How to Become a Better Persuader: Six Principles to Follow

Last Updated Dec 6, 2007 6:39 PM EST

power-influence-and-persuasion.jpgThe phrase "always be closing" doesn't just resonate with salespeople. Effective leaders also need to have that "closing" skill -- the ability to sell other people on ideas. As former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca said, "You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere."

Harvard Business suggests you can learn to be a better persuader by applying six principles:

1. Liking: People like those like them, who like them.

  • Create early bonds with new peers, bosses, and direct reports by informally discovering common interests--you'll establish goodwill and trustworthiness. Praise: Charm and disarm. Make positive remarks about others--you'll generate more willing compliance.
2. Reciprocity: People repay in kind.
  • Give what you want to receive. Lend a staff member to a colleague who needs help; you'll get his help later.
3. Social Proof: People follow the lead of similar others.
  • Use peer power to influence horizontally, not vertically; e.g., ask an esteemed "old timer" to support your new initiative if other veterans resist.
4. Consistency: People fulfill written, public, and voluntary commitments.
  • Make others' commitments active, public, and voluntary. If you supervise an employee who should submit reports on time, get that understanding in writing (a memo); make the commitment public (note colleagues' agreement with the memo); and link the commitment to the employee's values (the impact of timely reports on team spirit).
5. Authority: People defer to experts who provide shortcuts to decisions requiring specialized information.
  • Don't assume your expertise is self-evident. Instead, establish your expertise before doing business with new colleagues or partners; e.g., in conversations before an important meeting, describe how you solved a problem similar to the one on the agenda.
6. Scarcity: People value what's scarce.
  • Use exclusive information to persuade. Influence and rivet key players' attention by saying, for example: "--Just got this information today. It won't be distributed until next week."
Related Reading:

The Art of Woo: Selling Your Ideas to the Entire Organization, One Person at a Time
(Power, Influence, and Persuasion image courtesy of .nele, cc 2.0)