Posts

Your Favorite Website: IAmRight.com

One of my favorite sports pundits often say, “We all visit the same website: IAmRight.com.” 

By that, he means we seek facts, stats and opinions that prove our hypothesis or our preconceptions. The person we hired is doing a fantastic job, the program we launched is performing exactly as intended or the product our team created is adding what we thought it would to our market share.

You might recognize this phenomenon as confirmation bias. It’s real. And it’s a problem.

Confirmation bias can lead to poor decision-making because it provides people with all the reasons to support their own claims and aims, with nothing to refute. If you’re attempting to ethically win the heart and mind of your target, you must do your due diligence and look at all relevant data sets to make sure that what you’re proposing is the right thing to do. Once you’re convinced that your proposal is the right thing for your target, for you and for the situation at hand, acknowledge the bias.

How to Leverage Confirmation Bias

Let’s say you’re proposing that your company partner with a specific new supplier. Leveraging confirmation bias in persuasion can sound like this: “I found one I think would be a great fit. So I looked for reasons why we should partner with this company. I looked at locale, capacity and all the things that company does well. And that’s exactly what I found — reasons why we should partner.”

But don’t stop there: “I’d be fooling myself if we didn’t do our due diligence, and I want to be sure I’m not falling prey to this thing called confirmation bias — by only seeing what I want to see. I suggest we have a few others, people who aren’t as close to this decision as I am, take a hard look at this potential partner and help determine if it would be a good fit.”

Taking this deliberate approach can dramatically improve the chances of your recommendation being accepted. It also shows you’ve thought deeply about this decision, you’ve done the necessary background work and you’re offering up your analysis for peer review.

Organizationally, you’ll be seen as intelligent, honest and a person of integrity.

Why?

Because you are.

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash.

The Persuasive Art of Requesting Testimonials

Often, the most important tools in your toolbox are customers’ and clients’ opinions of you. In a word: testimonials.

In the science of persuasion, this is often referred to as social proof. We follow the lead of similar others. How do most people choose with whom they do business? They ask their friends or professional peers for suggestions.

But don’t wait for others to share the good work your company does. Rather, focus on cultivating your own impressive library of testimonials. Here’s what you need to know.

There are moments of power in social exchanges. And, like Robert Cialdini taught me, if you know how to operate in those moments, you are at a significant advantage. When a client or customer says “thank you” to you, how do you typically respond? You probably say something like: “Happy to help!” If that’s the case, you’ve just fumbled a huge persuasive moment.

In that moment of gratitude, you should … CAPTURE A TESTIMONIAL!

When someone thanks you for something specific — be it a service, a product, a solution or for exceeding expectations — say this: “Terrific! I’m so glad I could help. Hey, would you be willing to help us help others? Would you type out what you just told me in a brief email so we can spread the good news of what we’re doing here?”

Now you have dramatically increased the likelihood of obtaining a testimonial.

Three More Ways to Capture Testimonials

Other options exist besides asking the customer or client to email you a testimonial. Consider posing these questions:

  • Could we take a moment now for me to write your comments down?
  • Would you like me to write something up later and send it to you for your approval?
  • Would you be able to text your comments to me by the end of business today?

If you practice this approach every time a client or customer says “thank you” to you — and I mean every time, for any reason, no matter how small you consider the accomplishment — you will have an almost never-ending supply of powerful testimonials.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels.

Persuasion vs. Influence: What’s the Difference?

LinkedIn analyzed thousands of job postings and listed “persuasion” as one of the top five in-demand skills for 2019.

But to the uninitiated, that term “persuasion” has negative connotations.

After all, when someone says, “You’re not going to persuade me!” it’s usually spoken in defiance. Or a well-intentioned person might proclaim, “I would never try to persuade someone.”

But here’s the thing: Persuasion is not coercive, conniving or devious. Drop that inaccurate psychological baggage right now. No one can be persuaded to do something they don’t want to do. Somebody may have second thoughts or experience buyer’s remorse, but that’s another subject entirely.

As regular visitors to this website may recall, I define persuasion as ethically winning the heart and mind of your target.

• “Ethically” means simply doing something honestly and without trickery or deceit.

• “Winning” means gaining agreement with your suggestion, idea or position.

• “Heart” refers to gaining emotional buy-in.

• “Mind” refers to logical buy-in.

• “Target” represents the specific person you are attempting to persuade.

A term often used in conjunction with persuasion is “influence.” Influence is the capacity to become a compelling force that produces effects on the opinions, actions and behavior of others.

Occasionally, I use the term “influence” as an effect that “nudges” a target toward thinking positively about my request. But I’d like for you to primarily think of influence as your professional and personal credibility, your organizational and political capital, your corporate “sway.”

Remember: Persuasion is an action; influence is a state or condition. Use both wisely, and you’re bound to achieve new levels of success.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash.

A Blueprint for ‘Yes’ (Mark’s Persuasion Priority Action Plan: Part 2)

In order to succeed in your persuasion efforts, you need a persuasion priority action plan. The one I like to use involves seven steps, and I covered three of them in a previous post.

Here they are:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what.

Step 2: Determine why this is important for you, your target and your organization.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case

Step 4: Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

Step 5: Assess your primary target and other key influencers. 

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

Step 7: Create your step-by-step actions: When do you do what with whom, and why? 

In this post, I will cover the next three steps, saving the final one for next time.

Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

What savvy phrases can you use to describe your request or facets of your request?

• A compelling argument

• A sensitive situation

• A crucial decision

Questions work, too.

• Do we want to surrender to the competition?

Similarly, what figures of speech (metaphor, simile, analogy) can you create to describe your request or subsequent risks or rewards?

• “This guy is the Payton Manning of sales directors.”

• “That part of the country is a marketing black hole.”

• “The likelihood of the board approving that approach is less than that of Kim Kardashian wearing a turtleneck tomorrow.” 

Using storytelling best practices, what brief and relatable story you can develop to justify your request, address potential challenges or describe imminent rewards. Be sure to have a point, include a captivating open, establish a plot, insert an unexpected element and conclude with a learning point. 

Anticipate resistance and objection. How will you respond when someone says, “It costs too much”? Or, “We don’t need it”? Or “Now is not the right time”?

Step 5: Assess your primary target and other key players. 

You certainly don’t need to list every person who might be involved in your request, but it’s critical to include your primary target and key players. Write down their names and titles, your impression of their personalities, and your perception of their preferences for communication and information.   

For example:

• Steve Miller, VP Field Operations; expressive; text messages; just the facts 

• Jerry Matherstone, General Counsel, reserved; face-to-face; all the details

Using a table like the one below can help you sort through these details.

NamePositionPersonalityCommunicationInformation
Jerry MatherstoneGeneral CounselReserved; little sense of humor Face to face (no email) Wants all the details
Steve MillerVP Field OperationsExpressive; likes to joke Text messagesJust the facts
     
     

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

If your persuasion priority involves more than a few people, represents significant dollars and is likely to take some time, you should map the persuasion territory. Here’s what I mean: When strategizing your persuasion approach answer the following five questions:

  1. Who are the key players?
  2. On a scale of -10 to 10 (10 being highest), what is each player’s influence in the organization?
  3. On a scale of -10 to 10  (10 being completely in support of your idea), to what extent is each player applying that influence? 
  4. How easily do you think each person might change his or her position (low, medium, high)?
  5. What significant relationships exist among key players?

Again, use a table like the one below to help you sort through the responses to these questions:

NameOrg. InfluenceFor or AgainstChangeableRelationships
Jerry Matherstone+8+7Medium+ Steve Miller
Steve Miller+5
-4High– Sally Mack
     
     
     
     

Use this information to map your persuasion territory.

Next time, I’ll focus on the final step of my persuasion priority action plan.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Are You Ready for Action? (Mark’s Persuasion Priority Action Plan: Part 1)

I write lot about persuasion; you know that already. So over the next few posts, I am going to share my seven-step persuasion priority action plan:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what.

Step 2: Determine why this is important for you, your target and your organization.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case

Step 4: Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

Step5: Assess your primary target and other key influencers. 

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

Step 7: Create your step-by-step actions: When do you do what with whom, and why? 

Here we go:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what?

Keep in mind the four persuasion priority criteria (meaningful, significant, realistic and others oriented), and be specific. 

Don’t say: “I want my senior vice president to add some people to my staff sometime.” 

Say this: “I would like my senior vice president to approve five key new hires for my department by the start of next quarter.” 

Who do you want to do what?

Step 2: Why is this important to you, your target and your organization? 

Strive to identify at least three reasons for each (you, your target and your organization).

These can include financial gain, skills acquired, networks built, market share increased, reputation improved and others.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case. 

Quantitative:

What might be the return on investment (expressed in dollars or a ratio)?

If we’re talking about a larger and longer term project, what might be the net present value and internal rate of return?

What other benefits of achieving this priority can be readily quantified?          

Qualitative:

Will your initiative result in sustained high morale, and how might you know?

Will the initiative lead to more effective teamwork? What might be the evidence?

What other qualitative reasons and subsequent evidence can you add?

Next time I’ll focus on more steps in creating your persuasion priority action plan.

(Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash)

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.

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.

Black Friday Tip: Take Your Buyer’s Photo and Then Close the Sale

Black Friday is next week (Thanksgiving is early this year), so if you’re in the retail business, make sure your digital camera is fully charged. You’ll want to take lots of photos that day.

You can literally put your buyer in the picture. In the Harley-Davidson world, I tell retailers to take a digital photograph of their prospective buyers when they are considering which model to purchase. This is a fantastic opportunity for the customer to see themselves on the motorcycle of their dreams — without having to invest in gigantic mirrors for the sales floor.

A photo positively differentiates that salesperson and that dealership from the competition, makes the prospect feel like he’s part of a fun family and gives the salesperson a wholly legitimate reason to capture contact information and follow up.

Photo Magic

This idea works in practically any face-to-face B2C experience. Working at Guitar Center and you’ve got a hot prospect eyeing up a new Les Paul Custom? Shoot a photo of him with that piece of musical art in his hands with that small digital camera in your pocket. Selling furniture? Take a photo of a customer kicking back in his recliner of choice. Employed by an art gallery? Snap an image of the prospective buyer standing next to the piece under consideration. Make sure you use your own (or the store’s) camera; this won’t work with the customer’s smartphone camera. The idea is for you to have possession of the photo, obtain the contact information, and then follow up.

I’ve also seen the picture method used with some degree of success in B2B situations. One company, for example, was considering buying a well-known author’s business books and training materials for its employees. While the corporate buyer was having dinner with the author’s representatives, the celebrity author surprised the buyer by joining them at the table. Naturally, the author’s rep snapped photos of the buyer and the author together, and the corporate buyer wound up giving the writer his company’s business. Was that solely because of the pictures? Of course not. But they didn’t hurt.

‘Ownership Transference’

Think about how you might incorporate a famous employee, cool logo or unconventional office building into photo opportunities for your customers. I can’t tell you how many Harley-Davidson enthusiasts pose next to the Motor Company’s iconic bar-and-shield logo each year at the corporate offices in Milwaukee – regardless of how much snow is on the ground.

These kinds of photographs aid the psychological phenomenon I call “ownership transference.” When someone sits on a motorcycle (or slips on a jacket or sits in a chair or slings a Les Paul over his or her shoulder), that person really is taking mental ownership. And having a digital photo to look at and share with friends enables people to relive and reinforce those positive feelings of ownership.

Putting your prospective buyer into the picture, both figuratively and literally, is a crucial step in your sales process.

Revisiting Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion: Social Proof

In five previous posts, I’ve covered the noted psychologist Robert’s Cialdini’s five principles of persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, consistency, liking and authority.

Now, we come to Cialdini’s last principle: social proof. People follow the lead of similar others, and this condition of social proof intensifies when there exists a condition of uncertainty (Sales are down! What should we do?) or similarity (All the other computer companies offer package deals.) The most powerful example of this is peer pressure among teenagers. Studies show that teens are more likely to vape if their friends and family approve.

Social proof holds sway in the office, too. If you notice coworkers signing up for the United Way HomeWalk, you will be more inclined to do so. If you see that others are working late at the office, you more than likely will start setting aside a few evenings to stick around, as well. If everyone appears to be on board with the new marketing direction, you will probably be on board, too — even if you’re not a fan of the new marketing direction.

We are social creatures.

The absolute best way to leverage social proof in a business setting is through the use of testimonials and referrals, which demonstrate that others have benefitted from knowing and working with you. And now your target will, too. That is the power of social proof.

It’s important to know that people often use Cialdini’s six principles, individually or in combinations, to make decisions. And now that you know them, so can you.

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.