The Art of Persuasion

January 19, 2017



Human psychology is an amazing thing.  Through our appearance and the way we communicate, we can easily influence those around us.  In marketing and sales, understanding what makes people tick is critical to success.

The most persuasive people use a variety of proven techniques to be effective, but they are often different from what most people would expect.  A multi-year study by Yale University dubbed the “Yale Attitude Change Approach” clarifies the things you should know about effective, persuasive communications, whether in sales presentations or when delivering a speech. Take note, as the findings have considerable impact on how we view marketing materials, too.

Appearances Matter

One of the findings of the Yale study:  it is important that the person doing the presenting be attractive and credible to the audience.  This seems to run counter to what we often see in television advertising, where ridiculous situations and outlandish presenters seem to be successful in grabbing our attention.  But in live settings, and especially in business environments, there is a significant advantage in looking good and sounding credible, the study revealed. Marketers and salespeople should make sure they are well groomed, well dressed, and equipped with attractive marketing materials that reflect well on them and their company.

Ditch the Evident Pitch

Yale found that messages should not appear to be “designed to persuade,” despite the fact that everyone knows presentations are created to be as persuasive as possible.  Importantly, both sides of an argument should be presented, and then your point can be driven home as the better alternative.  In debate, this is known as the strategy of “comparative advantage.”

Example:  “Many believe that there is no substitute for installing your own software and having control of updates within your company.  Others, however, believe that utilizing a Software as a Service approach offers the same security while requiring much less technical support, which is one of the many cost and efficiency benefits we offer.  There are advocates on both sides, but the growth of SaaS demonstrates its desirability for most companies.”

Stay Positive

The software-versus-SaaS example also points out the benefits of not disparaging your competition, a mistake many salespeople make.  Negative comments almost always reflect poorly on the person who made them because they imply he or she thinks the customer is stupid for even considering the competitor’s offerings.

Speaking Order

Here’s another interesting finding from the Yale study:  In live speaking situations, the first speaker benefits by making his or her points early (called the primacy effect).  But if there is a long period before the next speaker’s turn, the second speaker gains an advantage by being the latest message heard (the recency effect).

The wisdom in the Yale study transcends beyond oral presentations—it has sizable implications for all collateral materials and even how we market ourselves.  After all, effective marketing and sales are rooted in human psychology.

For expert advice on how to create marketing materials and deliver speeches that truly move the needle, reach out to us at Info@StrategicVantage.com.  No Yale-level tuition required!