If you think persuasive communication is only for the sales and marketing teams, you’re missing out. You could persuade your way to funding for new equipment, approval to increase head count, a new office with a window, or even a raise.
You use persuasion more often than you think. Consider those instances when you talked your partner into going to see an action hero movie instead of the ballet. Or when you talked your kids into wearing mittens and galoshes on cold winter mornings. How about the time when you convinced your team to try a new strategy?
The key to persuasive writing is presenting a case the other party will agree to or find benefit in. In other words, make them an offer they can’t refuse. But don’t get all Godfather about it. That’s manipulation, not persuasion.
Here are seven techniques to help you be more persuasive in your business communications.
1. Use Repetition
Psychology research tells us that repetition is powerful when used properly. Don’t repeat the same thing over and over again; you’ll just make people angry. Instead, make your point in various ways: through storytelling, offering an example, using quotes or statistics from experts, and finally, wrapping it up in your closing.
2. Use Powerful Words
Did you know the word because is powerful when you’re trying to persuade someone? Psychology research shows that people are more likely to complete a requested action when the instructions include because… and the reason—even if the reason makes no sense.
The other most powerful word to use is you. Instead of writing your communications using I, me, mine, etc., focus on the reader’s needs and desires, putting him or her directly in the driver’s seat. For example, "You gain a valuable and proven team member who can drive significant results when you promote me."
3. Get Them Nodding in Agreement at the Start
When you get your reader to agree with something upfront, they’re more likely to agree with you later on when you make your case. For example, use a question that your reader would have a hard time disagreeing with but not something inane.
- "Our team racks up a lot of over-time, doesn’t it?"
- "Do you think our current laptops are outdated and slow?"
- "Would you agree there’s always room for improvement?"
The key is to find an easy point you both agree on, then make your case with ample supporting evidence. All the while, relate back to the opening point they already accepted.
4. Add Social Proof
Show proof that other companies are doing the same thing with successful results. Or show how an industry leader recommends a new approach or technology. Don’t be shy about flagrantly dropping names.
This is the powerful force behind social media; we read what others think and feel about products, services, etc. A review on social media or a testimonial helps us decide to buy, and a referral from someone we know and trust is like gold.
5. Make Comparisons
Like good fiction writers, use metaphors, similes, and analogies to compare your situation to something everyone agrees is true. And the inversion is just as powerful. Compare your situation to something dissimilar, either more drastic or expensive.
For example, say you want to sign up for an online course to help you attain new business skills. You could compare one company's fee to what it would cost to send you to a live seminar or workshop across the country.
6. Focus on Their Pain and Solve It
Salespeople know this strategy well because it’s effective. When you remind someone what’s causing them pain and offer them a viable solution, you let them know you understand their challenges. Maybe show them you’ve dealt with it before, and you’ve got an answer.
You’ll be more credible by offering empathy to your reader and showing them how you can help.
7. Address Objections
Before you wrap up your case, try to think of any objections your audience may have. Then present an explanation, reason, or counter-argument. Don’t assume your case is so tight you won’t have objections.
If you know your subject well, identifying the potential objections should be easy. While it’s tough to address every obscure objection, try to shoot for the ones most readers will have.
A wise man named Elmer Wheeler said, "Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle." People don’t go out to dinner for a steak because it’s prime aged beef with beautiful marbling. That’s its features. They want steak because the sizzle and smell coming from the grill make people salivate for good eats.
Benefits motivate people to buy or agree; features don’t. Make sure you’re focused on benefits and not features.