10 Proven Persuasion Strategies
Updated: Apr 18
A guest post by John Forde, Copywriter’s Roundtable
Persuasion, the good kind, isn’t about manipulation.
It’s about tapping into those natural instincts we all have for self-preservation, and aligning those interests in somebody else with your own.
Does that mean there are “click, whir” built-in triggers you can use to persuade? It does.
Here’s a checklist with a few…
ROUND UP THE HERD
Teenagers all want to wear the same sneakers, only the crowded clubs seem cool, everybody wants an iPod. What is it about humans that they love to run with the herd? Trigger this response with statements about how many customers you’ve had so far, how orders have poured in, how high you rank in popularity compared to the competition.
THE BUDDY BUMP
You can “bump” up the likability of your product if friends, authorities, or even similar customers give your product a conspicuous nod of approval. Include pictures of people like your prospect using the product, tell the down-to-earth success stories of those similar customers. This technique is everywhere for a reason.
FORCE THE POSITIVE
Ask a question, any question, that’s going to get a “yes” response. And ask it early. Relevant questions may work even better, but research shows that almost any time you can get someone to say “yes,” they’re much more receptive to the rest of what you have to say. Just saying the word has a bond-building effect on both people in the exchange.
We hate to be seen as inconsistent, simply because consistency is key to building trust in a relationship. Which is why so many who use the “yes” technique above ask small questions that they know they’ll later refer back to so they can get a larger commitment. e.g. “There’s nothing like ice cream on a hot summer day, am I right? It’s one of the sweetest memories any child could have.” And later, “You agreed with me about the cool satisfaction of a cone of ice cream in summer, I’m sure. Or you wouldn’t have read this far. That’s why I want to show you the new auto-cranking ice cream maker from…”
THE BECAUSE CLAUSE
Dr. Robert Cialdini found, in one of his studies, that dropping the word “because” into a rationale — even for an explanation that’s irrational — had the strange effect of getting people to respond to even unusual requests. In his case, his students used the trick to get other students to surrender the copy machine in the library. (e.g. “Can I jump in front of you and copy these 25 pages in my book? I need to because my parrot has dysentery…”)
MAINTAIN THE MYSTERY
No matter how cliché you think it is, teases and opportunities that are “hidden”… “undiscovered”… and “secret” have pulling power. Secrets capitalize on our fear of missing out or not being included. Shared secrets (real ones) help develop bonds.
Have you ever noticed how the comedians that make fun of themselves make us laugh harder and last longer than the ones that can’t? Making mistakes publically embarrasses us. But seeing others make mistakes makes them seem more approachable and relaxed. If you’ve got a weakness or you’ve made a mistake that doesn’t destroy your credibility, feel free to mention it as part of your “story.”
THE PEOPLE-CENTRIC STORY
Tell stories. That’s an age-old piece of selling advice, and a good one. We all find stories hard to resist. But maybe one of the reasons stories work is not just because they throw suspense into your sales pitch, but also because stories are naturally centered around people. When you make a pitch, you want to show the human side of the product experience whenever possible. Get the people in there. Give them names and make them real.
REAL DEAL SPEAKING
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to fake sincerity? Take a piece of copy you’ve already written and read it aloud. Tape it and play it back. When you write about a product or an idea you can get behind to people you’d genuine like to help, it sounds a whole lot stronger than when you try to sell something you don’t care about… to customers you don’t care about either. It’s like hearing someone smile over the telephone.
SELLING TO WANTS VS. NEEDS
Imagine you’re selling a weight loss program. People with a weight problem usually need to hear that exercise and diet are proven ways to get fit. But they often want to hear it can be easy, fast, and painless. Many great products have found ways to join the two. But the sales pitches for even the best of those products still target the latter.
Again, remember that these triggers aren’t meant to help you manipulate anybody. Rather, they’re yours for tapping into those forces that already drive a customer… and then using them to show how you share the same good intent.
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