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The Power of Influence: How to Be More Persuasive

Influence isn’t reserved for politicians and famous people. Being more persuasive can benefit anyone’s life. Too many people associate persuasion with dishonesty, manipulation, or “yucky marketing stuff.” Of course, this superpower can be used for good and evil, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. You can’t get a date, partner, customer, or freelancing client when you’re not able to move people. Here’s how to be more persuasive.

Note: The quotes in this article are courtesy of Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. (Scott Adams refers to him as “the Godzilla of persuasion.” This guy knows his stuff!)

Do as many favors for as many people as possible.

Yes… you read that right!

Rule #1 of persuasion is to be a nice person.

Why? Two reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. Second, people like to return favors.

“The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us.”

Have you noticed how most websites have a free giveaway? It’s typically goes something like, “Give me your email address and I’ll send you a FREE report about how to double your rates.”

You get useful content that will help you accomplish a goal that’s important to you. The website owner gets an opportunity to promote books, consulting, online courses, or whatever they sell. Win/win!

If you work with people one-on-one, you can accomplish the same thing. Find a way to provide a free preview or teaser to people who want to hire you. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Here are a few examples:

Personal trainer? Offer to do a free thirty minute training session for potential clients.

Graphic designer? Offer to make a free preview logo* for people who consider your service.

Freelance writer? Offer to brainstorm 5-10 article ideas for websites that want to feature you.

*In this case, you might want to watermark the image so they can’t use the file without paying!

These examples might not apply to your life, but you get the idea. The possibilities are endless. Use your imagination. No matter the specifics, I encourage every freelancer to provide potential clients a sneak peek of what to expect in a working relationship. Will everyone hire you? No! But enough will.

Help people rationalize their decision.

We are not logical beings.

Most people make choices based on emotion (whether they’re conscious of the fact or not).

Still, it doesn’t hurt to help people rationalize their decision to date, hire, kiss, promote, or (insert desired verb here) you.

“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”

“Because” statements are powerful. You can immediately improve the quality of your marketing by using one. Tell me which sentence sounds more persuasive:

A: “You should join my fitness club!”
B: “You should join my fitness club, because we’ll help you get fit in less than three hours per week.”

How about these?

A: “You should let me do your taxes!”
B: “You should let me do your taxes, because I’ll save you hours of trouble and hundreds of dollars.”

It’s a no-brainer. The “because” statements made both offers a LOT more compelling. Find a way to add these to your advertisements, sales pitches, calls-to-action, and all that stuff. They’ll make a difference, because people love to have a reason to act (so give it to them)!

Focus on potential losses (not gains).

You see two different advertisements about financial planning.

The first ad says: “I’ll show you how to save at least $1,000 by the end of this year.”

The second ad says: “I’ll help you prevent mistakes that could cost you $1,000 this year.”

Which one grabbed your attention most effectively? If you’re like most people, probably #2.

“The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.”

Saving money feels nice. Losing money feels painful. It’s easy to see how pain is a more effective motivator. People take “nice” things for granted. People can’t forget “painful” things, no matter how hard they try.

Work in finance? Don’t tell people how much money you’ll help them save. It doesn’t matter. Talk about how much money they could lose by failing to hire you. That will get their attention. Don’t feel bad for being negative. Remember: you’re looking out for their best interest!

You can apply the same reasoning in many fields. People who try to build their own websites waste an insane amount of time and money. They could prevent this by hiring a professional. No matter what you do, concentrate on what people have to “lose” by not working with you. John Steinbeck captured the pain of loss perfectly when he said:

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

Please use the power of persuasion for good (not evil). Want to teach your friends how to be more persuasive? Share this article on Facebook and Twitter. If they don’t appreciate the advice, I’ll buy you a drink.

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