The absolute cornerstone of your ability to persuade is the level of credibility you have with the other person. When you speak, do they believe you? Unless they do, there is no possibility that you can get them to do what you want them to do.
People will listen to you, but they won’t act until they believe you. So if you’re a salesperson trying to get an order, you should always be thinking, “Do they believe me?” Because, if you haven’t built enough credibility they won’t place the order.
If you’re a manager, and you’re trying to get your people to accept a new program, you should always be thinking, “Do they believe me?” Because if you haven’t built enough credibility, they’ll give lip service to your program, but they won’t enthusiastically support it.
Fortunately, you can build credibility with a few simple techniques.
CREDIBILITY TIP 1: Never assume they believe you. Power persuaders have three “never assumes” that are always uppermost in their thoughts.
1. Never assume poverty: that they can’t afford what you’re selling.
2. Never assume they understand you.
3. Never assume they believe you.
If you’re a salesperson, you can present a glorious list of benefits that will descend upon the buyer when they have the common sense to make an investment. But it doesn’t mean a thing until you’ve built the credibility needed to make them believe it.
You may be a manager whose persuasion challenge is to talk a key employee out of quitting. You can talk until you’re blue in the face about the wonderful future that awaits them just around the corner, if they stay with your company. But it won’t mean a thing until you’ve convinced them you’re sincere, and that you really do have the power to make it happen.
Don’t be offended by people’s natural unwillingness to believe you. Remember that we live in a world where a thousand advertising messages are screaming at us everyday. We can’t possibly believe everything we hear.
CREDIBILITY TIP 2: Only tell them as much as they’ll believe. The principle of “never tell them more than you think they’ll believe,” may sound folksy and cute. But it’s supported by a great deal of sound research.
For example, for decades, psychologists have conducted studies to determine the effectiveness of fear, as a persuasion tool. To their surprise, early studies indicted that people were just as persuaded by mild threats as they were by powerful threats. Curious, they continued to conduct studies that nearly always produced the same conclusion.
Finally, they realised that fear is a powerful persuader, only up to the point where people feel genuinely threatened by it. The moment they begin to doubt that the threat is as great as it is being made out to be, the power of fear as a persuader diminishes.
Tips to boost your credibility
CREDIBILITY TIP 3: Tell the truth, even if it hurts. Telling the truth, even when it hurts, is an astounding force.
CREDIBILITY TIP 4: Point out the disadvantages.
It makes the other side believe that you have objectivity.
It flatters the listener that you believe them intelligent enough to be aware of the disadvantages and still be persuaded in favour of your proposal.
It forces you to anticipate objections and rehearse counter arguments.
It gives credibility to everything else you say.
CREDIBILITY TIP 5: Use precise numbers. People believe precise numbers more than they believe rounded numbers.
So to build credibility, use precise numbers. Strangely enough, you’re better off to claim that your new word processing machine will increase the productivity of a secretary by 87 percent, than to claim it will double his or her productivity.