My first real foray into the world of sales, selling, and persuasion came a few years ago at a seminar from one of the most successful real estate salesmen in the world, Craig Proctor. One thing that was made very clear at the start of the event was that if you’re in any kind of business for yourself, you are also a marketer. This is non-negotiable. So I devoted myself to learning the tricks of the trade.
After some time of trial and error, I’ve learned a few things about using language to persuade.
#1 Pace Before You Lead
One of the biggest mistakes a lot of people make is coming on too strong. Unless your prospect needs what you’re offering quickly, this isn’t likely to go over well. A relationship of trust and likability is integral to persuasion and beginning your push too quickly doesn’t allow you to establish that. Unlimited Selling Power notes that one of the most powerful and simple ways to build trust and rapport quickly is through pacing and leading.
People trust people that are like them. People also can’t resist themselves or their own actions. Arguing that someone is wrong rarely persuades them that you’re right, but reframe something through that person’s lens and suddenly it becomes a lot more persuasive. This is the psychological underpinning of pacing and leading.
When you pace and lead, you mirror your prospect. You speak his language. You share his values. If you’re persuading in person, you might even try to mirror his body language or breathing patterns. Yet, the simplest way to do this is to say things that are impossible to disagree with.
Start your conversation by talking about things that are undeniably true and guards come down. You’ve gotten your prospect used to agreeing with you.
From here, you can begin to “lead” your prospect, or “pick up the pace” as Unlimited Selling Power calls it. It’s from here that you begin to make your suggestions and lead the sale along. Now that trust and rapport have been established, your prospect is far warmer to your leads. The authors of Unlimited Selling Power studied the most successful salespeople and orators in politics for years before writing the book, and found that they all used forms of pacing and leading.
#2 Provide a Reason
There’s a funny thing about the word “because.” If any word can be described as a magical one, “because” is it. Web Copy that Sells, written by Maria Veloso, one of the most successful web copywriters in the world, describes at length the psychological phenomenon of people loving to have a reason for doing something, even if that reason makes no sense.
“Because” is the shortcut word for a reason why. One notorious study famously found that people would let their co-workers cut in front of them in line at the Xerox machine “because they needed to make copies.” The breakthrough finding of this is that people will do things for a fake reason much more than they would if they had no reason at all.
So embed in your sales (or frankly seduction) pitch one reason, any reason, for your prospect to take further action, and the easiest word to use this with is “because.”
You can also use this with yourself. If you find yourself unfocused, try using the word “because” to hack your own brain into doing what you should be doing instead of more frivolous pursuits.
#3 Use Presuppositions
Another trick I learned from Web Copy that Sells. This is a great way to command action without ever looking like you’re being overbearing. I’ve used this in some of my email signup forms, and conversions increased rapidly after I implemented it.
For instance, to promote a free ebook, one of my signup forms asks the question “what will you do with your new power?” The hook here is the assumption that the prospect will have new power, and the body copy is the lead in following that question.
Asking these questions can go a long way to increasing your conversion rate. They are especially potent in building a large email list.
#4 Use Action Words
Action words flow better and are more easily comprehensible than passive ones. They also, to quote Unlimited Selling Power, make your prospect an active participant in the sales pitch rather than a passive observer. For instance:
Notice the difference between the first sentence and this passive equivalent: “Does this make sense to you?’ This passive sentence fails to deeply involve the client. Compare the third sentence with its more passive equivalent: “Can you make a decision today?’ When you use passively-worded sentences, you get minimal customer involvement and you risk boring your prospect. Pace the customer with action words to call him or her into action!
Contrast Donald Trump’s slogan, “make America great again” to Hillary Clinton’s “stronger together.”
There are many reasons why MAGA was a much more powerful slogan, and this was one of them. “Make” is a call to action, a call to be a participant. “Stronger together” is entirely passive. It was telling of the basic psychology of the Clinton campaign from its start – “I’m with her.” It was all about her.
Hillary Clinton should’ve known this before running, but no one ever accused her of being good with people.
Unlimited Selling Power continues:
There are literally thousands of action words in the English language. When you analyze the speeches of powerful orators such as Ronald Reagan or Reverend Robert Schuller, you will see that they use these action-based words much more frequently than less-successful politicians and less-successful religious leaders. To acquire the power of great speakers, use the same verbal techniques they utilize.
Powerful persuaders create a team and then involve everyone as a participant in that team with action words. My favorite example was the famous speech in Henry V. Even if it probably wasn’t real, it was a fantastic piece of oratory. Henry created an in-group, then called it to action with the appropriate words, then referred to it in the past tense, presupposing that great action had already taken place.
#5 Beware The Zeigarnik Effect (And Potentially Use It)
The Zeigarnik Effect is the phenomenon where human beings tend to put greater weight on uncompleted tasks than on completed ones. The former stick out like a sore thumb. This means that during your sales pitch, you should take heed to minimize any distractions that might call for action other than yours. For instance, if you have a lead-in page, eliminate anything that can beckon your reader’s attention elsewhere.
You can also use this to end your own procrastination. Starting a task will make you more likely to complete it.
There is also the possibility of using the Zeigarnik Effect “offensively.” Give your prospect something to complete mentally, continue on, then get back to it at the end of your sales pitch. Say, for instance, you have to settle for a phone number with a girl. Having her start a task, then pitching that you have some surprise in store later related to its completion could potentially make her less likely to flake. However, I haven’t tested this yet, so it’s just speculation for now.
If any of you have tested something like this, I’d love to hear from you.
Read Stumped for a crash course in persuasion based on the most successful persuader of our time.
Note – This article originally appeared at Return of Kings on April 10th, 2017