Chipping Away at the Blocks to Persuasion Success

In a recent post, I wrote about common blocks to hearing yes.

Expanding on that, I’ve identified four specific target blocks: personal details, personalities, preferences and parameters. Each block includes sub-points that will help you chip away at a particular block to get to “yes.” Think of your persuasion priority: Who do you want to say “yes” to what?

Keeping that priority in mind, carefully review each of the four areas and identify what is a block, what isn’t a block and how you know. (This is an exercise you should repeat every time you have a major persuasion priority on your hands.)

You won’t need to provide detail for all areas here, but the more information you have, the better your chances of persuasion success. If it helps, create a worksheet to keep track of what is a block, what isn’t a block and how you know. You’ll also be amazed at what you’ll learn.

Let’s begin: What do you know about your target?

Personal Details

Professional objectives: These goals are important to a person’s business or career, which may involve status in a hierarchical structure, entrepreneurship or business ownership.

Personal agendas: These goals involve family, friends, hobbies, travel, recreation, civic and service involvement, religious commitments and self-development.

Emotional intensity: This comes into play if a persuasion situation also involves a personal relationship, a belief that goes beyond intellectual evaluations or commitment over compliance. Think of emotional intensity as the volume knob on a Marshall half stack, not the on/off switch. You can turn it up or down, depending on your needs.


⇒ Gender or generational differences: Are there behavior tendencies influenced by gender where you two are potentially out of synch? Are there generational differences creating a stone wall in front of you?

⇒ Organizational influence: What is your target’s organizational horsepower?

⇒ Publicly stated perspective on a given issue: This can include conversations, written communication, the championing of or opposition to similar issues, role as a stakeholder, and experience with the given situation.

⇒ Trust level: What is the degree of trust shared between you and your target? Think of your personal history with the target, respect given and shown, mutual obligations, favors supplied and reciprocal support.


⇒ Idiosyncratic communication preferences: Does your target prefer to communicate with you and others via email, phone or text message?

⇒ Data preferences: Some people want all the information; others just want the executive summary. Some people like to study the stats, others want the story. How does your target prefer his information?

⇒ Target’s tendencies: Do he approach problem solving in a particular way? Does she have a go-to person? Does he often resort to cutting expenses or sales promotions? Do they exhibit behaviors that may impede your path to yes?

⇒ Relationships: This involves examination of advisors, peers, past sources of influence, probability of independent actions (or actions dictated by others), and reactions to peer pressure. Does your target have any exceptionally positive or unusually strained relationships?


⇒ Approval authority: This is usually related to economics, budgets and the ability to secure funding by attracting donors or underwriters. (This also is crucial when dealing with nonprofit organizations.)

⇒ Budget parameters: These relate to the ability to make unilateral decisions, timing in the budget process, ROI considerations, changing priorities and non-allocated discretionary funds.

⇒ Time constraints: Consider the deadlines you and your target are under, the magnitude of what needs to be accomplished once agreement is reached, and the hours/days/months/years it will take to make the ask’s concept a reality.

⇒ Issue expertise: This may involve credibility, history in this and similar circumstances, researching and studying the issue, and public statements.


You may wish to add or amend categories. My point is that in order to define your target and the likelihood of persuasion, you need intelligence — not brain smarts, but what the government would call “intel.”

I choose not to think of this as “competitive intelligence,” because the target isn’t necessarily in a competitive position (at least we should hope not). But the target is in a questionable position, insofar as how amenable that individual might be to your persuasive charms.

Remember: The most effective and impressive persuaders know exactly who they’re persuading and how to tailor messages specifically to them.

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