Whether you’re trying to win new business or convince a colleague that your solution to an issue is the way forward, persuasiveness is a vital tactic to hone in order to get ahead. But to truly be successful, you need to master the counterintuitive approach of putting aside your own needs first, and focusing instead on what the other person has to say.
These six entrepreneurs explain what persuasive tactics have worked for them — and how you can adapt them to your own business practices.
Let them know you care.
When you make understanding the needs of your clients your first priority, you’ll see there’s no reason to kick off the agenda with an elevator pitch.
Ben Camerota, president of custom visuals supplier MVP Visuals, sets up his sales meetings using a “get-to-know-you” format.
“After many years as a salesperson, I now begin client meetings with a series of questions that identify who they are as people first, then the business issues they’re struggling with,” he says. “The rest of our time is tailored to their specific needs and how my organization can help. The lesson I’ve learned: People are more open to change when they believe the other person cares.”
Use their name in conversation.
As referenced in Dale Carnegie’s famous work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, calling someone by their name — and using it often — is one subtle, yet effective way to appear more persuasive.
“I tend to constantly use and mention a person’s name in times of persuasion,” says Daisy Jing, founder of beauty product line Banish. “Using someone’s name in conversation shows the person you value them and builds a connection between both parties.”
Build up your vocabulary.
“Using big words won’t persuade people, but the ability to find the words to articulate exactly what you are trying to say is a skill,” says Leila Lewis, founder and CEO of wedding PR agency Be Inspired PR.
When speaking, Lewis makes sure to have two-to-three key takeaway phrases that she put a lot of thought into. “Without fail, attendees will come up to share how one of those phrases really spoke to them. I’ve found those people are usually the ones who hire me for additional services,” she says.
Let the other person speak first…
Waiting to open your mouth until the other person says their piece could unlock the key to getting what you want out of the arrangement.
“If you let somebody speak first, they’ll usually tell you what they want to hear and what you need to do to get the conversation across the finish line.Then you know exactly what your target is,” says Christopher Kelly, co-founder and president of service and design company Convene.
“By listening deeply and being empathetic you can appeal to somebody’s human side, which is where decisions end up getting made.”
…And make it sound like it was their idea all along.
Kim Kaupe, co-founder of custom publication company ZinePak, rethinks her approach to persuasion to frame the situation in the eyes of the person she wants to get on her side.
“Too often, people approach being persuasive as moving people from point A to point B, instead of saying, ‘Let me join you at point A and see where we go,'” she says. “Talking through a situation with the person you are trying to persuade allows them to take the journey with you. In fact, sometimes halfway through the journey, it becomes their idea to go to Point B: the exact place you’ve been trying to go!”
Make the conversation about goals — not yourself.
Setting individual gains aside is what the act of persuasion is all about, and a mutual understanding of what goals you’re working toward can help establish common ground off the bat.
Michael Spinosa, CEO of Unleashed Technologies, finds that a focus on the desired outcome is key when being persuasive: “This helps garner a greater investment in what everyone is working to achieve as opposed to creating roadblocks because of personal agendas,” he says. “A goal-focused approach has everyone winning and opens people up.”
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.