Have you ever met someone who could get you to do anything? I have, and I’ve always craved this seemingly out-of-reach ability.
There are countless books and college courses that all claim to hold the keys to persuasion. They’re valuable resources for learning how to persuade, but they tend to overcomplicate the matter and ignore practical methods of communicating effectively with people.
You don’t have to be a master salesman with endless confidence in order to be more persuasive. You simply need to pay closer attention to the basics so that you can twist the odds of success in your favor.
1. Make your words powerful.
The pitch itself needs to be full of words that actually elicit a response. You can do this easily by framing your statements around key phrases.
For example, “car accident” is a phrase that makes you think of many different types of vehicle collisions. But if you’re trying to persuade someone to buy car insurance, you won’t say that there are thousands of car accidents each day. You’ll say that there are thousands of car-related deaths every day.
“Death” is a more powerful word than “accident,” and advertisers use this method every day in order to convince people to buy products.
Here are some more words that are claimed to be the most persuasive in the English language.
2. Dress up, but don’t talk down.
Nice clothes go a long way in helping you maintain confidence, even if no one is around to see you. The nasty side effect is that being the most well-dressed person in the room can result in talking down or being condescending to people who are actually above you.
This is an easy trap to fall into because if we feel like we have the power in a conversation, we’re more likely to patronize the person by saying things like, “Oh, well let me explain this to you. It’s really quite simple.” The problem is that if it isn’t simple, or if you’re not communicating well, you’ve pretty much lost them.
Keep in mind that the person you’re pitching to is above you. They have the power to say “no.” You don’t want them to realize this, obviously, because you need to maintain control over the conversation, but talking down to the person is challenging them to a contest you don’t want to take part in. Remember that there is a fine line between arrogance and being assertive.
3. Focus on the future.
Using future tense is a great way to establish confidence. It helps the other person know that you are moving forward and ready to carry out what you promise.
You can do this easily by abusing the word will. Phrases like “We will” and “Then we’ll do this” will get the person used to the idea that this is going to happen.
That said, don’t be pushy. Try not to make decisions for the other person, but instead talk about possibilities and the effects of decisions that can be made.
4. Make yourself scarce.
People want what they can’t have. Make it clear that this offer you’re extending to them won’t last for ever, and they will be missing out.
This especially works if you’re selling a product. Common tactics for offloading new products is by intentionally making them scarce and rare, which triggers something in people to “Get it now while you can!”
Here is a great guide on the psychology of scarcity that you can refer to.
5. Choose the right medium for your pitch.
You’re trying to convince someone to do something they probably don’t want to do (yet). This means that cultivating the environment for your pitch is quite essential.
Study the person and determine how they prefer to communicate. Simply asking them if they like to talk on the phone instead of email goes a long way, just as long as you give them some options.
I’ve even come across people who are more comfortable texting than talking face to face. Keep this in mind and choose a medium centered around them, not you.
6. Speak their language.
Finishing a person’s sentence is a bad habit to get into. This is because you’re inserting your own “speak” into their independent thoughts.
Who wants to feel invaded?
Listen closely to how the person talks and watch how they carry themselves. Choose your own approach accordingly. Do they stray from jargon? You should too. Do they make jokes and end their sentences with prepositions? Match that with your own relaxed style.
Even body language should be matched effectively. If they like to talk with their hands, that means their ideal form of communication is active, so it is helpful for you to do the same. If their language is reserved and closed off (arms are closed, etc), then you know to avoid gestures that would make them feel uncomfortable.
This technique is useful for addressing groups of people as well. Try to get a feel for the room and study what makes people react positively to what you say. Learn what works and apply it accordingly.
7. Avoid verbal fillers.
Every time you let “um” or “uh” interrupt your speech, you lose credibility with the person you’re speaking to. It won’t even matter that what you have to say is important.
Be clear and let your speech flow. The best way to do this is by practicing your speech at home or thinking for a second before speaking.
8. Do something for them.
As a kid, you probably said something nice to your parents before asking them for something. Even at a young age, we realize that people are more likely to help us out if they’re returning the favor for something we’ve done.
You can do this before you even pitch anything. If you start off a networking relationship with a favor, that person will be more likely to work with you later on.
You should also return the favor, because you never know what’s being noticed about you. I once recommended a great website on this site, which was an unsolicited favor. The recipient of this favor was so grateful for the spike in sales that they sent me free merchandise. I didn’t ask for it and they definitely didn’t have to, but it cemented a relationship that could lead to more mutual benefits in the future.
9. Be a master of timing.
This goes along with getting to know the person you’re pitching to. Study them and find out the best time to talk to them.
For example, some busy executives are swamped during the beginning of the week and check out mentally on Friday. This means that Thursday may be the best time to approach a person you need to persuade.
This is easier if you’re trying to persuade a friend or loved one because you understand them better. Pick the right timing to talk to them, and your odds of success will shoot way up.
10. Express your opinion reluctantly.
You want the other person to believe in you. You have all of the answers, but how did you get there?
Talk about what you used to believe, and what you believe now. Use your own learning experience as a story that they can model after. By doing this, you are pacing the conversation/pitch and giving the person assurance that this will work for them.
11. Repeat what they say.
Prove that you are listening to and acknowledging the thoughts and feelings of the person you’re talking to. You can affirm their stance by simply saying,
“If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that you find this important because of XY and Z. I ubderstand that, and think AB and C.”
Trust me, this comes in handy even when you’re not addressing the alphabet.
12. Build to your emotions.
Let your emotional responses, such as enthusiasm and excitement, naturally develop during the conversation. Don’t overwhelm the person with a zeal they don’t feel yet.
In many cases, you’ll want to wait until the end of your pitch to start sprinkling in the emotion and passion. This will ensure that it comes across as sincere and logically founded on what’s already been said.
A good rule of thumb is to start the conversation on an upbeat but relaxed note. As you start discussing the topic at hand, gradually grow more excited and passionate about what you’re talking about. This way, the person won’t feel like they’re being “worked.” They’ll instead feel like you are doing them a favor.