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Great Idea? Two Tips on Using Persuasion

Imagine being Jeff Bezos in 1994 – I think I’ll give-up a promising career in New York as an investment banker and start an on-line book store called Amazon. There were many people he spoke to who thought his idea was crazy, a long-shot.

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Imagine being Jeff Bezos in 1994 – I think I’ll give up a promising career in New York as an investment banker and start an online book store called Amazon. There were many people he spoke to who thought his idea was crazy, a long shot. And some thought his goal was brilliant.

So, imagine how you would persuade senior executives or investors to “invest resources” in that idea.

Many times in your career, you will want to persuade someone to back or buy your idea. Here are two tips for you.

1. Find Your Idea Champion

If you are working in an organization and you have an idea that requires someone in upper management to approve it, you will need to understand who you’re pitching to and if they are open to new ideas. If you work out they won’t be interested in your idea, find a champion from within the organization that the person you’re pitching to respects.

Plus, to get the buy-in from your ‘champion,’ don’t provide them with a polished pitch. Let it be a little bit rough around the edges. This may seem counterintuitive, but having something that leaves room for expansion inspires people to get involved in your vision.

Having the ‘perfect solution’, on the other hand, tends to inspire critique. At this early stay in the process, you really just want your champion to love your idea.

2. Understand the Five Styles of Decision-Making

Gary Williams and Robert Miller published a very interesting article in the Harvard Business Review called Change the Way You Persuade. Their research of 1,600 executives indicated five types of decision-makers, each with a unique way of persuading people.

Here is a summary of the five types of persuasion that create a workable decision-making method and the percentage share of the outcome when using each type.

Charismatics – (25%)

Use charisma to get your new ideas across the line. Some people respond well to charisma. However, you won’t have it all your way, as life experience has taught most people to look for balanced information and not rely on emotions.

The people who respond well to charisma are risk-seeking but wise. These people absorb lots of data easily. Often they are visual learners. Your persuasion strategy is to get to the point quickly, focus on results, and use visual aids to describe features and benefits.

Thinkers (11%)

When pitching to people who respond well to things, you’ll use arguments supported by data but play down the risk.

These people like to know the risks, so they think about the pitfalls with you. Slower to make decisions, your persuasion strategy will use lots of data, research, surveys, and a cost-benefit analysis.

Skeptics (19%)

When you’re pitching to skeptics – they will be suspicious of data especially if it conflicts with their view of the world.

They can be disruptive and disagreeable. For your persuasion strategy, get an endorsement from someone the skeptic trusts.

Followers (36%)

If you’re lucky enough to have some people who are followers in the group, you need to persuade them to your way of thinking, and you will need to use prior experiences and decisions. Use references, testimonials, and how others were successful.

Controllers (9%)

Ideally, you won’t have too many people who hate uncertainty and want to control events. If so, you know they will only accept details presented by experts and will shut down when confronted with pushy techniques. Therefore give them facts and let them decide.

As you think about persuasion, I’m sure you will note that these tips can apply to both promoting an idea you might have and selling a product or service to a customer. It’s also is advisable to try and get a sense of what kind of decision-maker you are dealing with in advance – it can make all the difference.

Persuasion reminds me of these words from Henry David Thoreau, “Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other breaks into pieces.” Melt away!

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