Enhance Persuasion by Exploring the Situation

In previous posts, I revealed the formula for persuasion success and explored ways in which to engage your persuasion target.

As a reminder, here is the formula: Yes = E2F3.

1. Engage your target.
2. Explore the situation.
3. Frame the options.
4. Finesse the rough spots.
5. Finalize the decision.

In this post, I’ll discuss how to explore the situation:

Exploring the situation means delving into the content of the issue, as opposed to navigating the approach.

• What does the issue mean to your target — personally and professionally? By personally, I mean issues such as ego, legacy, gratification, self-worth and off-the-job priorities. By professionally, I’m referring to promotion, remuneration, status, leadership, recognition and perquisites.

• What does the persuasion topic mean to the organization? Is it transformational or minor? Can it mean recovery or market dominance? Will it be widely known and applied, or localized? What are the time implications? Are we talking about a closing window of opportunity? Is there the need to be opportunistic and innovative?

• Examine budget parameters. Can this issue be accommodated within the existing budget and, if so, from one source? Or does it require several (and commensurate consensus)? Is the investment unprecedented, or is there precedent for it? Will other issues be delayed or sacrificed because of the investment?

• Explore risk. Some people have a higher tolerance for risk than others. Will the desired result, in your target’s eyes, justify the identified risk? Can you separate the probability of the risk from its seriousness, so your target can make separate judgments? (Great seriousness can be offset by very low probability, and high probabilities ameliorated by low seriousness.)

• What is the target’s appetite for the change? Is his interest the same as it’s been in the past, or is it enhanced or reduced? Can you suggest preventing actions for any foreseen risks? Have you considered contingent actions for dealing with problems that do arise?

• Does your target — having explored the issue with your guidance — offer solutions, new ideas and insights? Is he clearly excited and willing to take part or even lead? Or does he seem wary and hesitant to commit until others have done so?

If you engage and explore properly, these are all important early indicators. The way in which you ask these questions is critical. Remember that persuasion is an art; it’s a conversation. Don’t interrogate, and don’t try to wing it.

Don’t take sides too early by stating your opinion, either. Leave room for you to appear as a curious but well-informed onlooker. Don’t be a zealot seeking to convert; rather, ask follow-up questions for clarity and understanding. Give your target the opportunity to think and respond. And after he or she does respond, count to four and see if your target adds something else. Don’t rush to fill the silence.

Amazing things can happen in between the conversation.

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