It’s no secret that the way in which you present your ideas greatly affect their acceptance or rejection. The art of persuasion, of selling your message will have its ups and downs, but a growing number of research is allowing the ups to appear much more often.
Now, it is true that sometimes, presenting the facts is enough. Facts can be quite convincing, especially if the product you’re selling is meeting obvious demands. But what if the product is not well-known? The way you present your message can make the difference between being turned down and making a sale. This is applicable regardless of who you’re trying to persuade. It could be a decision-maker, a customer or even your own employees.
How to deal with decision-makers
Dealing with decision-makers is no piece of cake.
In Five Paths to Persuasion: How to Sell your Message, Robert Miller and Gary Williams, two customer research experts, set out on a two-year mission to study around 1,700 executives and their decision-making processes. Their goal? To find out if patterns emerge describing number of decision-making types.
Turns out patterns do emerge. What’s so interesting about that study is that they found out that those decision makers tended to make important decisions in one of 5 ways, and they are:
- Charismatic: They are the enthusiastic imaginers, the innovative risk seekers, the proactive and decisive, the responsible and accountable, the bottom-liners and interactive. In short, they are those who get easily excited about new ideas but rely on others to investigate the details. Example: Richard Branson
- Thinkers: They are the methodical and process-oriented, the information-driven, the quantitative and precise, the relentlessly thorough, the guarded and cautious, the balanced and intellectually fluid. In short, they are those who have to go through everything themselves to evaluate the pros and cons of every option. Example: Bill Gates
- Skeptics: They are the iconoclasts, the brazenly outspoken, the fearlessly confident, the assertive and demanding, the determined and driven, and the visionary. In short, they are those who are highly suspicious of every piece of information and would rarely wander outside their own worldviews. Example: Steve Case
- Followers: They are the devoted to the tried and true, the averse to the new, the conscientious corporate citizens, the deft people handlers, the empathetic, and the difficult to identify. In short, they are those who would make decisions based on trusted people’s opinions and past experiences. Example: Bob Nardelli
- Controllers: They are the driven by fear, the proactive, the fiercely self-reliant, the absolute and resolute, and the meticulous and unyielding perfectionists. In short, they are those who must be in charge of every decision-making process and need to believe that an idea is theirs before accepting it. Example: Martha Stewart
After categorizing decision-making types, Miller and Williams developed proven strategies to tackle each type and successfully sell your ideas to each, a knowledge which can help you persuade your website visitors.
Spoiler alert: it’s all about presentation.
All 5 types of decision-makers are perfectly capable of making rational decisions on whether to accept a new idea or not. But, for various reasons, they are not always capable of doing so. It may be that the material is not their specialty and that a trusted someone else is more capable of tackling the issue, or simply that they don’t have time.
What they found out is pretty interesting. Indeed, decision makers can all be rational and perfectly capable of accepting or rejecting an idea based on its pros and cons, but not all do so. And those that do don’t do it in the same manner.
So for example, a Charismatic decision-maker like Oprah would easily get excited upon hearing a new idea, but it would take someone else’s input to make the final decision. Others like Bill Gates, the thinkers, have to go through everything themselves to evaluate the pros and cons before making a final decision. And so on.
So how can we apply these principles of persuasion to Marketing messages?
If your audience is like most audiences, you will be facing a combination of all 5 different types of decision makers. So the trick is to know how to structure your online marketing messages so that you hit the things that are common between all of the decision makers first, and then prioritize the rest of the messages for their individual traits.
How to Persuade
Well, the good news is that persuading can actually be quite simple. The bad news is that it requires a bit of practice to effectively persuade your visitors.
Take the example of Neil Patel, the face of QuickSprout. Peep displays an extraordinary amount of confidence in his writing, but it’s impossible to find a piece of his that is not filled with experience. Reading Neil Patel is reading someone with authority: you’re convinced that what you’re reading is genuine and meaningful.
So let’s list 4 tricks to effective persuasion:
- Be Confident. Ever wondered why “how to persuade” articles start with this formula? It works. Confident people gain followers. That has been clear for a good deal of human history and it remains clear today. Pundits are still asked questions even after prediction failures precisely because they make them with confidence. Write your articles with as much confident-sounding words as you can muster, and you will be rewarded with respect and a following!
- Back up your arguments with facts. Relying on confidence alone is counter productive. Be sincere in your claims by backing them up with facts. Facts alone will allow you to gain a long term reputation rather than a short lived one based on shallow confidence.
Imagine having a website where it would be extremely difficult to challenge your authority on any given subject. Why? Well because facts tend to be hard to argue against. Backing up your arguments with facts would boost your authority on the subject.
- Present the controversy (if there is one). Let’s face it. Not all topics you wish to discuss will have a black or white dimension to them. Some will be controversial, and that’s fine. Your confidence shouldn’t replace honesty, so when there is a controversy over a particular topic, address it openly.
- Limit your choices. This may sound counter intuitive, but the concept of the Paradox of Choice is now well-known among psychologists and economists. You may think that giving your customers a large number of choices of similar products means you know what you’re doing, but the truth is that it might as well just confuse them. There is no rule to follow to know how much is too much, so just limit your choices to as few choices as possible as long as it works.