It’s about diminishing risk.
– It’s about lowering risk.
– It’s about decreasing risk.
– It’s about downsizing your risk.
– It’s about paring down your risk.

“Having peace of mind is all about diminishing risk. And that’s why I’d like to talk to you about the Harley‐Davidson Guaranteed Asset Protection program.”

Fear — specifically fear of loss — is probably the most powerful human emotion. We are much more influenced to act (or not) by fearing what we might lose, rather than what we have to gain.

I consider language to be of crucial importance to your persuasion success. The words you use and the phrases that you choose have a huge bearing on what others think, say and do.

Give these ideas a try immediately.

Here’s Why (and How) You Should Ask Irrational Questions

Sales success requires confidence. One surefire way to be more confident in persuasion situations — which, let’s admit it, often involve selling something — is to provide high-quality options, and you can do this through the use of irrational questions.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I first learned of this approach from the incredibly intelligent and innovative New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink. (He’s a very bright person who also happened to endorse my latest book!)

Regular readers will know that my approach to handling objections is to take two shots and then salute. Of course, the challenge is to always have an approach you can use for your second shot. Irrational questions are a perfect second shot.

Let’s say, for example, I’m speaking with a customer about the Harley-Davidson Planned Maintenance program and they “take a pass.”

I might say, “Fair enough. Don’t say yes, don’t say no, just be willing to hear me out for a moment before you make your final decision, okay?”

Customer: Okay. (This is my first small agreement.)

Me: May I ask you a question? (This is a permission question, which softens your approach and which people almost always say yes to … because they’re curious about what you’re going to ask.)

Customer: Sure. (My second small agreement.)

Me: If you were to rate the Harley-Davidson Planned Maintenance program on a scale of one to 10 — one meaning that it’s absolutely worthless and 10 meaning it’s better than cold beer, what number would you use?

Customer: Well I’d probably rate it a 3 or 4. (This is now my third agreement. They are willing to rate the program and participate in the conversation.)

Me: May I ask you another question? (This one is up to your discretion. Permission questions are powerful, but a strength overdone is a weakness; use your judgement on this one.)

Customer: Of course.

Me: Why didn’t you rate it lower? (Here is where you will get a moment of stunned silence. This is the irrational question. Your prospect is not expecting that question. And when you get stunned silence, you have regained control of the conversation.)

Customer: Well, it does have the free pick-up and delivery. And I guess I do like the wash and wax. Boy, the more I think about it, the fast turnaround guarantee is pretty appealing …

What’s happening here? Your customer is talking himself into buying the plan!

The best thing about using irrational questions as a second shot is that you can apply them to anything!

But what if the customer rates the topic in question at a 1 or a zero? Then shake it off, move on to what’s next, and live to fight — and persuade — another day.

Sharpen Your Persuasive Edge; Use a Chiasmus

Hearing “yes” in any type of situation — with colleagues and customers — is largely about appealing to the other person’s enlightened self-interest. One of my favorite ways to effectively do that is through the use of language, specifically a figure of speech called “chiasmus” [kahy-az-muhs].

A chiasmus is a verbal pattern in which the second half of a phrase is balanced against the first, with key elements being reversed. While you may not be familiar with the term, chances are you’ve encountered it.

For example, even the most challenged high school U.S. history student has more than likely heard references to John F. Kennedy’s iconic 1961 inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Or, if you’re a fan of advertising jingles, there’s this one: “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” (Not as profound as JFK, but memorable nonetheless.)

And, of course, there’s “Live to ride, ride to live.”

Want to improve the likelihood of a co-worker getting on board with your initiative? Use a chiasmus:

Steve, it isn’t so much what you can do for this project – although that’s substantial. You really need to consider what the project can do for you.”

That approach is so effective, because you’re really “selling” transformation. You’re showing Steve how, by participating in an initiative, he’s actually signing up for an improved skill set, greater visibility in the company and perhaps a starring role in a career-making project.

In a sales situation, a customer might be considering ways in which he can trick out a new ride. If that’s the case, try out this chiasmus:

“It’s not what you can do to this motorcycle; it’s what this motorcycle can do to you.” 

These figures of speech work because they appeal to the other person’s enlightened self-interest – potentially creating a more open-minded buyer or a more skilled and more respected colleague.

The sooner you wrap you head around this concept, the better off you’ll be.

How to Make the Two Primary Roles of Persuasion Work for You

To understand what persuasion can do for you and your career, you must understand the two fundamental roles of persuasion. 

The first involves getting someone to say “yes” to your offer or request — to buy your product, agree to your idea or take you up on your suggestion. Persuasion helps you get someone to willingly do something. You may want that person to:

  • Approve a higher headcount: “Will you sign off on my four new field sales positions?”
  • Enter into a business relationship: “Do we have a deal?”
  • Support your initiative: Will you back my proposal at the board meeting?”

The second role of persuasion — and one that many people overlook — is getting someone to not
do something, to dissuade them from taking action you feel might be harmful, such as using a particular supplier or launching a particular product. For example:   

  • Do not go ahead with a new business partnership: “That firm is just bouncing back from bankruptcy; do you think we should partner with it?”
  • Discontinue, or at least rethink, an existing initiative: “Our East Coast teams aren’t seeing much client interest.”
  • Change a decision, or at least continue due diligence: “Do you truly think he is the right person for the job? If we keep looking, we might be able to find a better fit.”

Law enforcement officers in some cities use the power of dissuasion very effectively. When bicycle thefts are widespread, for example, they employ a special task force to use GPS-tagged bait bikes to catch would-be thieves, which forces small-time criminals to ask themselves one significant question before they steal: Is this a bait bike? 

If you’re going to thrive in the eat-or-be-eaten contemporary workplace, you must be able to effectively use both roles. Doing so will provide you with a competitive advantage, because your competitors are more than likely not focusing on their own persuasion skills.

But you are.

Don’t Be a Fool When Seeking Persuasion Success

The best way to minimize the likelihood of taking a foolish persuasion risk is to ask questions first and seek agreement later.

Like this:

“What’s your view on the new ad campaign?”

“In your opinion, are new research protocols available that can accelerate the time to market?”

“What’s your take on my performance?”

“What’s your position on the new project?”

You’ll notice that these questions all share a common theme: They ask the target for their opinion, but they don’t ask for a commitment. Commitments are threatening; they require a line to be drawn and force a decision.

People are reluctant to make commitments quickly. On the other hand, opinions are easy to make and quickly shared. If you ask others for their opinions first, you will receive important clarifying information about your target’s thinking processes and be able to minimize the odds of hearing “no.”

Everybody has an opinion, and most people are willing to share them. If you ask me for my opinion, I can’t help but like you more. It’s as immutable as the law of gravity.

Provide an ‘A-ha’ Moment for Greater Persuasion Success

One of the surest ways to remain in control of a persuasion situation is to provide your target with a moment in which he scratches his head and says, “That’s an intriguing idea. I’ve never thought of it like that.”

A-ha.

All of a sudden, you’re adding value to the conversation. You’re enabling someone to learn something he didn’t know before speaking with you. This is a major component of persuasion success. So practice engineering those “a-ha” moments with a series of “what if” questions. This type of inquiry allows you and your target to suspend reality and consider the possibilities.

B2B questions might include:

  • What if you expanded internationally?
  • What if you had lower volume, but higher profitability?
  • What if your salespeople were relieved of their administrative duties?
  • What if you reduced your advertising budget and increased your sales force?

B2C questions might include:

  • What if you could have the new model, and not see any increase in your monthly payment?
  • What if we came to you, and you never had to leave your home or office to do business with us?
  • What if we could assure you that you would always have someone to call if you need assistance?

It’s easy to come up with “what if” questions, based on the circumstances surrounding your target. Such thought-provoking inquiries challenge a buyer’s conventional wisdom. If you can identify sacred cows and change the way someone thinks about them, both of you may be leading those cows to the slaughter. (And that’s a good thing.) There’s no need to be rude or unreasonably abrupt, but don’t be afraid to take a risk and challenge convention.

After the “what if” questions, the next-best way to challenge convention is to simply ask, “Why?” Why does your target distribute products the way it does? Why is customer feedback considered so important – or, conversely, not at all? Why are sales efforts concentrated only in certain areas?

Help provide moments of clarity — and then watch your persuasion success factor increase.

Persuasion Power: Building a Strong Business Case

Building your business case can achieve skyrocketing persuasion results.

It all begins with such quantitative actions as doing due diligence, then measuring return on investment and knowing how much you need to sell. Then, you must create positive emotional links.

Finally, put everything together to create both real and hypothetical case studies to make your point. To best convince others that your business case is relevant and powerful, consider these six techniques:

1. Draw from other industries.

Demonstrate how and when your idea has worked elsewhere and why it’s likely to work in this situation. In other words, show precedence.

2. Provide relevant examples.

They should that either support why quick action is necessary or why a more measured approach is appropriate.

3. Create “positional critical mass.”

This means that you’ve focused your early arguments on the movers and shakers — people who can champion your cause and best rally support. It also helps when formal (hierarchical) and informal (popular colleagues) individuals support the position you espouse.

4. Cite and utilize experts (living and deceased).

They can be leveraged to help cut through uncertainty. If I were attempting to persuade about technology, I’d likely cite Walt Mossberg, former Wall Street Journal columnist and co-founder of the AllThingsD, Recode, D & Code Conferences. But if my persuasion priority involved organizational strategy, I’d reference the late management consultant Peter Drucker.

5. Provide validation and verification.

Citing the right metrics (quantitative help) will justify and validate your persuasion priority. For example, if you have 20 percent more clients six months from now than you do today, you’ll know your organization’s referral initiative will have been successful.

6. Argue against yourself.

People routinely write books on both sides of an issue. Academic debating requires the ability to take either side of an issue and prove or disprove it. Make the anticipated arguments against your own case and rebut them, so that you’re prepared for the crucible.

Remember: There are quantitative and qualitative aspects to any persuasive argument. Not only can’t you afford to omit either dynamic, but you must appreciate the supporting role they play for each other.

Mastering that synthesis is the key to becoming a powerful persuader.

My Holiday Selling Advice: Keep It Clean

As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, retail professionals will be busier than ever. Whether you sell motorcycles, jewelry or consumer electronics, your job is to persuade holiday shoppers to buy what you’re selling.

My advice during this critically important but potentially lucrative and exciting time? Don’t be one of those brands, companies or individuals that skate the fine line between ethical and manipulative persuasion.

Whenever I talk about persuasion — on my website, at speaking engagements and even when out with friends (hey, it’s what I do!) — I define “persuasion” as “ethically winning the heart and mind of your customer.”

“Ethically” means simply doing something honestly and without trickery or deceit. “Winning” means making the sale. “Heart” refers to gaining emotional buy-in, “mind” refers to logical buy-in and “customer” is the specific person you are attempting to persuade.

Turning to manipulative methods is tempting — especially when there are sales quota to meet, and consumers have many other purchasing options.

To keep sales professionals from engaging in questionable tactics when they hear “no,” I suggest following my “ART of Persuasion” model. Even though you may be familiar with this, it’s worth a reminder during the holiday shopping season.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE the objection.

Doing so psychologically prepares the buyer to hear what you have to say: “I understand and can see what you’re saying, but may I share with you some information that might change your mind?”

2. RESPOND in a substantive and compelling manner.

Do so by using three key pieces of information: “If you’re looking for a lower price, you’ll find it somewhere else. But if you’re looking for great buying experience, you’re in the right place.”

And then give three reasons why the customer should buy from you and your store — not from someone else and not online.

3. TRANSITION to the next step.

Remember to remain respectful of the buyer’s objections:

“What else would you like to know?”

“Another thing to consider is …”

“Do you have other questions I can answer?”

“What do you think?”

If the response is still negative, you have more work to do. Communication and objection handling are true art forms, and you’ll be like Picasso when you master the ART of this form of rebuttal.

Like any useful model, the ART of persuasive communication can be applied to just about any situation.

You won’t hear “yes” every time, but you’ll be shocked at how often you do.

Enjoy the holiday selling season!

Revisiting Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion: Consistency

What do you call someone who says one thing, yet does another? Hypocrite. Liar. Flip-flopper. Politician. Teenager. Most of those terms aren’t considered glowing characteristic traits.

This is where Robert Cialdini’s third primary principle of persuasion comes in: consistency. (In other recent posts, I’ve covered Cialdini’s first two principles, reciprocity and scarcity.)

We like, trust and want to interact with people who follow through on what they say. When a co-worker tells you he’ll hand in a report by the close of business, you think highly of him when he does just that. If he doesn’t, that colleague’s credibility drops a notch. Similarly, when company management promises to make a change to a problematic tuition reimbursement policy that never comes, the culture in that organization shifts to the negative.

The good news is that these occurrences aren’t likely to happen. Why? Once most people make a decision or take a position, especially publicly, they strive to act in accordance with that publicly stated notion. This demonstrates consistency, and it has been proven time and time again.

Next time, I’ll explore what “liking” has to do with all of this.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t already done so, consider reading Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Revisiting Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion: Scarcity

In a recent post, I introduced Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasionwho created something akin to a “Unified Field Theory of Persuasion” by categorizing almost every persuasion approach into one of six primary principles: reciprocity, scarcity, consistency, liking, authority and social proof.

Last time, I covered reciprocity. In this post, I’ll focus on the second of those principles: scarcity.

Scarcity

Call it the rule of the rare, the fact of the few or the coefficient of the insufficient. People want more of what they perceive to be a dwindling supply.

Countless examples exist of how individuals have responded to a decreasing supply of something. One of my favorite reactions is the panic caused when Hostess Brands Inc., the 82-year-old maker of Twinkies and other snacks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012. Shoppers began stockpiling Twinkies, fearing they’d find no alternative for their sugar fixes. News outlets reported that at least one person tried to capitalize on the scare by offering a single Twinkie on eBay for $8,000!

To truly leverage the principle of scarcity, the scarcity must truly be real. There really needs to be “Only three days left!” or “Limited inventory!” Anything else, and lack of ethics comes into play. And if you think people are worried about what they might be missing, they’re even more concerned about losing what they already have. That’s why “loss language” (forfeit, surrender, forgo) is always preferable to “gain language” (acquire, obtain, secure) when playing the persuasion game.

Try incorporating the principle of scarcity into your persuasion efforts this week.