Persuasion Success: Finish Strong

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

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.

Now, we’ll explore the last of the three “F” components, and the final step in the persuasion equation: Finalize the decision.

Ask For Your Target’s Opinion

Do not ask for a commitment. Opinions are nonthreatening: Everyone has them, and most people want to share them.

Simply say, “What do you think?

When You Hear Yes

If you receive a positive response (“I really like the ‘Best’ option you’ve created”), move boldly forward. Finalize and formalize the decision: “Perfect! I’ll have the purchase order on your desk by the end of the day.”

Then consider yours a persuasion success story.

If You Receive a Neutral Response

When your target says, “I’m still not sure,” don’t try right away to secure your “yes.” You have more work to do. Instead, say something along the lines of: “I understand completely. Here’s what I’m going to recommend. Don’t say yes. Don’t say no. Let’s just make sure we’re clear about what we’re talking about and willing to consider it further. Fair enough?”

What reasonable person wouldn’t say “yes” to that? Most will. And guess what? That’s called a nudge.

Ask your target why he or she isn’t sure and what would lead to greater confidence. Is information missing? Would your target like to see additional people backing your persuasion position? Does a formal plan need to be presented?

When You Hear a Flat-Out No

Employ your options: “Okay, if you don’t want to go with the training program for the entire North American distribution channel, perhaps we should just focus on retailers and the field sales force. Or, if you prefer, only the field sales force. Which of those options would you suggest?”

Employ the persuasion equation the next time you need buy-in on a major decision. When formed, framed and finessed, I like your chances of hearing “yes.”

How to Overcome Objections

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 and then frame the options for best persuasion results.

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 second of the three “F” components: Finesse the rough spots and overcome objections. To do this, I’ll liken persuasion challenges to whitewater rafting.

Finesse Any Whitewater

Like rafting through grade five whitewater, the ways in which you navigate resistance to your persuasion attempts determine your success.

Not every target will agree with new ideas (or even old ones). But remember that an objection is a sign of interest; apathy is your real enemy. If people take the time to express counterarguments, skepticism or doubt, they’re engaged enough to invest their time.

Thus, objections are good signs. Here are the categories of typical objections and what you can do to rebut them. These are phrased in the classic “no” method — meaning your target says, “We have no need for such a plan.” And that’s where we’ll begin.

No Need: Just because you see a need, others may not. Needs are hardly universal, so you must create need in the eyes of your target. Highly persuasive people possess strong capabilities of creating need among others. Find and demonstrate alternate uses that your target hasn’t yet considered: “The training program won’t just develop people in our retail channel, but can be used to develop our internal sales force and customer service people, as well.”

No Money: This is probably the oldest and most common objection. “We just don’t have the money.” How many times have you heard that? Money, however, is not a resource; it’s a priority. That means there is always money. The real question is, to whom is it provided? After all, the lights are on, payroll is being met, the plants are being misted and the parking lot is clean. The point of persuasion is to ensure that existing money is provided for your persuasion priority, as opposed to something else. Consequently, it’s essential to make your position a high priority. Justify the investment, explain alternate forms of payment or break down the costs to make them more palatable. Few people buy a $50,000 vehicle; they buy a vehicle for $500 a month.

No Time: This argument — “We just don’t have the time” — is as specious as no money. There is always time. Every day contains 24 hours. The question is, to what priorities will that time be relegated? If someone says there is no time, they mean there is no urgency, which implies that other issues have higher priorities. Hence, it’s up to you to elevate the urgency. Prove to your target why saying “yes” now will benefit that person. Is there a window of opportunity in the marketplace? Is there a particular resource in the organization that is available now, but won’t be later? Is the mood of the organization ripe for this sort of initiative?

No Trust: This is the really big one. No matter how much money, time and need your target has, he or she is not going to support you or your position if that person doesn’t trust you. Trust is a function of your target believing that you understand that person’s position and will help him or her achieve self-interests — rather than manipulate them. Signs of trust include sharing humor, requesting opinions, revealing of details not asked for, accepting pushback and offering assistance. Trust can be gained in 20 minutes, after three meetings or, sometimes, never. Keep your promises, don’t rush and prove your capabilities.

Next up: The final step in the persuasion formula.

How Do You Engage Your Persuasion Target?

Last time, I shared the formula for persuasion success, which is Yes = E2F3.

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

In the next several posts, I will explore each element of that formula. Let’s begin…

Engage Your Target

Find the time that your target will be most approachable and receptive. You’ve heard about how some people shouldn’t be bothered until after they’ve had that first cup of coffee, or how the boss is far less ornery after downing a big lunch.

Just as important as when you approach your targets is how you approach the target. Persuasion relies on relationships, so a face-to-face encounter is always better than a phone call, while an email shouldn’t even be a consideration when it comes to persuasion. Consider those methods three-, two-, and one-dimensional, respectively. Which method of engagement would you most like to encounter when you’re being persuaded?

When you’re engaging, either go with a formal meeting (“Can we meet at 8:15 in my office?”) or what some people call “systematic informality,” which is accidentally on purpose bumping into them (“Hey, I’m glad I bumped into you. I have an idea I’d love to discuss.”)

The first aspect of engagement involves building rapport or confirming it. The most ideal situation is you already know your target well and don’t need to do much in terms of establishing a relationship. If you don’t know your target all that well, begin a conversation about a common topic and then eventually transition to the persuasion topic. How do you do that? Mention a project you’re working on, offer help, ask for advice or cite a common experience. Maybe you both previously worked for a competitor, for example, but at different times.

In any case, transition to your persuasion topic. In music, when a song changes to a different key, it’s called modulation. Often that shift is subtle (from C to C#, for example) and almost imperceptible to the average listener, but it slightly changes the mood of the piece.

That’s exactly what you’re doing when you change the energy in the room, ever so slightly. You want to build on the rapport you’ve established and shift the conversation. Here are some tips and language suggestions for a smooth transition:

  • Ask questions: “What do you think of [the situation you have in mind]?” “Do you have any experience in [the topic}?” You may find out that your target is already closer to your position than you anticipated.
  • Refer to a publication in which the topic at hand was recently mentioned.
  • Ask if your target will be at a specific meeting or event related to that topic.

The engagement aspect is intended to begin a dialogue. I don’t advise taking a stance at this point; rather, simply explore the other person’s attitudes. One of the persuasions “sins” that people commit is assuming that they absolutely know where the other party stands on a certain position. But people are often wrong, because of the influence of such factors as geography, constituency, personal experience and beliefs.

Another key engagement element is understanding the target’s level of knowledge. Has he or she been approached by others regarding the persuasion topic? Read up on it? Have personal experience in dealing with it? Or are you dealing with a blank slate?

This is why rapport building is so essential; it increases trust and frees others to be honest, while revealing additional information about them. Engaging with another person and not being told the truth is worse than not engaging at all. The more time you take to build rapport, the faster you can gain enough engagement to explore the issue. More on that next time…