Persuasion Definition and Examples of Persuasive Skills

Female Businesswoman Giving Presentation to Colleagues
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Persuasion in the workplace (or other environments) entails convincing others to follow a course of action, to agree to a commitment, or to purchase a product or service. Employers especially value persuasive skills in their personnel because they can impact so many aspects of the workplace, resulting in increased productivity.

Persuasion techniques are also used in political and fundraising campaigns, public relations, legal procedures, and other areas.

Persuasive skills are required when one needs to influence project stakeholders. These stakeholders might include customers, co-workers, current or prospective bosses, business partners, subordinates, donors, funding sources, judges, juries, consumers, voters, and prospective employees. 

The Persuasion Process

The process of persuasion typically involves the following stages: 

1. Assessing the preferences, needs, and predispositions of a targeted individual or group.
Persuading others is most easily accomplished by explaining how a proposal you are suggesting would be mutually advantageous. In the sales sector, this stage of the persuasion process is called “consultative advising,” during which a skillful salesperson will first ask a client about their preferences or requirements before presenting a product solution.

Examples: 

  • Analyzing a job and custom-tailoring a cover letter so that it's in sync with the key qualifications of a position. 
  • Designing an incentive program for a sales team.
  • Developing a campaign slogan for a political candidate.
  • Tailoring advertising copy to the preferences of a target demographic group.
  • Writing the script for a telephone fundraising pitch in order to raise money for a charitable organization.

2. Establishing a rapport with targeted stakeholders.
Once you’ve established what exactly target stakeholders need, you can use this information to begin to build rapport with them. Keep in mind that, in many work environments, building rapport is a never-ending process. For instance, even after you have achieved team buy-in for a project, you should continue to build rapport for future collaborations by praising team members, throughout the phases of the project’s completion, for a job well-done.

Examples

  • Asking a customer how her son or daughter is faring in college as part of building a relationship with the student and their family. 
  • Complimenting an employee on the successful completion of a task.
  • Composing a letter or email to prospective donors on behalf of a school's fundraising effort.
  • Praising someone after they have completed an especially rigorous stage of their workout program.
  • Recruiting volunteers for a community service project.

3. Clearly articulating the benefits of accepting a proposed agenda or course of action. 

Having spent some time in the first stage of persuasion listing the needs of your stakeholders that you can supply, you’ll be well-equipped to describe to them the benefits of adopting your proposal. In sales, this stage is sometimes described as making a “value-added” proposition – but focusing on the benefits of your offering is a good strategy no matter what the circumstances.

Examples

  • Articulating the benefits of working for an employer as part of a recruiting information event held on campus.
  • Encouraging a patient to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
  • Presenting an argument to a judge for a motion during a trial or pre-trial 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.

4. Actively listening to the concerns of stakeholders and uncovering any objections to a proposal.
When you are in the situation where you need to persuade others about a course of action, it’s best to predict and be prepared for possible objections (there is always someone who will try to throw a spanner into the works!). 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.

Examples

  • Meeting with a staff member to assess his or her reaction to a proposed restructuring of the company.
  • Securing signatures for a petition.
  • Making the decision with your management team to make staff or funding cuts.
  • 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.

5. Presenting counterpoints in order to overcome any objections. 
This is one of the most challenging stages of the persuasion process. If you’ve accurately predicted possible objections, though, you should be able to marshal counterpoints convincingly.

Examples: 

  • Educating a customer more thoroughly about the multiple benefits of a product or by presenting competitor analysis.
  • Negotiating a salary increase or additional vacation time.
  • Negotiating or renegotiating the terms of a contract agreement.
  • Presenting a rationale to upper management in order to expand a departmental budget.
  • Responding to opposing counsel during a legal court trial.

6. Recognizing any legitimate limitations to a proposal. 
People are generally more amenable to persuasion and negotiation if you demonstrate transparency in the process as well as your willingness to recognize valid objections to your plan.

Examples:

  • Accepting that your team will have to work with a smaller budget than you’d hoped for.
  • Accepting that you may not be able to get extra time off work if there is a staffing shortage.
  • 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 in order to secure a top-notch employee.

7. Modifying a proposal as needed in order to find common ground with stakeholders. 
Most proposals – be they sales initiatives or workplace negotiations – require compromise. It’s good to know ahead of time which elements of a proposal you can be flexible about.

Examples: 

  • 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 the lead salesperson in a company who has indicated that he or she might leave due to concerns about their workload.
  • Reducing the established price of a product or service. 

8. Clarifying the terms of any final agreement.
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. Clarity in explaining the anticipated consequences of an agreement is crucial.

Examples: 

  • Educating a new employee about conditions for their hiring and / or termination.
  • Establishing learning contracts with students in a classroom environment.
  • Reviewing a contract with a client before final signage.
  • Providing two weeks’ notice of your intent to leave your job, listing your last day of work.

9. Conducting follow-up in order to determine if any stakeholders have lingering doubts about a proposal.
Not only do follow-ups with stakeholders build rapport, but they also help you to track the success of an agreed-upon venture.

Examples:

  • Designing and distributing customer feedback surveys.
  • Reviewing online product reviews following a product launch.
  • Calling a patient following a medical or dental procedure to check on their recovery status.
  • Asking a client if they require final changes before their official sign-off on a project.

Is Persuasion a Skill You Can Acquire?

Persuasion, like determination or charisma, is a “soft skill” for many people – one that is often an innate personality trait.

However, the art of persuasion can certainly be improved (like tangible hard skills) with the right training. Many sales programs, in particular, offer on-the-job training in how to perfect your powers of persuasion.