What Is Persuasion?

Definition & Examples of Persuasion

Business woman persuading team members.
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Persuasion is convincing others to agree with your point of view or follow a course of action. Employers value persuasive skills in employees because these skills can impact many aspects of job performance.

Learn more about how persuasion works.

What Is Persuasion?

Persuasion is convincing others to change their point of view, agree to a commitment, purchase a product or service, or take a course of action. Oral and written persuasive skills are valued in the workplace.

Sales is the most obvious form of persuasion, but this skill is used in many other positions as well. Managers persuade employees to do unpleasant but necessary tasks, lawyers argue before juries, IT firms convince clients to invest in better networking equipment, and department heads put together presentations to convince their superiors to increase their budgets.

How Persuasion Works

Persuasion is an innate personality trait in some, but it's also a skill that can be learned and improved. Use the following steps to hone your persuasion skills in the workplace.

Assess the Needs of Your Target Audience

In some cases, you may already know what your audience needs. In other cases, you may need to do research. In the sales sector, you may start by asking clients about their preferences or requirements before presenting a product solution. Here are a few more examples of various audiences:

  • Analyzing a job and tailoring your cover letter to the position
  • Asking your team what they'd like for an incentive program
  • Talking to registered voters to develop a campaign slogan for a political candidate
  • Tailoring advertising copy to the preferences of a target demographic group

Build Rapport With Your Audience

To be persuasive, your audience needs to feel you have their best interests in mind. That takes trust, and trust takes time to build. To build rapport, ask questions, and actively listen to the answers. Ask about family and outside interests, and share who you are as well.

Building rapport is a continuous process. For instance, even after you have achieved team buy-in for a project, you should continue to build rapport for future collaborations by staying engaged with team members and taking opportunities to thank them for a job well done. Consider these examples:

  • Ask a customer how their child is faring in college. 
  • Compliment an employee on the successful completion of a task.
  • Take a client out for coffee with no specific agenda in mind.
  • Serve breakfast to volunteers for a community service project.

Focus on the Benefits

Showcase the benefits of adopting your proposal. Be specific about how the action or change in viewpoint will help your audience. Examples include:

  • Articulating the benefits of working for an employer as part of a recruiting information event held on campus
  • Presenting an argument to a judge for a motion during a trial or pretrial proceeding
  • Recommending to senior management that they hire additional personnel for your department
  • Securing and writing a celebrity testimonial as part of a commercial for a product or service

Listen to and Counter the Concerns of Stakeholders

Prepare for possible objections and listen to ones that come up on the spot. Objections will be easier to overcome if you’ve clearly made an effort to listen to and respect other people’s concerns about a new project or venture. Workplace examples include: 

  • Meeting with staff members to assess their reaction to a proposed restructuring of the company
  • Explaining the necessity of quality control and delayed deadlines during construction projects
  • Leading a hiring committee that is evaluating several top candidates for a single position
  • Educating a customer more thoroughly about the benefits of a product
  • Presenting a rationale to upper management in order to expand a departmental budget
  • Responding to opposing counsel during a legal court trial

Recognize the Limitations of Your Proposal

People are generally more amenable to persuasion if you demonstrate transparency and recognize valid objections to your plan. Here are a few examples:

  • Acknowledging that someone has provided you with constructive information you didn’t know about when you first suggested a project
  • Realizing that you will need to increase your salary offer to secure a top-notch employee

Find Common Ground With Stakeholders

Most proposals require compromise. It’s good to know ahead of time which elements of a proposal you can be flexible about. Examples include:

  • Conducting union negotiations for higher salaries or improved benefits
  • Convincing opposing parties in a divorce mediation to accept a fair proposal
  • Offering a proposal to hire an assistant for a lead salesperson who has indicated that they might leave due to concerns about their workload
  • Reducing the established price of a product or service

Clarify the Final Terms

No one wants to have to go back and begin the persuasion process all over again because a stakeholder hasn’t clearly understood the final terms of an agreement or contract. Ensure that everyone is on the same page and take the time to follow up to resolve any lingering doubts or questions. Here are a few examples:

  • Establishing learning contracts with students in a classroom environment
  • Reviewing a contract with a client before and after signing
  • Designing, distributing, and reviewing customer feedback surveys
  • Calling a patient following a medical or dental procedure to check on their recovery status

Key Takeaways

  • Persuasion is convincing others to agree with your point of view or follow a course of action.
  • Sales is the most obvious form of persuasion, but this skill is used in many other positions as well.
  • Persuasion is a skill that can be learned and improved.
  • Persuasion involves assessing your audience's needs, building rapport, focusing on the benefits, countering objections, and finding common ground.