The Six-Point Persuasion Equation

By Malcolm Fleschner

Customers can be frustrating, can’t they? The advantages of your product or service seem so obvious, so why don’t they understand? Perhaps it’s because your persuasive strategies could use a refresher. In the classic Conversational Power (Prentice Hall), author James Van Fleet shares his guaranteed six-step technique for winning every argument.

1.Keep it cool
Do not try to win an argument by force. Rather than jumping forward and stating your case, let your opponent speak first. Encourage him to repeat himself and he will exhaust himself mentally.

2.Send out a probe
By letting her talk first, you expose potential weaknesses in her argument. Ask follow-up questions about her stance that may expose these weaknesses. Then, when you speak, open by revealing this logical misstep.

3.Seize on the doubt
Listen for expressions of self-doubt like, “I could be wrong on this point,” “I’m willing to listen to reason,” or “I could be mistaken about this aspect.” These are the signals that the other person is willing to hear your side of the story – now’s the time to share your perspective.

4.State your case
Again, you should not be forceful and argumentative in stating your case. Remember that you’re trying to persuade the other person to adopt your viewpoint voluntarily – that won’t happen if it’s rammed down his throat. Be enthusiastic, sincere, modest – and accurate.

5.Greed kills
You don’t need the other person to agree with you on every single point. Be flexible. Concede small points that don’t matter. Understand the difference between trifles and principles and you’ll know what to give up while never losing sight of the big picture.

6.Toss him a bone
The last obstacle confronting the other person may be ego. He knows you are right and simply doesn’t want to admit the fact. To make it easy on him, express your sentiment that he may not have had all the information at his disposal, and that is what led him astray. Say, “Joe, if you didn’t know about this, I can see why you made the decision you did. I’d have done the same thing myself.” You’ve helped him save face, and that will make the turnaround much easier for him to swallow.