Highly successful people have a profound ability to effectively communicate their ideas and thoughts to others. In the world of sales and business, persuasion is often seen as a form of manipulation, in some ways it is, but persuasion is more about rallying people around a cause or goal to better serve an organisation or objective, rather than coercing followers to support a selfish outcome.
As a leader, you may just have identified the greatest process in the history of mankind that will bring tremendous benefits to your team but without the ability to make a persuasive case to stakeholders, you can fall at the last hurdle and never see your brilliance come to fruition!
The art of persuasion is a critical skill that will help no end in business and your personal life too, with that in mind, we’ve gathered the best tips on how to become an extremely persuasive person.
1. Smile (yes, seriously)
Smiling is scientifically proven to be contagious. Our brains subconsciously mimic the facial expressions of other people as our brains try to understand their body language and mood.
You’ll no doubt have encountered this phenomenon in your own life where a speaker has smiled and you unconsciously smile back. When you’re communicating with co-workers or trying to gain approval from higher-ups, show enthusiasm by smiling and notice how the positive feeling is reciprocated.
Not only does the simple act of smiling help persuade others it also makes you feel a whole lot better about your day!
2. Get them nodding!
But not falling asleep! Research tells us that it’s better to gradually gain agreement for an enduring effect. What this means is that when you want to pitch an idea, start by building trust and favour using agreeable examples and statements first.
A sales trainer will tell you to get people nodding their heads. These agreeable gestures tell you that your message is hitting correctly and you’re gaining support from the listener. This makes the punch line, the ask at the end of your speech, much easier to land.
3. Talk fast or talk slow
The general rule of thumb is to talk faster when your audience is likely to disagree and to talk slower when they’re likely to agree.
If you get the sense that your audience will disagree with you, speaking faster means they won't have as much time to form counterarguments or opposing views. Rattling through the speech can have a bewildering effect and catch people off guard when asked to commit at the end, often caving to the pressure of the moment and agreeing. Whilst this technique holds scientific weight, it is as close to being manipulative as it gets so best to use it responsibly!
When you know that your audience is inclined to agree with you, talking slowly allows them to evaluate what you’re saying as you say it. You’ll see plenty of head nodding and smiling in this scenario! Because your audience has a natural interest or bias on the subject, they’ll likely be convincing themselves the whole time, making the all-important ask a cinch to convert.
4. Meet and overcome objections
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your opinion on why a project should go ahead or whether a budget should be allocated to your department. When we are solely focused on our reasonings we fail to recognise the opposing view that could stop progress in its tracks.
The way to overcome potential objections is to meet them head-on and take time to actually speak about them rather than pretending they don’t exist! Flagging the reservations people might have to your request takes the sting out of them immediately, it shows you’ve given proper thought and consideration to all sides of the argument and instils confidence in your decision-making.
5. Know your audience
Persuasive leaders understand that they need to measure their audience and adapt to them. For example, if you know that your boss usually has a knee-jerk reaction to any and every request it’s useless to storm into the office demanding approval. You’d have greater success posing your case but in the end, asking that they take a moment or even a day or two to think about it and come back to you.
When speaking to shy co-workers, you might opt for a calmer and slower tone, and for high-energy confident individuals, you would show more assertiveness. Great leaders learn the nuances of their teams and co-workers and adapt their communication styles to suit them.
6. Don’t be pushy
Nobody likes being told what to do or feeling like they’re being sold to. This is sometimes a difficult balance to strike, between confidence and aggressiveness but it’s a skill worth developing.
If you truly believe in what you’re saying and present it logically, then people will invariably come on board. For the ones that don’t, you probably never stood a chance. This sort of calm confidence is far more powerful than the pushy salesman type.
8. Be clear and concise
Think about this: if someone approached you with an investment opportunity in an industry you’re unfamiliar with and stuffed their pitch with jargon, long unsure pauses and kept tripping over their words - would you say yes? Probably not, right?!
You may have heard the phrase, “explain it like I’m a five-year-old”? What this refers to is how confidently we understand a concept and how well we can explain it to a total stranger.
When you’re trying to gain support or approval from your audience, be sure to fully grasp the subject matter and only mention what needs to be said. This builds confidence in the audience and prevents them from getting distracted or becoming disengaged.
8. Be authentic
There’s little more refreshing than meeting a genuine and honest person. Especially in the world of business. When met with such authenticity, people naturally build a sense of trust and gravitate towards that person.
Part of being authentic is having the confidence to be in your own skin and revealing your personality, admitting flaws and being open to feedback from peers. Such openness resonates with people and makes it easier for them to rally behind you. Authenticity is downright attractive!
9. Use positive body language
Our body language is vital in creating a good first impression (we judge someone within 7 seconds on average) and helps to mirror our verbal communications, almost acting like a visual extension of our words.
There are a few things that play a role here, such as facial expressions, posture, gestures and tone of voice, all of which can be used to elicit confidence in ourselves and our audience. Learn how to accompany your speaking using positive body language but also, don’t overdo it, no one will take a person seriously who’s excessively flapping their arms around!
Tie it all together
The tips we’ve shared here will help you to become a master of persuasion! Find moments to practice in front of a mirror or with a trusted colleague or friend. Persuasion is about showing confidence, positivity and being authentic about your ideas but above all, it’s about showing genuine care and attention.
Get these things right and the next time that big idea comes around that you desperately want to pitch to the boss, you’ll have no problem sounding it out and getting the result you want.