One of the most common types of business communication is communicating to persuade. From sales representatives persuading customers to mid-level managers persuading workers and upper management, we spend almost every business day involved in some form of persuasive communication. No matter our role, improving our ability to persuade others is vital to our career growth. Effectively communicating to persuade requires us to be adequately prepared, clear on the action we want our listener to take, and able to provide a compelling reason to take the action we desire. Dale Carnegie recommended a simple three-step structure that can significantly improve our ability to persuade a listener. The formula provides the structure to capture attention, build credibility, eliminate nervousness, and call others to action, and it increase the likelihood that we will get results with others. The formula is as follows:
Incident: Relive a vivid, personal experience relevant to the point. Aristotle said, "The speaker’s character is one of his most effective agents of persuasion." We must be credible in our example and evidence. We must have earned the right to share our example or give direction. A personal incident is a sure-fire way to grab favorable attention: It pulls people in, opens them up to persuasion, and provides evidence as to why our idea is worth considering. In persuasive communication, we spend most of our time providing the situation and evidence before asking the listener to do something.
Action: Call on the listener to take a single, specific action. Too often we assume our listeners will know what to do once we have presented them with evidence to change their thinking or direction. We fail to persuade them if we don’t clearly explain what we want them to do. Other times, we may give a clear action but may ask them to do several things—leaving them unsure about which action should be the priority. Effective persuasion requires us to simplify the message and recommend one clear action for listeners to take.
Benefit: Clearly emphasize how the listener will benefit from taking the recommended action. Again, this portion of the communication must be clear, specific, and direct. It also must be based in reality. If the benefit we provide sounds too good to be true, the listener will doubt us. If what we are recommending benefits us more than the listener, the persuasion will seem manipulative and self-serving. So consider the listener’s point of view to be sure the recommendation is truly in his or her best interest. This balanced approach will be appreciated and will allow the listener to be more open to what we suggest.
Communicating to persuade is a critical skill to master in our daily business interaction. Dale Carnegie Training’s three-step process—Incident, Action and Benefit—provides an opportunity to gain the results we desire from others.
By demonstrating that we have earned the right to give direction and are communicating from a position of solid character, not only will we be persuasive, but we also will be compelling. These two factors are a winning combination in our ability to communicate to persuade.