Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The art of persuasion

To persuade is to appeal to one's logic, emotions, and past experiences.  Not surprisingly, these represent the three areas of the brain that make decisions.  Persuasion can be done forcefully, think of interrogations, or gently, think of sales.  

The art of persuasion is not how you do it, but why you do it.  Anyone can learn to be persuasive by playing to their strengths and the subject's weaknesses, but it is the goal behind the act of persuasion that shines light on one's true character and either builds trust or kills it.

Persuasion relies on many of the same mental and social adaptations that have allowed the human race and society to flourish.  If you persuade merely for personal gain, you are stealing from years of social evolution.

Car salesmen have a reputation of persuading for personal gain.  In the car lot you agree to the price on the windshield and by the time you've signed the paperwork, somehow you are paying an extra couple thousand dollars.  You can look back at each decision and see that it was always your choice, but you still feel like you've been taken advantage of somehow.

If a customer isn't making the right decision, you can persuade him into a decision that more appropriately addresses his needs.  The role of a sales person is to help the client solve a problem.  

A guy with a family of four probably shouldn't buy a small sports car, like a Nissan 370Z, as the family's second car.  If the salesman steps in and persuades him to go with a four door sedan, like the Nissan Maxima, everyone wins.  The salesman made a sale that won't be returned by the guy's wife the following day, and the guy is happy to have a solution that works for his situation.

It's tempting to use the power of persuasion for personal gain, but doing so will only erode the common good  known as trust.  Without trust, society would fall apart like a bad zombie movie.  The art of persuasion is in it's purpose, not it's application.