On persuasion, here are three questions I suggest my clients always come back to:
1. How do you get them to want you?
No matter in what context you are persuading someone, you are first selling you.
If you are a homeless fellow on Market Street trying to convince an angel of your startup idea, then you likely lack the credibility to get your idea heard.
But if a person has already chosen you, then your idea comes as your plus one.
This is true whether you are selling cars, deals, and everything else, you must first convince someone to buy you before they buy your idea.
So ask yourself, why do they want you and what you’ve got?
How are you going to help them see it?
2. What do they respond to?
Here’s the thing about human behavior: It isn’t what people say they like or dislike, it is what they respond to.
It’s like the woman who says she wants a kind, sensitive man and hates that the men she dates don’t treat her like a princess, yet she always seeks out the same type of man.
She might whine about them, but she’s telling you what she responds to.
A CEO might say, “Long-term relationships matter most to me,” yet they choose their business partners based on cost.
What do they really respond to?
They might tell you one thing, but their actions tell you what they respond to.
3. Are they motivated towards pleasure or away from pain?
The desire to succeed and the desire to not fail might sound similar, but they are radically different forms of motivation.
The one motivated by pain, away from failing, can be more powerful, but it is more limiting and, well, painful.
In almost all cases, we are motivated by a combination of pleasure and pain, but research suggests that 80% of the time we are not motivated towards what we want, but away from what we don’t want.
What works more effectively with kids?
A special treat or the threat of something being taken away?
If you were a banker pitching a deal, you would design a very different sell based on whether the CEO is motivated more by the pleasure of a block-buster deal or away from the pain of cocking it up.
In the former case you talk about all of your great successes.
In the latter you talk about the many failed deals in the market, and what it takes to avoid being one of them—namely, hire you!