In a Nutshell:
- You’ll have a much easier time persuading your audience when you align yourself with them. Neutralise any sense of opposition by acknowledging and empathising with their point of view.
- Share stories/case studies of people who have been in a similar situation to your audience. They will relate to the story and gain insight into how to move forward in their own situation.
At some point in your career, you will inevitably face the challenge of persuading a reluctant customer, client, boss or team to embrace your proposal. This may even be an everyday ordeal for you. Have you ever noticed how the harder you push, the harder they push back? Why does this happen?
Why is it that the harder you work to convince someone to change their mind, the deeper they dig their heels in to hold up the opposing argument? It turns out that this is how we’re all wired.
People who are on the fence about making a change have two voices in their heads – one “for” and one “against”. When trying to persuade people to do something, we often make the mistake of immediately taking up the “good” side of the argument. But then what happens? Someone who is undecided on an issue will unconsciously try to balance out the conversation by arguing the other side.
So what should you do?
Rather than trying to pull them over to your side, try meeting them on theirs. This way, you neutralise any sense of opposition. Empathise with your audience. Align yourself with them by saying what’s on everyone’s mind. Meet them where they are and you’ll be in a much better position to walk them over to your side. can gradually take them where you want to go.
Tell a Story to Sell Your Solution
A well told story is like a simulated experience for the listener. Rather than simply arguing your case, try telling a story that resembles the situation your audience is in and provides a solution they can replicate.
The magic of this approach is that stories are about other people’s past experiences. So you’re unlikely to get much resistance from your audience. And yet, they’ll naturally identify with the hero and even visualise themselves in the story. This presents an opportunity for you to guide them through the journey you want them to take.
You can incorporate this into the classic sales tactic, “Feel, Felt, Found”:
- Feel – empathise with your audience, showing you understand how they feel. Reflect the audience’s perspective
- Felt – reassure them that others have been in their position and felt the same way (this is where your story starts)
- Found – tell them the solution those people found
Here’s an example. Suppose your company is going through a financial crisis and your employees are worried that their jobs are no longer secure. This is affecting morale and performance. What do you tell them?
“As you know, times are tough. You’re probably wondering whether you’ll still have a job tomorrow – I am, too! And it’s hard to focus on work with the threat of redundancy lurking over you.”
“Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, had the same problem back in 2008. In the recession, his company lost 40% of its orders overnight. As a result, they couldn’t afford to pay their workforce. They needed to save 10 million dollars. Bob soon found himself in a board meeting to discuss lay-offs… But he refused.”
“Instead, they set up a furlough programme. Every employee, including senior management, was required to take four weeks unpaid leave. When Bob announced it, he said, ‘better that all of us should endure a little pain than any of us should endure a lot of pain.’
You know what happened? Morale went up. The employees helped each other out – those who could afford to take more unpaid leave traded with those who needed the work. The company saved 20 million dollars, recovered from the recession and grew stronger than before. Best of all, everyone kept their job.
They made it work – and so will we.”
Notice that you don’t have to actually use the words, “feel”, “felt”, “found”. They simply give you a framework for crafting your message:
- Show that you understand your audience, that you know what’s on their mind
- Share a case study that resembles their situation
- Use the story to provide insight that transfers to your audience in the present
Try for Yourself
Let’s play with this in the comments section below. Tell us what you’re trying to convince your audience of and why that may be a challenge. Then share your 3F story to win your audience over.