I recently reviewed an interesting book titled “Covert Persuasion.”
In it, the authors defined “covert persuasion” as the art and science of convincing others to do what you want without seeming pushy.
Understanding this skill is critical to your success as an entrepreneur; as you will need it to get more customers, partners, distributors, investors, etc.
So what are some of the “covert persuasion” techniques you should be employing? Here are my favorites:
Start by building rapport. We should all know that building rapport is the first step in the sales process (regardless of what you’re selling). Building rapport allows you to create a bond and get your prospects to like you.
Showing that you genuinely care about your prospect’s needs and success will help you build rapport and build trust in you.
Another good technique for building rapport is matching and mirroring, techniques in which you match your prospect’s posture and tone. For example, if your prospect’s arms are folded, you fold your arms too.
Some other techniques mentioned in “Covert Persuasion” are essentially repeats of techniques mentioned in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” (which I consider to be the “bible” in this space). These techniques include the following:
Specificity: when you say that your solution increases sales by 25%, it’s not very believable since the number is so round. Saying that your solution increases sales by 23.9% (a very specific claim) is more powerful (in fact, it’s generally more powerful than saying 25%, even though it’s a smaller figure).
Tell Stories: all of us (hopefully) were told stories by our parents when we were young. These stories and storytelling are engrained in our psyche, and humans react very well to stories. Telling stories allows your prospects to better understand and get excited about your message…particularly if they can personally relate to your stories.
Create scarcity: We see this all the time by successful marketers. For example, our sale ends today; or, we only have a limited quantity so buy now. Scarcity works really well since people hate thinking that they’ll lose out on something.
Create contrast: The book tells a story of the nation’s top seller of Girl Scout cookies. She would request a $30,000 donation to the Girl Scouts. When the prospect said no, she’d say, “Would you at least buy a box of cookies?” This approach makes the $3 box of cookies seem like nothing, and incites people to buy.
This is a great example specifically applied to marketing and sales. However, I personally like the “contrast” example better in Dr. Cialdini’s book. His example is a great letter written by a college girl to her parents. In it, she tells about the horrible situation she got herself into — she had gotten pregnant, the father of the baby was a drug dealer, etc. She then ends the letter by saying that she made the story up but that she is failing her English class. Clearly, in contrast to the fake horrible situation, failing a class is put in perspective and is seen as not being very important.
“Covert persuasion” is a strong title, and I can see lots of people saying that it’s unethical or unfair. I certainly agree that some of these techniques can be used unethically, and clearly I don’t condone that. However, to be a great marketer — which you need to be in order to be a successful entrepreneur — you need to ethically use these techniques. So think about the techniques I’ve described herein and how you might employ them in your business.