6 secrets of persuasion


On a cold December day, a balding, bespectacled man dressed in a sharp black suit with a white bow tie stood up to greet the monarch and to be honored in return. The day was December 10, 2002, and Daniel Kahneman was in Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics from the King of Sweden for his work in behavioral economics.

Why am I telling you this story?

Kahneman’s work popularized for the first time how and why humans behave in completely confounding ways – ways that defy logic, and ways you’d never predict, even if you were the person in question.

The findings from this new field, together with insights from psychology, transform how we view the task of persuading others – which is, of course, your central concern as a rainmaker.

Here are six big insights that are easy to understand and simple to implement – secrets that can transform your effectiveness in building new business.

Ready to dive in?

The Six Secrets

Some are obvious, others, not so much. How many of these surprise you?

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When people are repeatedly exposed to an idea or a thing, they unconsciously begin to associate familiarity with liking. In other words, just because something looks familiar, they come to believe that it is also what they like.

When you talk to someone who isn’t ready to commit, do you simply move on to the next one?

Bam! You’ve just violated this principle.

They haven’t seen enough of you yet– and they may unconsciously mistake unfamiliarity with not trusting or liking you.

Stay top of mind constantly through simple means:

  • Regular and helpful emails
  • Newsletters
  • Media appearances such as guest posts and blogs

Doing so will increase their minds’ exposure to your name – and by implication – their level of liking and trust of you and your firm.

6 secrets of persuasion

Photo by Charles Deluvio

Activate the Web

Every concept in our minds is stored as an idea. But each idea is associated with many other ideas, in an intricate mental spider web.

Many of these ideas are neutral or weak.

But some have incredible drawing power – especially when they represent ideals. 

Think of the Statue of Liberty and you probably immediately think of freedom, equality, opportunity  – ideals that have deep meaning and tremendous power to mobilize action.

The key to activating this power is to associate your value to deeply-held ideals.

The websites of many wealth management firms and advisors tout “living with intention” or “peace of mind”. 

But these are not ideals  -they don’t provoke the visceral reactions that ideals do.

Ideals like

  • independence
  • self-reliance
  • contribution
  • achievement

The next time you’re talking about what you bring to the table, look for deeply-held ideals with which you can associate your offering.

A tip – don’t insult your audience’s intelligence by making the connection explicit. Just provide enough dots they can connect themselves.

Elicit Energetic Emotions

Just evoking ideals isn’t enough.

To mobilize a prospect to take action, you must also elicit emotion – emotions that come loaded with energy. 

Desire for future peace of mind, or living with intention evoke mellow, positive emotions. These may be great for mental wellness but they don’t pack any punch in triggering action.

To move someone to take action, infuse energy-filled emotion, preferably positive:

  • Warmth
  • Happiness
  • The anticipation of happiness
  • Amusement

All of these come loaded with energy that is essential to get people moving.

Simple ways to do that?

Infuse warmth, humanity and other energetic emotions –  in the content you write, the words you speak, and every other medium you use to reach your tribe.

Aim for the Act, Not the Attitude

The single biggest mistake many persuaders make is to get people to change their minds.

They may do this by selling the importance of financial planning or or having a professional take care of finances.

Doesn’t work.

Instead, focus on the actions you want them to take, with two important caveats:

  1. Start small.
  2. Focus on the first steps

For a prospect, this could translate not to a big scary commitment like meeting with you and discussing all their intimate financial concerns – doing that can trigger all their internal barriers of whether they should engage an advisor, whether you are trustworthy and so on.

Instead, focus on a small act like signing up for a newsletter or even a simple informational document you have put together for their situation.

At every step, remove the invisible barriers that create roadblocks and prevent people from following through.

This could mean making it easy to sign up for  email, all the way to making it easy to submit information and documents prior to a first meeting.

But always focus on the action. The attitude will follow.

6 secrets of persuasion

Photo by Alexis Fauvet

Help Them Get What They Already Want

I know what you’re thinking:

“I already focus only on their goals, that’s the basis of the entire conversation, and even of the relationship.”

Yes, but no.

Here’s what your current efforts may look like:

  • Focus on positive future goals
  • Highlight the many benefits they get from professional money management 

This approach has two big problems:

  • People are more motivated to avoid bad outcomes than they are to achieve good ones – so positive goals don’t sell as well
  • When you sell more than one benefit of doing something, they mentally average out the benefits rather than adding them up. So if benefit one is an 8 and benefit 2 is a 4, they’ll mentally average it out to a 6, versus giving you an 8 if you had just sold the one biggest benefit.

What does this mean for your rainmaking efforts? 

To become really effective:

  1. Probe skillfully for the single biggest issue that’s keeping them up at night
  2. Show them the one biggest benefit from what you do that will kill the pain

This is the key to opening the door for a longer conversation, which is where you can introduce other benefits.

But without the singular focus on the one thing that’s the problem (not the goal), and the single benefit that will eradicate the problem, your pitch will lose the punch it can deliver.

Shape the Expectation of the Experience

People largely experience what they expect to experience – objective reality has very little to do with it.

And we know people make decisions based on their subjective experience, not on the objective reality.

Want proof?

Look at the dozens of blindfolded taste experiments that have been done on everything from fine wine to Coca Cola.  The results are pretty clear:

When consumers don’t know what they’re tasting, they can’t tell the difference between the market giant (or expensive option) and the no-name or cheaper one.

What does fine wine have to do with finance? 

How you shape your prospect’s expectation will have everything to do with how they perceive your services.

But you don’t have to violate any laws to do this – there’s no need to set up expectations about performance.

Instead, focus on what makes your firm different and unique.

(You do believe you’re different, right? That’s why you’re pouring your heart and soul into this business.)

Take every aspect of what makes your firm unique and translate it into an expectation or a picture of what that experience looks like for your prospect:

  • When the stock market moves significantly, you can be sure to hear from us within 24 hours – so you won’t have to sweat for days in anxious worry”
  • When you get a statement, you’ll also get a friendly call explaining what all the numbers mean in simple English – without having to ask and “look silly””

Think of every aspect of the client relationship and what that looks like differently for you versus every other firm – and build the picture into your prospect communications.

So they are already expecting to like you – increasing the chances significantly that they will.

Pulling It All Together

6 secrets of persuasion

Photo by Susan Holt Simpson

Okay, so you’ve wised up to being brain-smart in persuading your prospects with some advanced insights.

What next?

Take these practical steps to translate your insights into action:

  • Start collecting prospects’ emails immediately. Then sign up with a simple email marketing program to manage these emails compliantly.
  • Go over the last 10 prospecting conversions you had. What were the “emotion” words they used that were closest to ideals? List them and use them in your next pitch. Keep refining until you nail it.
  • Look at the last 5 written communications you sent to clients, prospects or professional referral sources. Honestly rank each for these:
    • Does it elicit warmth?
    • Does it connect to happy subjects? Even remotely? 
    • Does it have any amusing thoughts?
  • If it doesn’t, try rewriting one or two to include even a mild dose of these emotions. See the difference? So will your prospects and clients. Far more than you do.
  • Mentally review your prospecting process. What’s the first active step you ask your prospect to take after they first encounter your business? How big of an effort is it? Can you make that step a little easier?

Set a small target. Test your way slowly into a new way of persuading.

You’ll never look back.

What’s your first step going to be?

Source: 7 Secrets of Persuasion: Leading-Edge Neuromarketing Techniques to Influence Anyone, James Crimmins.