Elements of persuasion and how to leverage persuasion in business

February 09, 2021

Elements of persuasion

One big part, if not the biggest, of running a successful business is to persuade clients to come through the door or to come back and buy again and again. Then, it takes persuasion to get a better deal from a supplier. And even when it comes to employees, it takes a lot of persuading to make them claim your mission as theirs, to trust your leadership or to give their best at the workplace

Although salesmen and marketers must master the elements of persuasion in order to reach the desired results, there’s no doubt that the more people with good persuasion skills there are in your team, the better.

The 4 elements of persuasion

Psychologists concluded that there are four elements of persuasion. We will review them one by one below, but it’s important to note that all of them are interlinked and the success to persuade someone depends on how much each element is viable on its own. 

Let’s take a look at the elements of persuasion.

The source – You

The first element of persuasion is the source i.e. who is the communicator. It is of significant importance who’s passing on the message. For example, you can’t expect fast fashion brands to persuade environmentally and socially conscious buyers to shop their apparel. The message won’t be credible, no matter how good it is.

For one, the source should be credible. Having that in mind, a person with a PhD in nutrition science is a much more credible source about the effectiveness of the Paleo diet than someone with a certification from an online course.

Moreover, charismatic people have proven to be a lot more persuasive than someone who’s not likeable. The reason why Adolf Hitler was, sadly, successful at persuading millions of people to adopt his evil beliefs is because, although he was a dark, twisted fascist, he also possessed charm appealing to the mass audience.

The receiver – Customers, employees, partners

The second element of persuasion is the receiver – if we pull aside the employees and partners, in your case that is your target audience. This is why it is important to create a buyer persona in the first place. Then, along the way, gather as much data as possible so you can understand your target market. 

Demographics (age, sex, race) are essential part of the puzzle (e.g. generational differences) but there’s also much more to it. Namely, you should know what their needs, interests, desires and values are. 

Let’s say you have a meeting with a potential client today. If you could win them over, it’ll be a precedent for your company. So you start talking that work is number one priority, that you and your entire team work 24/7, and you sometimes sleep at the office. Certainly you told these things to impress them with your dedication to the business and persuade them that you’re reliable. Yet, surprisingly they back up. This could’ve been easily prevented if only you’d done your research and learned that they had a family, cherished time with them, worked maximum 6 hours per day and gave their employees plenty of time off.

The message – Verbal, textual, audio and visual content

It’s not rare that big brands like Nike or Pepsi are brought down to their knees, forced to apologize for their advertisements. Businesses should be very careful of the message they’re conveying. Being politically correct is the rule these days. Which is not a bad thing. However, internet users seem to get offended by anything and everything, so pushing their button is not always avoidable.

The important thing with the message, regardless of its form, is to be aligned with your company values and brand image. More so, it should speak directly to your target audience.

Quote about persuasion from William Bernbach

The channel – Traditional or digital media

Last but not least, the channel through which the message is delivered is rightfully one of the elements of persuasion. There are thousands of channels you could use for persuasion – print marketing, social media, TV, radio, online… Nevertheless, the final choice will largely depend on who you want to persuade, why and what.

You can’t expect to persuade millennials to work for you by advertising the job in daily newspapers. In the same manner, baby boomers don’t dance on TikTok. Or better yet, an email can be a helpful addition to the process but you can’t expect to persuade an investor to give you their money with a brilliantly written email. Personal communication in this case would be the best channel.

So what is considered to be the most critical element of persuasion?

Some would say that credibility of the source is the most critical element of persuasion. While we agree to a certain extent, we also believe that a good persuasion strategy contains a healthy mix of all 4 elements of persuasion. Because one can have the credibility but if the message and channel are unfortunate, they won’t have much success persuading the receiver.

Persuasion in business communication

Persuasion in business communication plays an important role. Basically everything in business is persuading other people. Either to buy from you, work for you or invest in you. Good leaders possess extraordinary persuasion skills. To some, persuasion comes naturally, they’re born with the charm. Others, have to learn how to persuade, which doesn’t mean they’ll be any less successful.

According to Aristotle, persuasion has three critical elements which we’ll discuss below. Now, he was an ancient greek philosopher, not a businessman, but the 3 Persuasive Appeals, as he called them, are successfully leveraged by the most skillful persuaders in business to this day.

Logos – Appealing to the logic

As much as good storytelling can help you build a brand, it’s the facts and the logic behind it that will retain customers, workers and partners. Without any logic, you can maybe make people buy your products once but if they fail to see an obvious benefit, they won’t be coming back.

As a persuader it’s your job to lay the facts on the table and show the person on the other side that it’s not just empty words. For example, showing data, testimonials or case studies to your customers will convince them in the efficiency of what you’re selling them.

Logos – Appealing to the logic

As much as good storytelling can help you build a brand, it’s the facts and the logic behind it that will retain customers, workers and partners. Without any logic, you can maybe make people buy your products once but if they fail to see an obvious benefit, they won’t be coming back.

As a persuader it’s your job to lay the facts on the table and show the person on the other side that it’s not just empty words. For example, showing data, testimonials or case studies to your customers will convince them in the efficiency of what you’re selling them.

Ethos – Appealing to the moral compass

Humans, in general, base their decisions on their inner moral compass. Each person has tuned this moral compass differently based on their principles and values. You can’t sell guns to a pacifist. In order to persuade someone, your moral values should be similar. 

For example, there’s a person you’d like to persuade to work for you – they’re one of the best in their profession and would be of great value to your company. Plot twist, you produce single-use plastic products and they are a sworn ecologist, boycotting brands like yours. The only way to persuade them is if you tell them that you need their help to rebrand, create an environmentally friendly product line, and over time cease complete production of single-use plastics.

Pathos – Appealing to the emotions

It’s no lie that emotions are the biggest triggers. Just look at John Lewis’ Christmas ads. They make you cry and take your money. Cool right? 

Emotions are the safest card to win someone over. Joy, fear, sadness, disgust and anger are the basic and most powerful emotions in humans. For that, the source should exhibit an extremely good emotional intelligence. Companies use many psychological tactics to appeal to their customers’ emotions. For example, colours are subtle yet potent emotion triggers. You can’t use red to inflict joy, because red is associated with anger.

Conclusion

Now that you got acquainted with the elements of persuasion and the role of persuasion in business it’s time to work on your persuasive skills. Persuasion is a skill evolving through practice and experience. Remember, even the greatest orators prepare and practice their speeches before delivering them.

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