Persuasion and Being Unforgettable. To be persuasive, you must forget yourself. Conventional wisdom tells us that to be memorable, you must ensure people remember your qualities. The weird thing is that the more you “recognise” the other person, the more memorable you become. They may not remember anything about you but will remember you for elevating their ego.
Why Is Persuasion Important To You?
Your success as an entrepreneur is largely based on how many great people join you. The bigger your vision, the more people you need. As an entrepreneur, you have to convince everyone around you to your benefit:
- Customers to buy from you
- Customers to stay with you and buy more
- Customers to say good things about you
- Good quality people to join you instead of someone else who can pay them more
- Investors to invest in you
- Suppliers to give you favourable terms
- Partners to sell more of your products and services
- PR and Press to say good things about you
That means one of your most important skills will be your ability to persuade people. As Bill Clinton said, “If you want to lead something, start by saying this is what I care about, this is what I want to do and why I think you should care about it and want to help.”
Bill Clinton Is Wrong
Effective persuasion is rooted in science. According to science, no one cares about what YOU care about. They only care about themselves. Sounds selfish and almost dystopian. But that is the reality. This is called Psychological Egoism.
So, to persuade someone, you must get their attention. To get their attention, talk about them and what they care about, not what you care about. Once the other person feels recognised and understood, they may be open to how you can help them. But, if you start by talking about yourself and what you care about the other person’s brain will lose interest and filter you out for more important considerations like the self. Your brain has a whole region dedicated to filtering out things, called the Thalamus!
Make Them Anxious
To get someone’s attention, you must make them anxious. There is a common misconception that you must be collegial and friendly to persuade someone. Scientifically, this isn’t true. To change and adapt, your brain must go through a process called Neuroplasticity. There are a lot of misconceptions about Neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is not easy. After about the age of 25, it becomes a gated process that requires three main conditions for a chance at Neuroplasticity.
The first gate is the release of epinephrine from the midbrain region. Epinephrine is the same as adrenaline and is triggered by situations that create anxiety or tension. In persuasion, this should be “constructive tension or anxiety”. You don’t want to scare someone away or cause so much fear that they freeze. That is counterintuitive for persuasion.
Examples of constructive tension are:
- The world is changing, which means how you currently do X will no longer be effective.
- A new entrant in your industry is causing disruption that can reduce your market share, profitability, revenues etc.
- What you believe to be true is actually not true.
- We calculate that you are leaking about 30% of cash in your expense management processes.
- I read that your strategy is to do Y, and you calculate this will deliver a 15% increase in revenue. What if I were to say that there is proof that this approach will only yield 5% and that the best companies do something else to deliver 15% growth …
Become a Decision Agent
People mistakenly believe persuasion requires you to “convince” someone to think or do something. However, this belief misses a critical step in the other person’s process that you must focus on:
Their Decision-Making Process.
World-class persuaders focus on helping people make the right decision for them (not for the persuader). Top sellers are what I call Decision-Making Agents. They build trust by helping someone make the right decisions.
There are four pillars in the neuroscience of decision-making:
- Calculate & evaluate external information
- Assess gains & losses
- Plan Implementation
- Pursuit of a goal or action.
Take the 2nd pillar. Most people focus on all the gains for why someone should buy from you, join your company, work with you, invest in you etc. However, a critical part of the decision process involves the assessment of all the potential losses and risks.
We are taught to minimise the risks, but we interpret that as minimising how much we talk about it or completely avoid discussing it. There is a fallacy that losses and risks somehow disappear if we don’t talk about them.
Not true. If you don’t discuss the risks or losses, you allow a more dangerous scenario to occur: someone else will educate your buyer etc, on the risks. Other people don’t have your best interests at heart and will disadvantage your position.
There is a reason why products on Amazon with 4.3 or 4.4-star ratings are more trusted than products with 5-star ratings, even if it’s true! We don’t trust perfection. There is no such thing. So, if you try to convince someone that you or your products are perfect, you tell someone that you are hiding something and cannot be trusted.
Talk about the risks. I’m not saying you overplay it to your disadvantage. Find a tactful way to share the risks or where your product is not as strong as your competitors. Mention them, but then move on. The reality is that those areas or weaknesses may not be important to the buyer anyway. If you don’t mention them, you risk coming across as untrustworthy. But, if you openly raise them and manage the narrative, you build more trust with the other person.
- Focus on the other person’s interests, not yours.
- Create constructive tension or anxiety.
- Proactively raise and discuss any losses or risks.
- Help people make good-quality decisions.