A successful small-business owner must be adept at persuading others. Whether it’s asking employees to do a better job, negotiating a more cost-effective arrangement with vendors, or convincing prospective customers to purchase a product or service, your motivational skills are well worth developing.
Here are some tips for increasing your powers of persuasion.
- Don’t be pushy or heavy-handed. “Successful persuaders get that you don’t win the battle by constantly berating people with an unending verbal barrage,” notes Inc. 500 entrepreneur Kevin Daum. “Wearing people down is not an effective strategy.” Adopting hard-sell techniques to win someone over will likely produce resistance vs. acceptance.
- Make it about them. You’ll never sway someone to your point of view if you don’t factor in that person’s wants, needs, and fears. The argument you present should be about them, not you — how doing what you propose will benefit them in some way, big or small. Persuasion requires empathy and the ability to see things from another person’s perspective.
- Offer examples. A persuasive appeal usually includes an example or analogy that illustrates the value of the argument. Whenever possible, use an example that elicits an emotional response from the other person. Want to motivate your employees to improve their customer-relation skills? Tell them about a satisfied customer who went out of her way to praise a particular staff member.
- Be prepared to compromise. Asking someone to do something for you becomes a lot more palatable to them when you demonstrate a willingness to give a little on your end. Another option is to do something for them in return. “If you are asking a team to work additional hours, lay on free refreshments or offer them additional time in lieu,” writer Philip Lop suggests. “By acknowledging and rewarding the effort that you are requesting, you are much more likely to gain the support of others.”
- Communicate clearly. Attempts to persuade others often falter because the argument is too vague or ambiguous. People are naturally reluctant to agree to a request if they don’t understand what’s being asked of them. The more straightforward your appeal, the more likely it is others will respond favorably.
- Anticipate questions and objections. Like any good salesperson, you should be prepared to handle questions or objections as they arise. Most of the time, you can anticipate the types of questions that people will ask. Be ready with clear answers that help illustrate the value of your proposal, especially in terms of how it benefits the other person (see “Make it about them” above).
- Choose your battles. No one succeeds in getting his or her way all of the time — at least, no one that others respect and follow willingly. You’ll be far more persuasive if you’re selective in what you ask for, when you ask for it, and how often you let others determine a particular course of action. “Want to persuade more?” Daum asks. “Argue and advocate less often.”