- Michael Thompson
Recently I came across a statistic that caught me off gaurd. According to research performed by persuasion expert Daniel Pink in his book “To Sell Is Human,” 41 percent of the average person’s workday consists of influencing, persuading, and convincing the people around us.
This statistic may seem high, but it makes perfect sense. From being offered opportunities and getting your ideas to fly, to convincing your kids in an effective manner to pick up after themselves, persuasion is all around us and it plays a key role in both our personal and professional lives.
As an introvert with a stutter who has spent the last two decades as either an entrepreneur or in sales-based roles, I’ve studied the topic of influence and persuasion a great deal. I love the work Daniel Pink puts out. The same goes for the author of “Influence” and “Pre-suasion,” Robert Cialdini.
However, if I was looking for an introduction to persuasion, few books are more effective than “Exactly What to Say,” by international sales trainer Phil M. Jones. This is for the simple fact that Phil’s teachings are not only super easy to digest, but they are also extremely practical as he gives very clear examples as to why they are effective along with loads of everyday examples.
I’ve been sprinkling the phrases Phil recommends into my daily conversations since coming across his book three years ago. They work. Best of all, many of them you can begin to implement today without feeling like you’re being overly pushy.
This past week, Phil was kind enough to give me the green light to share some of his magic phrases. Below are 11 of them to get you started.
1. I’m not sure it’s for you, but…
For those of you who aren’t comfortable selling or fear rejection, according to Phil, the phrase “I’m not sure it’s for you, but…” is a great place to start. This is for the simple reason it takes the pressure off of people to make a decision. It’s completely rejection-free. At the same time, however, it piques people’s curiosity to learn more about your offering and why you think it may not be for them.
- “I’m not sure this is for you, but we’re forming a mastermind group to better navigate our careers and you’re welcome to join.”
- “I’m not sure this is for you, but each week I send out a newsletter with career advice and you’re welcome to sign-up.”
- Or an even softer version: “I don’t know if you’re interested in this, but next week we’re hosting an event to get to know other designers. You’re welcome to come.”
As human beings, we want the freedom to make our own choices. We hate to feel like we are being cornered. So give people what they want and lead with “I’m not sure this is for you, but…” You may find that by giving people an out and the freedom to choose, they decide to hang around and hear you out.
2. How open-minded are you?
In the book, “Dream Teams,” author Shane Snow conducted a study with thousands of workers to gauge how open-minded they thought they were. The results showed that a whopping 95 percent of the participants considered themselves more open-minded than the average person.
This number may sound ludicrous. But I’m yet to come across someone who openly admits they are close-minded. Use this piece of science and human behavior to your advantage when introducing new ideas into your conversations.
- “How open-minded are you to learning about different perspectives and ways of doing things?
- “Would you be open-minded to learning about how you can better prioritize?”
According to Phil, this simple phrase naturally attracts people towards the very thing you’d like them to support. Not only that, but you can hold them accountable if they begin to close down when talking about new ideas or ways of doing things.
3. How would you feel if?
People become motivated to make a decision for one of two reasons: to avoid a potential loss or to acquire a future gain. According to Phil, and just about every persuasion expert on the planet, people will work far harder to avoid a potential loss than they will to achieve a potential gain.
Combine this with the fact that people are emotional beings and they make decisions based on what feels right first and you have a recipe that’s perfect for the phrase “How would you feel if?”
- “How would you feel if you didn’t sign-up for a public speaking course?
- “How would you feel if this decision led to a promotion?”
4. Just imagine…
Much like the phrase above “How would you feel if?” the words, “Just imagine…” help people to see what their lives would be like after making this decision. Like Phil said, “If we can’t see ourselves doing something, the chances of us doing it are slim to none.”
This is where the power of storytelling comes into play. The words, “Just imagine…” (much like when kids hear the words, “Once upon a time…”) grabs people’s attention while allowing them to visualize their lives after they’ve made a decision.
- “Just imagine what your life would be like if you built this habit.”
- “Just imagine how happy your wife will be when she receives this gift.”
5. You have three options
A few years ago I was struggling to make a decision about which direction to take my career. One evening, however, my wife sat me down and said, “You’re going to drive yourself insane if you don’t make a decision. The way I see it, you have three options. You can either continue doing what you are doing and drive yourself into the ground, cut back on consulting work to make more time to write, or go all-in on the work you love. You’re going to choose the last option eventually anyway. So what’s the point in delaying the inevitable?”
Needless to say, I choose the last option and I haven’t looked back since.
As human beings, we want to make our own decisions. But at times, we need a push. The next time you are trying to persuade your child, co-worker, or client, remember the “3 options” technique. You may find that by presenting them with clear options that make it easy for them to decide, you both end up getting what you want.
6. I’m guessing you haven’t gotten around to
Whether you are waiting for a co-worker to get a document back to you or following up with a potential client, we’ve all experienced that awkward feeling of requesting to get a status update.
Instead of using strong language like “You told me you’d get back to me on Tuesday!” pad your language with softer words like “I’m guessing you haven’t gotten around to….” According to Phil, this not only allows people to save face. But it also preemptively cuts to the heart of most people’s biggest excuse — aka “I’m sorry. I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
- “I’m guessing you haven’t gotten around to making a decision yet?”
- “I’m guessing you haven’t gotten around to talking to your partner?”
The beauty of this phrase is that if people agree they haven’t gotten about to it you can dig deeper by asking them what’s really holding them back. Whereas if they come back with “Yes, we have looked your proposal over!” you can respond by saying, “Great, let’s get started.”
7. Two types of people
It’s easy to get people interested in something. The hard part is guiding them to a place where they are ready to take action.
The best salespeople help people to choose by creating easy options and one of the most effective ways to do this is by making the choices polarizing — aka “Vegetarian for dinner or a steak?” “Beach or mountain vacation?”
- “There are two types of people in the world, those who resist change in favor of nostalgia and those who move with the times to make a better future.”
- “There are two types of people in the world, those who judge something before they’ve even tried it, and those who are prepared to try something and then base their opinion on their own experiences.”
If you’re anything like me— much like the example of people saying they’re open-minded — you’ll agree that you’re the type of person who takes their future into their own hands and likes to try new things.
8. I bet you’re a bit like me
The best salespeople are first and foremost information collectors. This phrase is great when you’re meeting someone for the first time as it helps to establish trust. At the same time, it allows you to collect information regarding both your client’s decision-making process and what they are looking to accomplish.
- “I bet you’re a bit like me and new ideas give you energy.”
- “I bet you’re a bit like me and your number one priority is spending time with your friends and family.”
Not only will most people agree with these statements creating a connection — after all, we like people who are like us. But if someone agrees that they make time to learn about new things you can give them a nudge if their actions begin to go against their words.
9. Most people
If you read great copywriting or some of the most read people on this very platform, you’re bound to come across the phrase “Most people.” This isn’t a coincidence. Few things kill progress more than indecision. According to Phil, these two words snap people out of procrastination.
The reason for this is two-fold. First, this phrase speaks directly to people and says, “Loads of people have done this in the past and it worked out well for them.” It shows safety in numbers. The second reason is sometimes people needed to be guided into making a decision and this phrase is much softer than, “What you need to do is X!”
- “What most people do is complete the application process today in order to get started.”
- “What most people do is place a small order to test-drive our products.”
10. What happens next
This phrase is very similar to the point above, but it’s worth including. This is for the simple fact it keeps the conversation moving towards a close and if people are hesitant it opens the door to get to the heart of their biggest objections.
- “What happens next is we’re going to complete the application. Then we’re going to set up another meeting to ensure we are hitting all of your goals and you’re fully aware of all the support that will be given to you. What’s the best number to reach you to set up our next meeting?”
The key to the words above is to end on an easy question like the one above. If they give out a number quickly, shut up and schedule the meeting. If they are hesitant, once again, it opens the door for an honest conversation regarding how you can help them better reach their goals.
11. If I can, will you?
“From what I understand A, B, and C matter a great deal to you. If tomorrow when we talk we can accomplish these three things, will you move forward?”
As someone who relies on my listening and observation skills more than my tongue, this phrase has made my life in sales so much easier. By repeating back what the person is looking to accomplish in an easy to digest and clear manner, you allow them to either agree or bring up a few points you may have missed. Not only that, but it allows you to gauge their commitment.
- “If I can make the amendments, will you move forward?”
- “If I can speak to your partner tomorrow and they like what they hear, will you move forward?
Just make sure after asking these questions (and the same goes for all the phrases above) you keep quiet and give people space to both think and express themselves. It’s not a coincidence that the most persuasive people are also the best listeners.
Pulling it all together
When I think over my career and the skills I’ve acquired, I can’t help but think that learning how to be more persuasive has been one of the most beneficial.
On paper, I am the opposite of most “salespeople.” I’m not a smooth talker. I’m not aggressive. I’m not financially motivated. But at the same time, I want the best for people and I want to make an impact.
If you too want to move people to take action and get more done, steal some of Phil’s phrases and adapt them in a way that feels natural to you.
No matter our titles, we are all in sales.
We might as well learn how to do it well.