Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Persuasive Words - Describing Benefits

Everyone write me and congratulate me on my 75th article in this blog! And remember that a public course is starting on Jan 22. I am taking sign-ups now. Refer to this page

Occasionally, some of my students will want me to utter some series of magic words that will hypnotize whomever I am speaking to and cause them to be putty in my hands. Yeah, right. Persuasive words don’t work like that. Manipulation sometimes does, but we don’t deal in that because it is neither a long term nor constructive strategy. I will take some time and talk about how to phrase things to make them helpful in motivating others to take action on what you are discussing if you have followed the other parts of this series.

We have talked about credibility, creating a mutual purpose, developing evidence, using emotion, and good presentation structures. Here are some thoughts for framing what we say.

Remember that the mutual purpose is something specific that we can agree that we both want, and we try to make it as concrete (as opposed to abstract) as we can. Working together “for the good of the company” or “in the interest of justice” is fine, but they are each a little abstract. “For the good of the company” is made a little more concrete and is still mutually attractive when expressed as “to be more profitable”. It becomes more concrete (but maybe not as mutual) when it becomes “to cut expenses” and VERY concrete and not mutually purposeful AT ALL when it becomes “reducing your wages”! We want to pick the most concrete purpose we can (because it is the most galvanizing) that is still mutually agreeable. This tends to be more difficult as the number of people involved gets bigger, just because finding something that a large group is each interested in is more difficult than finding a common thread amongst a smaller group.

If we can arrive at a truly interesting and functional Mutual Purpose, we then should define its benefits. When you think of benefits, think about what desirable result will accrue to your counterpart from the Mutual Purpose. As an analogy, if someone tells you the new laptop computer you are buying has a Pentium Dual Core 2 GHz processor, you have a vague idea that it is perhaps faster or more powerful than your current machine. That is not a benefit, but a feature. To express the benefit, you must express what it does for YOU. “It will start twice as fast as your current computer, handle 3 times the number of concurrent applications, and will allow your computer to download files as fast as your connection will allow” is a statement of benefit. “It will let you do more work in much less time” is another statement of benefit. A car with a small engine may not sound good, but if it is framed as a big increase in gas savings, then that benefit may outweigh an “unnoticeable” reduction in power and help persuade you to pick the car.

NOTE – I am not advocating that you EVER withhold the downside of a perspective. I am suggesting (stating, really) that describing the BENEFITS of something (like a mutual purpose) is FAR more persuasive than framing just the features.

Understanding the tangible benefits of a perspective is important to all of us when we make a decision. Recognizing that we BOTH value those benefits makes us appear more aligned and increases the likelihood that we won’t disappoint each other in our journey to attaining them. Developing a track record of persuading people to do things that in turn provide them benefits is a great way to get them to listen to you the next time.

More on persuasive words next time.

Insist on great business results! Go to Pathfinder Communication


Randy said...

Thank You for all the blogs you post every week: I enjoy reading and learning from your blogs!

Randy McKinney

Gary said...

Congratulations Gregg!! :)

Excellent work...

Anonymous said...

Your insight is very valuable to me. I always enjoy reading what you have to say. I try and put it in to practice in my everyday life and what a difference it makes when I do!