Frame the Options for Best Persuasion Results

In previous posts, I revealed the formula for persuasion success, suggested ways in which to engage your persuasion target and offered ideas about how to explore the persuasion situation.

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 the first of the three “F” components: How to frame the options.

Instead of providing a binary choice for your target — a take-it-or-leave-it option, which is a 50/50 proposition at face value — offering three options raises your chances of acceptance to about 75 percent. In other words, you now have three shots at hearing “yes.”

The Power of Three 

Create varied options from your own exploration information, but also from the responses your target provides during that process. Including some of his comments and observations will substantially increase your odds of success. Try something like this:

“Not only should we look for an affiliation in Italy to launch this program, but your idea of sending our own managers over for six-month assignments is a perfect way to develop them and ensure a first-hand view by our own people.”

Additionally, most psychologists agree — and my own sales experience concurs — that “three” is the proper number of options. People tend to think in threes, or “triads,” because they are easier to process. (In scientific experiments, participants found positive impressions peaked at three, and skepticism increased when more points were suggested.)

There’s a reason retailers created the “good, better, best” concept decades ago. In fact, you can use that approach to help you form your options.

Frame the Options

When you present the options you’ve developed to your target, you are framing them. Much like certain frames enhance or detract from the attractiveness of a work of art, how you frame your options will impact the likelihood of hearing “yes” or “no.”

So prepare to be the Renoir of revenue, and the Picasso of profit!

Always begin with the most expensive option first. If you do, your target may just select your “best” option. And if he does? Well, that’s frost on the beer mug for you and your organization. But the real reason you frame your options in this manner is because your target might say “no.”

Nobody likes to be turned down, because it feels like failure. But if you know what to do in those seconds immediately after rejection, a “no” can be a lot less painful. This approach is often called “rejection-then-retreat,” or as psychology and marketing master Robert Cialdini sometimes refers to it, “concessional reciprocity.”

Walking in front of a university library one day, Cialdini was approached by a Boy Scout who asked him if he would like to purchase tickets to the Scouts’ circus for that Saturday at the local arena. The tickets were $5 each. Cialdini politely declined. Without losing an ounce of composure, the boy replied, “Oh, well, then would you like to buy a couple of our chocolate bars? They are only $1 each.” Cialdini bought two chocolate bars. Stunned, he knew something significant had just happened — because he doesn’t even like chocolate!

Analyzing this exchange, Cialdini discovered concessional reciprocity — the idea that when you decline someone’s offer and that person comes back with a smaller, less extreme offer, you want to say “yes” to reciprocate for the concession he made to you by accepting your original “no.”

That’s why it’s imperative to have options and frame them accordingly. If your target says “no” to one, you can retreat to your next offer.

Discuss the pros and cons of each option objectively, understanding that they all lead to your desired outcome. Allow the target to comment critically, perhaps eliminating one option altogether while seriously considering the other two. You might even want to combine aspects of the three options to create one acceptable hybrid.

Remember, all options are fine with you, because you created them around the goals you’re pursuing. Providing choices, any one of which creates the results you and your target both require, is at the heart of forming and framing options.

But this doesn’t ensure unmitigated success. I’ll cover that next time.

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