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The Convincing Illusion (and internal buy-in)

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

We get convinced and persuaded confused often.

Persuasion is far more valuable.

You can be convinced without taking action. You can be persuaded without being convinced.

We’re convinced of the benefits of exercise and dangers of climate change without taking action on either. We’re persuaded to vote for political candidates without ever reading a single policy document in detail.

Convincing works well when someone needs facts to rationalise a decision they’ve made. If they’re open to the idea, providing the right evidence in the right manner at the right time seals the deal. But you can’t convince someone who isn’t open to the idea – they simply dispute the evidence.

Persuasion works well in every other situation. Persuasion is an appeal to emotion, not to reason. If you’re not getting internal buy-in, it’s probably because you’re trying to convince people with pesky evidence. You need to be persuading them – and that’s a trickier challenge.

Here is the challenge in persuasion:

  • Gain credibility among the audience. They have to like you before they will listen to you. The best way to be liked is to listen and support. Even if they disagree with your opinion, they will respect you for regularly taking the time to understand and help them. The more relationships you build, the easier it will be to persuade.
  • Craft a series of messages to change their worldview. You’re never going to persuade anyone in a single message, you need to craft a journey. Remember to speak in their values, not yours. Start small. Begin by defusing animosity towards the idea and highlighting common ground. Gradually persuade by invoking their deeply held values, highlight others like them taking similar actions, and the urgency of the issue now. Persuasion takes time, don’t go for the one-shot kill here.
  • Select the right medium. The medium dramatically changes the perceived value of the message. Social media messages  isn’t going to have a powerful impact (or even be seen) by most of the audience. Paid social ads might be seen, but are likely to be ignored. Between that you have e-mail, face to face, books, workshops, whitepapers, videos, meetings, workshops, and much more.
  • Build a sense of peer pressure. Bring together a group of people taking similar action. Gradually add prospective newcomers to the group. Or otherwise find occasions for those you’re trying to persuade to mix with those already taking the behavior.
  • Create an outsized initial reward. Create an outsized reward for the simplest first step towards the behavior. For example, if someone makes a commitment to a future action, you can celebrate this commitment publicly and help the group to track progress. This locks them into the action. Identify the smallest step someone can make towards the action, one that they’re most comfortable with.
  • Value-Driven Urgency. Most people never get around to taking the actions that they believe in. You need urgency that’s relevant to each individual. Fake urgency or scarcity feels more fake than ever. You need to learn more about the unique challenge of each individual and how this would solve them.

Remember here persuasion is done in clusters. It’s easier to target small groups individually and persuade them than tackle the entire organisation. The more people you bring over to your desired action, the easier it becomes.

But tackling the entire organisation or group at once is nuts. Begin by identifying clusters of shared worldview and working from there.

If your audience is already very much open to the message, then you can skip these steps and focus on convincing your members. This means providing the right information in the right medium at the right time.

We’re going to go deep into persuasion techniques during Advanced Engagement Methods in 20 days. You can learn how to persuade employees or staff internally to take your desired actions or work with your customers, fans, and clients to act on a key goal of yours. I hope you will join us:

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