The Power of Persuasion

Getting What You Want—The Power of Persuasion

Posted By: Gloria McDonough-Taub | CNBC, Senior Editor, Blogs

Guest Author Blog by: Chris St. Hilaire author of “27 POWERS OF PERSUASION: Simple Strategies To Seduce Audiences & Win Allies”

Persuasion for CEOs (And Those Who Want their Bosses Job)

One critical characteristic in any business leader’s success, especially a CEO’s, is their ability to be persuasive. Among the best is their ability to persuade, to get thousands marching in the same direction, it all looks effortless. But we all know it’s not.

So how do they do it?

I’ve watched some of the best CEOs in America in action. I’ve sat with them, talked with them, picked their brains. I’ve watched them lead meetings and solicit opinions and each share common attributes. I’ve watched some lousy CEOs in action too. There tends to be similarities in their styles as well, but let’s focus on the positive.

Here’s five pieces of advice that good leaders follow – and are crucial for business leaders to keep in mind when seeking to persuade one person or an entire company:

1. Focus on the Goal

Whenever you’re trying to persuade, your first mission is to define the goal. The most effective way to do this is not to announce the goal to the group, but to help everyone decide on it together. You want to have the largest possible buy-in from everyone involved, and you get it by having everyone contribute to the goal at the beginning.

A good way to get the ball rolling is to simply ask the room, “What’s our goal? What are we trying to accomplish today?” Let people talk. Let them give you the answer. If no one speaks up, directly ask them for input. Boil it down to one or two simple sentences that everyone agrees on, even if it seems obvious.

There is great power in stating the obvious. No one wants to do it because it seems so rudimentary, but the minute you state the “obvious” goal of a meeting, you become the leader even if you’re not officially in charge. This is because every group has an innate longing to be unified. Confusion and discord make people feel anxious and threatened, and unity makes them feel safe. People unify around a goal.

2. Get Others Invested

Want people to be more enthusiastic about your plan? Make it their idea. Create situations that will encourage the others to speak up, pro or con. Give people choices in which you’re comfortable with either choice. Use their points to support your goal and tie points together using other people’s suggestions. Making everyone in the room right, will unify them around your goal.

It’s a win/win for everyone.

3. Use a Couple of Numbers to Make Points Meaningful

People love to quantify things, even when what we’re stating is an opinion. For some reason it makes points more official. Using a statistic or two (don’t over stat them) creates some official barometer in which to measure success. It also creates the impression that there’s some official measurement involved. You used to see it a lot in commercials where 9 out of 10 dentists surveyed prefer one tooth-paste over another.

4. Learn to Use Silence

Silence and being comfortable with it allows you to take control of a room without seeming aggressive. Try it. Sit silently, comfortably – one of two things will happen. First, if your listener is nervous they’ll add on and you’ll get to what they really think. Second, some of the best solutions to problems come at the end of a statement, after they “seem” finished. Use silence to your advantage.

5. Own the Language

It’s a concept that has long been familiar to people in advertising. For them, the gold standard of owning the language has always been when the product name replaces the actual noun or verb. Classic examples are Kleenex for tissue, Chapstick for lip balm and Fedex for overnight delivery. Your ability to invent terms, to define the language, means that everyone will adopt your thinking.

Just about every aspect of our life involves persuasion. Those who master it are reaping the benefits. I hope you’re one of them.

To read an excerpt of “27 POWERS OF PERSUASION: Simple Strategies To Seduce Audiences & Win Allies” click here.
About the author: Chris St. Hilaire is founder and CEO of three companies: Jury Impact, M4 Strategies, and Quantitative Focus. As an award-winning message consultant for some of the most high-profile cases in America, he has advised partners at Latham and Watkins as well as senior counsels for Hospital Corporation of America, Great American Insurance Corporation, Lucent Technologies, AT&T, Mitsui-Sumitomo, Goodyear-Dunlop Tire Company and numerous other national and international corporations. St. Hilaire has served as political director in California state government, and as chief strategist and message specialist for many of the nation’s largest political campaigns.

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