Friday, February 5, 2016

7 Steps to Master the Art of Persuasion

Reed_Hastings,_Web_2.0_ConferenceMany entrepreneurs are so passionate about their new startup idea that they can’t believe any intelligent being, investor or customer wouldn’t react just as excitedly after a quick introduction. They don’t realize that they can often kill their credibility -- and future opportunities -- by communicating only with passion, responding with a cynical comment or giving up too soon.

The art of getting others to see things as you see them -- usually called persuasion -- is a key one for entrepreneurs, and it needs to be honed from the first day that you formulate your new idea. You have to persuade the right partners to join and build the solution, the right investors to fund it and the right customers to buy it. Good marketing is just a subset of these efforts and skills.

The psychology involved in winning over others has been studied and preached for generations and continues to evolve as our culture changes, as documented on the website Psychology Today, and many others. Aspiring entrepreneurs need to study all of these but also need to learn from the pragmatic practices and tactics of successful peers and business advisors.
  1. Repetition is the key to getting people’s attention. Many entrepreneurs mistakenly assume that their passion will cause their message to immediately stand out above the din of today’s information overload. In fact, most people today have developed filters to ignore unsolicited inputs until they have heard it several times in both written and verbal form.

  2. Postulate the message in a context important to the receiver. Tune your message to each receiver’s situation or context. Avoid abstract or technical declarations that may sound like an effort to impress or mislead your audience with your intelligence. Use specific value propositions rather than fuzzy terms like easier to use, better and faster.

  3. Use contrasting story scenarios to illustrate the impact. Stories are often more convincing than simple statements of fact. If you can integrate the receiver directly into the story, the potential impact is even greater. The power of contrast, or side-by-side comparison of outcomes, is an effective mover of people from old beliefs to new ones.

  4. Personalize your message to match receiver background. Whether approaching investors, partners or customers, you need to listen first to find a personal intersection of interest with your idea. If the person is creative and intuitive, don’t hit them with a logical and analytical message. Establish a relationship or do some homework first if you can.

  5. Use friends and advisors as sources of warm introductions. Everyone is more prone to listen and believe new people brought to them by someone they know in common, especially if that connection has strong relevant experience or expertise. Even if it takes longer to arrange such a meeting, your credibility gain and impact may be well worth it.

  6. Materialize your idea into a prototype or demo. People always put more credibility into something they can touch and feel, versus mere words and arm waving. What you are visualizing in your mind’s eye is not so obvious to others, especially investors who will likely not have your depth of expertise in the product domain you represent.

  7. Present evidence of interest and excitement from others. Social media is a powerful tool for testing your idea with minimal cost and risk with a huge potential for spreading and amplifying your message to the right people. The evidence of 1,000 people responding positively to your message is much more effective than you alone pitching.
In the end, the most convincing evidence of a great idea to investors and partners is business execution traction. They want to fund and work with people who are willing and able to move an idea into the execution phase. Ideally, that means a solution has been built, with a proven business model, and real customers who have paid full price with high customer satisfaction.

Indeed, all entrepreneurs have to start at the beginning with passion for an idea. Then comes the hard part of convincing others that the idea has the same merit you see, persuading others to join and support your effort and persuading customers to buy. According to some experts, persuasion is the most important skill you need to succeed in business.

Are you convinced?

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on Entrepreneur.com on 01/27/2016 ***

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