The Art of Persuasion

While preparing for the “Attract More Business” workshop I began to think about the two schools of thought in approaching customers. The more conservative alternative has always been to propose benefits to customers in an attempt at building value. The more recent approach encourages discovering the customers “pain” and emphasizing their problems rather than your company’s benefits. Both approaches seem to hold merit but I began to think about how I could reconcile the two, when a recent experience came to mind.

I was talking to a successful business owner who was interested in hiring our firm to do business improvement coaching and consultation. I couldn’t help but tune-in to the negative way he spoke about his current situation.”Business has really been in the tank lately,” he told me. “This economy has hurt us and I don’t think we have that edge over the competition anymore. It doesn’t seem that our people are working as a team or that they’re even pulling in the same direction.”I nodded gravely matching his look of somber seriousness. “Our marketing isn’t working as well as it has in the past and I don’t even know why I bother to advertise anymore,” he concluded shaking his downcast head over slumped shoulders.I asked him some more questions and he proceeded to paint a picture as dark and depressing as any Edgar Allen Poe story. It seemed that no matter what I asked this fellow he had a negative response. I began to notice a trend.Finally, he asked if we could help him. I told him I thought we could and that it would take six months and a specific amount of money to bring about the desired change. When he heard this he said, “Wow Mark, that’s a lot of money and six months is a long time.”This is what I told him: “I understand how you feel. You have a difficult decision to make. You have to decide which is worse. Is it WORSE for you to invest the time and money. Or is it WORSE for you to wait and see if it’s going to get better all by itself, knowing that it very well may get WORSE.”Which do you think this person chose?He called me not long after this and told me, “Mark, I gave this a lot thought and I can’t afford NOT to do this.”In other words he made the decision to purchase our services based upon comparing the risk of purchasing the service versus the risk of letting his situation get worse.Ordinarily I would encourage this person to purchase our services based on the benefits or the opportunities we would offer his company. But because I noticed this person was more focused on the negative elements in decision-making I switched my orientation from benefits to risk. To this person, reducing risk is far more important than improving performance or creating opportunities.This is not true for every person because each person’s decision-orientation is different. It takes strategic listening to discover the other person’s decision-orientation. Only when we discover this can we adjust our language and unspoken communication to fit the other persons perception and orientation. Some may have heard of “mirroring.” This technique is similar but a hundred percent more powerful.Many communication specialists today have made a clear connection between language and persuasion. In essence what they all agree on is that different people respond in one of two ways: positive orientation or negative orientation.Dr. J. Mitchell Perry talks about this in his book, The Road to Optimism. He says that these two types of people display opposite and opposing traits in decision-making. Those that make decisions that “capitalize on their strengths” or those that “compensate for their weaknesses.” The person who compensates for their weaknesses will usually be looking at “what is wrong” and the person who capitalizes on their strengths will usually be looking at “what is right.” This has a bearing on how we approach them.The person who compensates for their weaknesses is typically the type of person who will do everything they can to minimize risk. The person who capitalizes on their strengths will look for opportunities. Understanding your customer’s orientation is critical in persuading them to see things from your point of view.Decision-orientation is just an example of the kind of communication technique, which we will practice at our upcoming workshop, “Attract More Business.” There will be very little lecture at this event. It will be very interactive and focus on applying and practicing new marketing approaches so that they create a dramatic impact in your business.

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