Artful Persuasion (book report)

Author: Wenlin Chen (陈稳霖)


Recently, I read the book "Artful Persuasion" written by Harry Mills. This article is a book report.


Now I briefly introduce the author. Harry Mills is the author of 22 books on sales, negotiation, and influence. He is also the chief executive of the international consulting and training company The Mills Group, whose clients including IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Ernst & Young, Unilever, Toyota, and Lexus.


So what is persuasion? Persuasion is the process of changing or reinforcing attitudes, beliefs, or behavior. Is persuasion important if I am not to be salesperson? Absolutely yes! Persuasion is everywhere. We always need to persuade others. A talk is a persuasion; advertisement is a persuasion; presentation is also a persuasion. Once there is interpersonal communication, there is persuasion. If you good at persuasion, then you can command attention, change minds, and influence people.


There are two Routes to successful persuasion where the first one is thoughtful persuasion and the second one is mindless persuasion. The organization of this book is built around these two routes to successful persuasion. Thoughtful persuasion means that we use reason and logic while persuading. Mindless persuasion means that we use little intellectual analysis and is instinct- and emotion-driven. The rest part of this article will articulate thoughtful persuasion and mindless persuasion respectively. The content of this book is so rich that it's hard to go through all ideas the book want to deliver in one article. Therefore, my way to talk about persuasion is a little bit different with the original book; i.e. I re-summarize the book and change the structure to better tell more ideas with fewer words.


Thoughtful Persuasion

To perform thoughtful persuasion, three parts should be done well, including building good credibility, image management and powerful talk.




Persuasion starts with credibility. To persuade, we must be believable, and to be believable, we must be credible. Credibility rests on two pillars: trust and expertise; i.e. Trust + Expertise = Credibility.


Trust is more specific to the integrity of persuader. When persuaders lack integrity, we discount everything they say. So how to make people regard you as trustful? Here is the answer:

  1. Make people feel you are full of integrity.
  2. Act against your self-interest. When appropriate, point out the disadvantages in your product or service. It gives credibility to everything else you say.
  3. The law of candor. Candor is very disarming.


Once trust has been established, it is much easier to build the second pillar of credibility – expertise. Again, here are three ways that you can build expertise:

  1. Use language of expertise. Experts demonstrate their expertise with mastery of their subject's jargon.
  2. Sell your expertise. That is to tell everyone you are expert. A common way is to take advantage of the power of print to build good reputation.
  3. Testimonials substantiate expertise. Printed endorsements or testimonials from reputable third party are especially powerful.


The art of image management


First impression is super important. You rarely get a second chance to make a favorable impression.

In addition to dress formally, you also need to create rapport using body language:

  1. Face the other person
  2. Assume an open posture
  3. Lean forward
  4. Maintain eye contact
  5. Shake hands and warm smile


Powerful Talks --- how to gives words added impact


Sell the sizzle, not the steak. (In Chinese卖剪牛排的嘶嘶声而不是牛排) Therefore, sell benefits, not features. To analyze how your proposition will appeal, ask:

  1. What do they stand to gain from my proposal?
  2. What do they stand to lose if they don't adopt my proposal?


Don't forget pause for impact. "Ask not what your country can do for you … ask what you can do for your country" is more powerful when it is delivered with a pause in the middle. Pauses can alert your audience to pay attention to a special point. Avoid intensifiers such as definitely and very. Consider the emotional impact of every word you use.


In addition, you can use vivid language:

  1. Makes the most vivid impression on people's mind.
  2. Use metaphors. (Time is money. You're wasting time. This will save your hours.)
  3. Bring presentations alive with stories. A vivid story stays in the listener's mind long after everything else is forgotten.
  4. Fear is the most powerful human motivator. To make fear work, you must really scare your audience and offer a workable, easy-to-follow, specific recommendation on how to overcome the threat.


There is also a K.I.S.S principle: Keep It Short and Simple. Most presenters overwhelm their audiences by delivering a lot of information. For example, when we prepare the slides for this book report, some of us would fill whatever he want to say into the slides, leading to the result that the slides are full of text. This would make audiences feel your presentation is boring. So we'd better organize our talking structure by two-part contrast or three points. Here I want to introduce the "Rule of Threes". Information is extraordinarily compelling when it is clustered in groups of three:"three points, three arguments, three phrases", although we don't fully understand the psychological reasons behind the rule of threes.


Mindless Persuasion


Here I want to introduce the concept of "Programmed Thinking". Most of the decisions we make are made mindlessly, with little thought at all. Our minds are programmed with persuasion triggers that activate when we receive an appropriate cue. Harvard psychologist tried a simple experiment on students queuing up to use a library photocopier. When students were asked, "Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the photocopier?" 60 percent agreed to the request while 40 percent said no and continued with their own copying. When a reason was added ---"Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the photocopier, I'm in a rush". 94 percent agreed to the request.


Psychologists have identified seven persuasion triggers that compliance professionals exploit to take advantage of us when we are in a state of mindlessness. The seven persuasion triggers are:

  1. Contrast
  2. Reciprocation
  3. Commitment
  4. Authority
  5. Scarcity
  6. Social proof
  7. Liking


Contrast: Take selling clothes for example. If a customer walks in looking for a suit and shoes, the salesperson would always try to sell the suit first. If you have just paid 1,000 dollars for a suit, 200 dollars for a pair of shoes seems reasonable. And if you've spent 1,200, you might as well buy a new tie and belt.


Reciprocation: Be the first to give service, share information, or give concessions. There is a trick. When appropriate, use the rejection-then-retreat strategy by asking for more than you expect to receive. Your apparent concession calls for reciprocation.


Commitment and Consistency: When asking for commitments, start small. Small initial concessions can lead to huge later commitments.


Authority: You will mindlessly believe what authority says. Wear appropriate dress to support your position. In most business situations, you will look more authoritative and come across as more persuasive in a business suit.


Scarcity: When you possess exclusive information, sell its scarcity value and promote the benefits that come from being one of a selected group who can benefit from the information. If you want to build an image or brand based on exclusivity:

  1. Maintain premium pricing
  2. Don't discount
  3. Sell through selected outlets
  4. Keep the market undersupplied


Conformity: Everyone is doing it. Stress that what you want to sell is popular, standard practice, or part of a trend.


Liking: Likable communicators are more persuasive. We try to please the people we like and find attractive. Liking is a magic bullet because if your audience likes you, they'll forgive just about everything else you do wrong.


That's it for this book report. Hope everyone can master this new psychology of influence.

posted @ 2011-02-27 21:30  MSRA_SE_TEAM  阅读(374)  评论(1编辑  收藏  举报