How to Be Persuasive

by Sam Ashe-Edmunds; Updated September 26, 2017
Young businesswoman standing outdoors holding a laptop with a businessman talking to her

Business persuasion often involves getting people to agree with you or act in a certain way. This means convincing potential customers, employees or other stakeholders that you can provide a solution to a problem or fulfill a desire. The most effective way to be persuasive is to focus on the message your audience wants rather than talking about yourself.

Understand the Need

The first step in being persuasive is to understand your audience’s need. It’s the need your customers have in common that you must satisfy to stay in business. Look at the benefits of what you’re selling, whether you are offering a product to customers or pitching a new office procedure to your staff. If you want staff to come in on a weekend, for example, explain how it will help the company, and ultimately, them.

Lay Out the Premise

Once you know what benefit you will be providing, set up the scenario you want to present. Show the problem or opportunity your audience has so it wants to hear how you can help. If you are asking something that seems to benefit only you, such as employees to accept an upcoming reduction in benefits, for example, look at how it can help the employees by reducing company expenses, keeping the business open and helping your workers stay employed during an economic downturn. Fear can be a powerful persuader, especially if you can demonstrate you can help your audience. Be careful, however, that your premise does not scare your audience enough to make it question working with you.

Give a Solution

Once you’ve laid out your audience’s problem or opportunity, provide a solution. If you are selling a billing software program, start by presenting problems such as slow invoicing or poor receivables tracking. Give a general solution, such as a billing program that combines order inputting, invoicing, receivables reports and automated late notices. After you’ve given the general solution, show how you can provide the solution better than anyone else. In addition to presenting your solution, establish your credibility to provide the solution.

Answer Questions in Advance

If you leave questions unanswered, especially difficult ones, you allow your audience to come up with negative answers to them. Anticipate the possible objections to your message and answer them in your presentation. For example, when selling a product, if your competitor has a perceived superior benefit, address this in your presentation to downplay the benefit or show why it comes at too high a cost.

Persuasion Techniques

Persuasive people use a variety of techniques to get others to think and act in a certain way and in a specific time frame. You can persuade people by playing on their fears, as with a sales pitch for a home alarm system. You can use the “everyone-else-is-doing-it” message to appeal to those who respond to what their peers are doing. You can add a sense of urgency by setting a limit on the time people have to act.

Be Honest

Don’t oversell, reach or stretch with your message. If you provide questionable benefits, people might become suspect of your motive, information and credibility. If you can’t persuade your customers, employees or the public with the truth, you might need to consider whether you need to revamp what you’re selling.

About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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