Persuasiveness is one of the most useful skills (or qualities, depending on your perspective) you can have as an entrepreneur, and in a variety of different fields.
As a salesperson, persuasion can help you close deals faster. As a real estate agent, persuasion can help you get better prices for your real estate deals. As a consultant, persuasion can help you convince your clients to follow your strategy. As a boss, persuasion can help you motivate your employees to take action in a specific way.
Entrepreneurs wear many hats, and can therefore take advantage of persuasion in nearly every area of their work—they can close more deals, get better prices for the business, and simultaneously supervise employees with more authority. The question is, how can you become more persuasive?
1. Be Confident
The first and most important tip is to exude confidence in everything you do. People tend to defer to whoever seems the most confident, regardless of other factors at play; if you say something with enough authority and confidence, almost anyone will believe you.
Confidence has to come from within, but it doesn’t have to be natural. In other words, you can second-guess yourself internally, but you have to commit to whatever you’re saying and doing on the outside. You can do this with a number of techniques, including:
- Keeping a straight posture: Whether you’re sitting or standing, try to keep your back straight, with your shoulders back. A straight, open posture makes you seem bigger and more confident immediately. While you’re at it, avoid fidgeting and eliminate nervous habits like nail biting.
- Speaking with authority: When you speak, make sure you’re speaking with authority. Avoid apologetic or diminishing phrases like, “I’m sorry, but…” or “well, this is just my opinion, but…” Try to speak slowly, thinking through your words carefully, and project your voice to fill the room.
- Making eye contact: People will be much more likely to believe what you’re saying and listen to you if you make eye contact with them. It’s a simple trick that’s easy to incorporate.
- Allowing silence: Too many people rush to speak, filling silence as quickly as possible. It’s a sign of confidence, and a better move for conversations, if you allow more empty space.
The more confident you seem, the more naturally persuasive you’ll be.
2. Do Your Research, and Come Prepared
If you’re trying to persuade someone in a specific situation, or persuade people about a specific point, it’s in your best interest to come prepared.
People are more easily swayed by specific anecdotes, facts, and figures, than they are by hypotheticals or generalities. For example, if you’re trying to convince someone that elevators are a safe mode of transportation, you could say something general like “elevators are used all the time and hardly anyone gets hurt.” But this is less persuasive than a pre-researched fact, like “U.S. elevators make more than 18 billion trips every year, and only result in 27 deaths. You’re three times more likely to win the lottery than die in an elevator.”
Research can also prepare you for the inevitable counterarguments your opponents generate. If you’re engaging in debate, or if your opponent has a fixed position, you’ll have an edge if you’re prepared for what they might say to you.
3. Appeal to the Other Person’s Unique Perspective
Beyond exuding confidence and coming prepared, the best thing you can do to improve your persuasiveness is understand—and directly address—your audience. Every person has a unique perspective, with unique wants, needs, and fears. Once you understand what makes this person unique, you can tweak your message to better suit them, and hopefully bring them to your side.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to convince a prospect to sign up for your marketing service package. However, through conversation, you learn that this prospect has been disappointed with similar services in the past. They’re being held back by a rational fear of getting burned again. You can make up for this by explaining how your services are different, or by offering some kind of assurance or guarantee.
This is one of the simplest, yet most difficult to execute strategies, because there are so many variables that must be considered. You need to actively listen to people to learn more about them, and learn how to read body language so you can see past what they’re telling you to your face.
4. Mastering the Art of Persuasion
Persuasion is a skill, much like any other. With practice, you’ll inevitably get better. Pay attention to the words and phrases that tend to convince people, and the ones that seem to fail. Practice your posture and speaking in a mirror, and constantly hone your “people reading” skills. In time, you’ll inevitably improve.