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The Process of Persuasion

Persuasion is essential to getting things done – do you have these essential skills?

Do people do what you want, immediately and without question?

Join the club.

Some people are naturally charismatic and have no problem convincing people to do what they ask. For the rest of us, the process of persuasion is learned.

These scientifically-proven techniques (based on Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”) will help you brush up your persuasion skills, whether you’re trying to get everyone on board with a new technology initiative or are convincing your colleagues to adopt a new way of working.

The Principle of Reciprocity: Give and You Shall Receive

We’re all familiar with this concept: Do something nice for someone, and they’ll do something nice for you.

It’s called “the principle of reciprocity,” and it’s one of the basic laws of social psychology. It’s the reason you receive free samples. In a work context, it’s the reason why you feel compelled to support a colleague who went out of their way to help you finish a project.

The reciprocity effect can be induced anytime you concede something. Maybe you are asking a colleague to review your entire business case, and you sense she is hesitant to make a big time commitment. You might then ask, “If that’s too much time, would you mind if I just ran this one idea past you?”

Tip: When you’re using the principle of reciprocity, you want to be the first to give. Make sure your gesture is authentic and personal.  

The Principle of Scarcity: “For a limited time only …”

Its human nature—people want more of the things there are less of.

Scarcity is tricky to apply if you’re trying to influence others to support your technology initiative. After all, it’s not like the software you’re proposing will disappear in 90 days!

Instead, try using urgency to persuade others to support you by highlighting the benefits of acting quickly. For example, you might save 40% in operating costs if you change to a new software licensing model, or benefit from a promotion if you decide to purchase before the end of the quarter.

Tip: If you’re following the principle of scarcity, don’t just tell people about what they’ll get—tell them about what they’ll lose if they don’t act.  

The Principle of Consistency: In It for the Long Haul

Once we’ve committed to something, we’re much more likely to go through with it. So if you’re building support for a technology initiative, speak early on with stakeholders and take their views into account.

You may adjust a few numbers or change some bullet points, but whatever you do, let your stakeholders know—either verbally or in writing—that you’ve addressed their concerns.

Once stakeholders feel invested in your initiative, they can give your project their full support.

Tip: If you’re persuading others using consistency, make sure the other party is providing commitments. It’s always a good idea to get commitments in writing—or if you can’t, to send a follow-up email for reference.

The Principle of Likability: “You like me! You really like me!”

In his 1936 book “How to Develop Self-Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking,” Dale Carnegie related an anecdote.

Carnegie was writing about a banker for American Magazine, and asked one of the man’s friends to explain the reason for his success. The friend credited the man’s warm, welcoming smile.

People prefer to say yes to those they like. And they tend to like people who smile, make a great first impression, and share similar interests.

Tip: Use the principle of likability by smiling, exchanging small talk, and looking for similarities you share and/or genuine compliments you can exchange before you get down to business.

The Principle of Consensus: Safety in Numbers

Humans are social animals. We look to the actions of others to determine how we should act.

If you’re trying to get buy-in for a new technology initiative, generate support from influential people in your organization. And remember that that influence can come from anywhere.

“Although champions are not the ultimate decision makers, and they rarely have substantial power within their organization, they have four things that make them irreplaceable in developing and closing the deal: credibility, connections, company intelligence, and motivation,” writes Paul V. Weinstein in the Harvard Business Review.

Besides enlisting the support of champions, you can also point to the successes of others, which you’ve found through research or reference calls.

Tip: When you’re using the consensus principle, get the support of others with influence, or point to what others have done—particularly others in similar situations.  

Remember, these persuasion techniques rely on your genuine sincerity and desire to help your colleagues. If you’re trying to mislead or manipulate your colleagues, you can very easily develop a negative reputation—which in the long run won’t be helpful in getting anyone to accept your point of view.

You may also like 5 Tips for Developing Indirect Influence, 15 Ways to Benefit from Humor in Government, and Getting Rid of the B Word

Melissa Henley is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is Director of Customer Experience at Laserfiche, an enterprise software company that has served the public and private sectors for over 30 years. Customers are at the heart of all Melissa does, and her passion is around connecting people to content that can have a genuinely positive impact on their lives. Melissa brings over 20 years of marketing experience across multiple industries, including government, finance, and higher education. Read her posts here

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