Commitment: How does the ability to persuade others impact our quality of life?
Kurt W. Mortensen: Understanding the theories of persuasion, motivation, and influence will put you in life’s driver’s seat. Why? Because everything you want, or will want, in life comes from understanding persuasion.
It is a common misconception that only individuals involved in sales, marketing, or leadership positions need to learn the laws of persuasion. This is simply not true! Sales professionals, business managers, parents, negotiators, lawyers, coaches, speakers, advertisers, and doctors alike can use these skills.
Everyone needs persuasion skills, no matter their occupation.
What people don’t realize is that we practice persuasion techniques and tactics daily with everyone around us!
People constantly study one another, trying to figure out how to get someone to do what they want them to do. Needless to say, mastering communication and understanding human nature are essential life lessons if we want to effectively persuade and influence people.
We can’t get anywhere in life unless we are able to work with other human beings. It is through our dealings with others that we achieve success. No one is self-sufficient. Everything of any value that we accomplish in life is achieved through the support and help of those we come in contact with on a daily basis.
Commitment: What are your best five tips for people who don't think they are able to persuade anybody?
Kurt: The best tips I can give is to avoid the following mistakes most people make in persuasion.
1. People trust me.
Wrong. We have conducted studies at The Persuasion Institute and have found that most people do not trust you. The persuader may think and feel that s/he has developed trust, but when we talk to the customers/prospects, there is no trust on their end.
Here’s the deal when it comes to trust: Forty years ago, people were more trusting. Back then, the attitude was: “I trust you. Give me a reason not to.” Now, it is the opposite; it’s: “I don’t trust you. Give me a reason to trust you.” So, in the past, you were starting from a foundation of trust and respect; now you’re starting well below zero.
On average, depending on your occupation, over 80 percent of the time you are unable to develop trust with your customers/prospects. Ouch! Even if they like you, if they don’t trust you, there will be no deal.
The ability to gain and keep trust is a vital factor in influencing others. Research has shown, time and time again, that trust is always a contributing factor in the ability to influence others.
When a person trusts you, that trust alone can cause her/him to accept your message. On the flip side, if people don’t trust you, all the evidence, reasoning, facts or figures in the world won’t get them to budge.
2. Objections are good.
There is a big difference between a genuine question of concern and an “I’m done with you” objection. Is it a sign of interest or resistance? That is the key question. When your prospect presents every objection in the book, such outright resistance should be a red flag to you. In other words, you are probably going down the wrong road by not properly reading your prospect. What this person is really saying is: “Go away. I have heard enough. I don’t see where or how this can help me.”
Did you really uncover your prospect’s wants and needs, or are you merely vomiting a memorized list of features and benefits? Many persuaders vomit information.
Here is the issue: Your prospects will buy for their reasons and for only their reasons. They don’t care about why you like the product or how much you know about the product. Hence, you need to find out the one or two reasons why they want to buy your product or service.
Once you’ve uncovered their purchasing criteria, you then tell them how your product or service will benefit them. When you list features and benefits, two things can happen. It can suck the energy out of the persuasion process and it can actually give your prospects reasons not to buy that they otherwise wouldn’t have even imagined. Find the one or two most appealing benefits, the ones your prospects are really going to care about, and use them as leverage to help your prospects purchase.
Then, and only then, you can fill in the blanks with your product or service’s other features and benefits.
Here is the key to effective persuasion: Before they buy or have made the decision to purchase, your prospects are looking for reasons not to buy. After the mental decision to buy has been made, they are then looking for reasons why they are making a good purchase.
Great persuaders will always have fewer objections to handle than old-style persuaders will. If you really understand your prospect, you “pre-solve” before the objection has even been raised. “Pre-solving” of objections can be effectively accomplished by using a technique called inoculation. Do you inoculate your prospects?
3. I am an outgoing people person, so I am a natural persuader.
Of course, there are the stereotypical persuaders who are friendly, outgoing and sometimes loud. Research reveals, however, that some of the best persuaders are actually introverts. How can you persuade if you are always talking? Great persuaders will listen more than they will talk.
In fact, great persuaders use their listening and questioning skills to get prospects/customers to persuade themselves. Which approach do you think will have better long-term results: you persuading them, or you helping them to persuade themselves? It’s much better if your prospects feel like they have made the decision themselves, without any outside pressure.
Fortune 500 companies commonly require listening training, even though many employees think it’s a waste of time. The truth is, poor listening skills account for the majority of people’s communication problems.
Many years ago, Dale Carnegie asserted that listening is one of the most crucial human relations skills that could possibly be developed. Listening is how we find out people’s preferences, desires, wants and needs. Of all the skills one could master, listening is probably the one that will pay you back the most.
After all, it is only by effective listening that we learn to customize our message to our prospects. Good listening is not just looking at someone and nodding your head in agreement. You have to make sure the other person knows you understand what s/he is saying. The more the other person feels understood and cared about, the greater your ability to persuade and influence will become.
Of all the tools in your persuasion toolbox, questioning is probably the one that is most often used by Master Persuaders. Questions create immediate involvement with your prospect; they guide the conversation, clarify concerns and objections, reveal beliefs, attitudes and values, help you find out what your prospect needs and show your sincerity toward your prospect. The bottom line is, questioning is a very diverse and useful tool.
4. The facts and studies show…
We can present all the facts, figures, studies and statistics in the world, but doing so will not always convince your prospect/client. All decisions are comprised of part emotion and part logic.
The skill lies in knowing what parts to use. The right blend depends on the situation and your prospect’s personality. The bottom line is, we make decisions with our subconscious mind and come up with the reasons why we made them later.
In the past, we did not know how our consumers thought, what persuaded them to buy or what prompted them to take action. Most people engaged in sales and marketing were just shooting in the dark. We hoped or guessed what we were doing was working. Sure, it worked some of the time, but I would hope you were not happy with that hit-or-miss success rate.
Dr. Damasio of Harvard University has said that more may have been learned about the human brain and mind in the last decade than during psychology and neuroscience’s entire previous history. Persuasion and influence are both art forms and sciences.
We are intrigued by reason, but we are moved by emotion.
We use logic to justify our actions to others and to ourselves. Take note that emotion will always win out over logic and that imagination will always win out over reality. Think about talking to children in regards to their fear of the dark or to someone with respect to their phobia of snakes. You know it is useless to use logic to persuade them that their thoughts and actions don’t make sense. Despite your best efforts, they still remain convinced that a problem exists.
In his book Triggers, Joseph Sugarman estimates that 95 percent of the reasoning behind a consumer’s purchase is associated with a subconscious decision. In other words, most buying is done for reasons a person hasn’t even fully formulated.
5. I’m great at warming up my prospect—I can small talk with anyone.
At times, this can be a great skill, one that can win us friends. However, we live in a different society today than we did just decades ago. Now, time is of the essence. Because your prospects are so pressed for time, you have to be prepared to get right to the point. Nowadays, most people don’t appreciate useless dribble drabble. Here is what the research is telling us…. The majority of prospects do not appreciate unsolicited small talk, and many find it offensive. People buy from others who understand their wants and needs.
When it comes to effective persuasion, the skill of communication can be a great asset or a great liability. You need to read your prospects and understand when small talk is appropriate. For many, personal chatter is appropriate only after the relationship has been established and they know you care and are sincere. If you don’t know your prospect well, you could be going down the wrong road by asking about her/his family and personal interests before s/he knows who you are and what you represent.
With some of your prospects, you can mix business with chitchat after you get to the main point. You have heard it all before with telemarketers…. The first thing they say is, “Hi, how are you this evening?” Meanwhile, you are thinking, What do you care? Or, You don’t really mean it. It’s important to keep in mind that if the prospect wants to engage in small talk, s/he will initiate it. The best rule of advice then is to follow her/his lead.
Commitment: What are some traits of top persuaders? How can a person acquire some of these traits if they feel they don't have any?
Kurt: When the public is asked to identify the common traits and characteristics of great persuaders, the resulting responses are interesting. Some are self-evident, while others may surprise you:
Informed Great communicator Determined
Educated Hardworking Accurate
Knowledgeable Punctual Humble
Honest Solution-oriented Admits mistakes
Organized Empathic Sincere
Cooperative Candid Creative
Adaptable Dependable Pleasant disposition
Good listener Friendly Great personality
Resilient Proactive Continuous learner
Sure, this list sounds great. Are great persuaders born? Absolutely not! Anyone can learn and master all these talents or traits.
Commitment: What should every mother understand about persuasion that will help her in guiding her children?
Kurt: The key to persuasion and children is getting them to want to do what you want them to do. And in the process helping them persuade themselves and making it their idea. I feel on of the most critical things about parenting is understanding motivation.
Different children, different moments and different scenarios all require different types of motivation. Sure fear tends to work most of the time, but let’s explore fear and others types of motivation.
Persuasive parents have mastered their ability to motivate different children with different methods.
I am going to go deep here to help you understand what exactly motivates children (including yourself). What do persuasive parents do to motivate their children to action, and motivate themselves, even when they don’t feel like doing what needs to be done?
Let’s talk about the science of motivation (see graphic below). Notice that motivation (or desire to change) does not exist in the center of the motivational system. This center point represents our comfort zone, where we experience complacency. How do you persuade yourself or others to move out of the center?
Let’s start with the lower left quadrant, where we find external desperation. This area can be used for short-term motivation. Anyone can be motivated when she is in this area of the grid.
When you are experiencing fear or feel forced to do something, this will trigger desperation. Let’s say you hate your job. You don’t want to go to work and you only do so because you feel like you have to. This external (pressure) desperation tells you that if you don’t go to work, you will lose your job, you’ll have no income, or you’ll lose your home. This area of the quadrant is where most people reside. That is, they do things because they are forced to or they have to. True fear is four times more motivating than discomfort.
Fear is a powerful tool of persuasion, but it should not be your only tool. There is a time and place for the use of fear in persuasion. Great persuaders have learned how and when to use fear and what amount to use
Moving to the upper left quadrant, we discover internal desperation. Again, you don’t want to go to work, but the internal desperation you feel convinces you that this is what needs to be done, that this is what you are supposed to do.
In other words, you feel a duty or an obligation to go to work. You’re only going through the motions because you have to. You might feel obligated to show up at work because of a particular project you are working on. You might also feel a sense of duty toward your manager or co-workers to be there and to help out with the workload. You still go, even though you don’t want to be there. Your logic wins over your emotions. Watch and you’ll find that the people who use desperation to motivate themselves are invariably unhappy. You will never be a true master of your destiny nor will you ever achieve the success you want until you emerge on the other side of the Motivation System.
Next, let’s take a look at the lower right quadrant, external inspiration. Here, you feel moved by outside sources that inspire you to do what you need to do. Remember that inspiration is rooted in your emotions. Once you tap into your emotions, you will be able to propel yourself and others toward long-term, permanent motivation. When your logical mind says you can’t do it, your emotional mind takes over. In this area of the Persuasion Institute’s Motivation System, you do things out of respect or love.
That is, you go to work to provide the best for your family. You apply yourself to your job because you want to send your children to the best schools or you wish to buy a new home for your family. You are motivated to go to work by the external things around you.
The best type of long-term motivation is found in the upper right quadrant, internal inspiration. Internal inspiration is what we also know as passion. You have found your purpose in life. During persuasion, if you can get others to tap into their internal inspiration, then you will bring about pure long-term motivation in them.
Using the previous job example, when you are passionate about your career, you are excited to go to work. Rather than seeing your job as a chore, you view it as doing what you love to do. You are changing the world and serving people around you. What’s more, you are dedicated with the passion to share your message, product, or service with the world.
Great persuaders know how to use motivation. When you are persuading and you use the wrong motivation at the wrong time, it will backfire on you and produce the opposite results from what you intended.
Commitment: What advice do you have for employees who are having trouble at work and fear being laid off? Can the art of persuasion help them to keep their job or put them in line for another job?
Kurt: Persuasion is The Heartbeat of Our Economy
We live in a world where the power of persuasion is of extraordinary and critical importance. Every encounter is an attempt to gain influence or to persuade others to our way of thinking.
Regardless of age, profession, religion, or philosophical beliefs, people are always trying to persuade each other. We all want to be able to persuade and influence so others will listen to, trust, and follow us. A recent study by economists found that a whopping 26% of gross domestic product was directly attributable to the use of persuasion skills in the marketplace. Persuasion is the gas to our economy’s engine.
Think about it – 2.3 trillion dollars of our gross domestic product comes from the skills of persuasion and influence. You never see large corporations downsizing their sales forces. Persuasion professionals are assets to the company, not liabilities. Master Persuaders will always find employment, even in the slowest of economies.
Commitment: How can a person get past "the brick wall of resistance" when trying to persuade someone who seems completely unable to be persuaded?
Kurt: Has this ever happened to you? You enter a retail store and you're approached by a sharply dressed persuader. You are interested in buying, but the salesperson is a little aggressive. You get an alarming feeling in the pit of your stomach and then do what many of your customers do to you. You lie! You say, "I'm just looking; I'll come back later," or "It's too expensive," or "I have to talk to my spouse before I decide." What you're really thinking is "I don't like this guy," or "I don't trust her," or "Something didn't feel quite right."
In the end, you never go back to this store, you never recommend it, and neither the store owner nor the persuader ever knows why. This is a large brick in the Brick Wall of Resistance.
This obstacle is truly a silent persuasion killer. Most people will never say anything to you to alert you to the fact they are feeling this way. They are more comfortable lying to you—so they don't hurt your feelings. They walk away and simply never deal with you again. The reason this obstacle is such a killer is because we don't even realize we're doing it. We are offending people and don't even know it.
You may think you're just being friendly or enthusiastic, but be careful. While friendliness and enthusiasm are great attributes, if there is even so much as a hint of force, deception, hype, or selling underlying any of it, you've pretty much sunk the deal.
Audiences are tough. Ever-smarter consumers have built a lot of resistance to the old style of persuading; many people have a brick wall of resistance up before you've even started your presentation. They assume you're going to be the sleazy, manipulative sales guy before you've even had a chance to speak. They are all ready to resist you before you start.
The moment people sense that you are attempting to persuade them, the brick wall increases in size and strength, and they will resist you. To counter this tendency, persuasion and sales must take place below the conscious radar.
Great persuaders have cultivated a sixth sense when it comes to the "push and pull" aspect of persuasion. You must encourage without pushing. Entice, but don't ensnare. You have to sense and then predict, based upon knowledge, instinct, experience, and nonverbal cues, what you can do and how your audience will respond. With this sensitivity, which you can learn, there won't be any smacking head first into the brick wall of resistance.
Commitment: How can a person build instant rapport when meeting someone new, such as a client they want to sell a product to or a prospective employer on a job interview?
Kurt: One of the very best ways to establish and maintain rapport is to be a good listener. Most of us hear—but don’t know how to listen. Listening is one of those skills that gets a lot of lip service, but we still stink at it. We think we know all about it, and therefore are already good at it. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Studies show that poor listening skills still account for 60 percent of all misunderstandings. Even persuasion professionals—perhaps the most likely of all to trumpet themselves as listening experts—show dismal ratings on their listening skills.
When corporate buyers were asked to assess the representatives of other companies, over 50 percent felt that the reps talked way too much, and that they were not in tune with the buyer. And when they did ask questions, they didn’t ask the right ones. When it came down to the bottom line—were they persuasive or not—only one percent of the respondents answered affirmatively.
Another common misconception is that great persuaders are people persons or extroverts. Wrong! The latest research shows that the introverts out-persuade the extroverts. Why? Because they listen more, they ask more questions, and they find out what their audience needs.
Most extroverts, on the other hand, tend to overwhelm their audience with an endless list of features and benefits and hope one of them will do the trick.
Introverts are simply better equipped to sense the wants and needs of their audience. Extroverts come across as old-school salespeople while introverts come across as desirable consultants.
Why are we so bad at listening? A big part of the problem is just that we talk too much. We think we’re being helpful by offering lengthy, in-depth explanations. This may be appropriate on some occasions, but for the most part, your audience’s emotional side begins to tune out.
Let’s face it: we are self-centered, self-interested, and self-absorbed. So we talk too much because we like to feel important, knowledgeable, and helpful, but it is still a subconscious focus on ourselves. Meanwhile, the attention and focus of the encounter is not on the audience, and they start to drift.
So how do we sharpen our listening skills? For one, consider listening a whole-being experience—listen not just with your ears, but also with your heart, your mind, your eyes. What is this person really telling you? Take it all in. Not just their words, but the whole package—their tone and body language, their hopes and fears.
Commitment: What is social synchronization and how does this relate to the art of persuasion?
Kurt: Social synchronization is all about connecting with people. If people don’t like you – it is very difficult to persuade them.
Now let’s talk about how great persuaders connect with people. Research at the Persuasion Institute sheds light on critical factors that are present when the audience feels the greatest connection with their persuader.
Review the list below and see if you can add any of these items to your persuasion repertoire.
• You hold no preconceived judgments or expectations.
• You are positive and upbeat, both up front and throughout the encounter.
• It is clear that you are there to serve, assist, and help.
• You are respectful.
• Your body language is open and friendly (eye contact, gestures, smile, etc.).
• Your tone of voice is warm and friendly.
• Your use of language and word choice is thoughtful.
• You speak in a natural, relaxed manner but still maintain energy and enthusiasm.
• You instill in your audience both hope and optimism.
• Your demeanor is always comfortable and genuine; it’s never artificial.
Commitment: What are your best ten tips that will help our readers persuade others when they need to? Can you share your best secrets that few people understand about persuasion?
Kurt: There are many tips and secrets I could share about persuasion and influence. Because of time and space let me share one of the fundamental truths about persuasion and influence.
When you understand this key concept – you are on the road to become a great persuader. The key to persuasion is not a clever phrase or a clever argument. The key to becoming a great persuader is understanding human nature and why we do what we do. Let’s explore this critical knowledge.
For the species whose thinking ability supposedly separates us from the animals, we really don’t spend much of our life reasoning. Most of the time our minds get stuck on cruise control. Thinking takes up too much time and requires too much energy. Imagine having to think about every decision we make. It wouldn’t leave us much time to accomplish anything else, would it? Most of us have a systematic way of looking at the world. When this mode is operating, our minds are perfectly primed to automatically respond to persuasion triggers.
Most of the time persuasion operates below our conscious thoughts. When employed properly, your audience doesn’t even realize you’re using them. On the other hand, if you blunder your way through a persuasion situation, your audience will be totally aware of what you’re doing. It’s like seeing a police car on the side of the road it jars us back to reality.
If the persuader is skilled, he or she will use persuasion so the message is delivered below the radar.
In his book Triggers, Joseph Sugarman estimates that 95% of the reasoning behind a consumer’s purchase is associated with a subconscious decision. In other words, most buying is done for reasons a person hasn’t even fully thought through. Dr. Gregory Neidert estimates that our brains actually run on idle 90-95% of the time. Let’s face it, –thinking is hard work. It is human nature to conserve cognitive energy. Thinking burns three times the calories as watching TV.
What are the main reasons we choose not to think? First, sometimes the amount of information available is so overwhelming we don’t even attempt to digest any of it. Sometimes our decisions simply aren’t weighty enough to warrant the effort of researching all the available information. Consciously and subconsciously, from the bombardment of information we receive, we selectively choose what we will acknowledge and what we will ignore.
Whether we realize it or not, we love shortcuts to thinking. When we buy an item, we don’t always take the time to research the product or read the latest consumer guide’s ratings on the product. Instead, we often rely on the salesperson for his or her opinion. We might just buy the most popular brand, or we might bring a friend along for his or her opinion. Although we would never admit it, we sometimes even buy an item just because of its color or packaging.
Certainly we know this is not the best way to make decisions, but we all do it anyway, even when we know we might make a mistake or feel regretful afterwards. If we thoroughly thought through every single decision, we would constantly be overwhelmed and we’d never get anything done.
Most persuasion operates below the level of conscious thought. Therefore, understanding persuasion involves understanding the human psyche. Such knowledge empowers you to improve your persuasive abilities.
A great persuader can help someone see the inconsistency of his present state and what he needs to do to get to his desired state. This magnifies your effectiveness in relationships, improves your parenting skills, enhances your leadership ability, and helps you sell yourself and your ideas. In short, it maximizes your influence.
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About the author:
Kurt Mortensen is the internationally respected and the founder of the Persuasion Institute, a negotiation, leadership, and sales research firm. Kurt is one of the world's leading authorities on self-persuasion, motivation, and influence. The Persuasion Institute's ground breaking training, coaching, and seminars have changed the world of persuasion, and personal development and the ability to achieve true success. Kurt has been entertaining, educated educating, and inspiring audiences worldwide for the past 20 twenty years.
Through his highly acclaimed speaking, training, and consulting programs, Kurt has helped countless people achieve unprecedented success in both their business and personal lives. He is also well known for his ground groundbreaking book Maximum Influence: The 12 Laws of Persuasion.
His other pioneering work includes: Perfect Persuasion, Power Negotiation, Persuasive Presentations, Millionaire IQ, Magnetic Persuasion, Exponential Success Skills, and the Psychology of Objections. His Persuasion IQ Mastery Course is dramatically changing the way people explode their achievements.
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