The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success

Here's How To Do It!

To be successful in the art of persuasion you must ensure that certain things happen.

The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success. Graphic

The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success - Setting The Scene

This is the third article in a series on the art of communication persuasion and change. The ideas and material shared here are based on my past experiences in the world of corporate sales and reframed and applied them situation in everyday life, and in a non-sales environment, where you need to persuade someone to buy into your idea or proposal.

There are many different situations in everyday life where you will need to do this. Sometimes this will be at home with family members and other times will be in your working life or in the context of an organisation that you are involved with.

The art of persuasion is based on the simple idea that you get what you want by enabling the other party to get what they want.

Being a nice friendly person with good inter-personal skills may be a good start but it is not enough.

There are skills involved in the art of persuasion.

In the last article, the art of persuasion,  we looked at a number of the basics involved in the communication and persuasion process – people's motivations, the use of words and in particular the importance of asking questions. 

In order to build the win-win you have to uncover what it is that the other person really wants or needs, and to do that you have to ask questions - but of course your can't just launch into a conversation or discussion with someone with a list of questions and fire them off and expect answers.

There are a series of steps or phases, which make the other person feel comfortable with you so that they are engaged in the conversation and see a point and purpose to your questions.

The purpose of this process is to not only to understand what it is that the other person wants  but also to build a shared perception of that need and how their buyin to your proposal will work for both of you.

In this article we are focused on how you can plan for a successful outcome.

The Art Of Persuasion Planning Process

he Art Of Persuasion Planning Process. Graphic

To be successful in the art of persuasion you must ensure that certain things happen.

A Structured Approach

In order to be able to do this you need to establish a framework of what has to happen to get you to that successful buyin to your proposal by the other person.

Whether you realise it or not you can greatly increase your chances of getting the result you seek by adopting this more structured approach.

Obviously circumstances will vary enormously.

Persuading a friend to bring their family and join with yours on an Airbnb holiday is one thing and less complex than persuading the leader of a special interest group or a public institution to commit to a programme of activity or to adopt a policy.

The process outlined here can be scaled up or simplified as the circumstances require.

The Persuasion Cycle

The key points here are to understand that:

  1. There is a cycle of thought processes, events and decision making that takes place - which we can think of as the persuasion cycle.
  2. To understand and apply the key elements of this cycle in ways that are most appropriate to the scale, complexity and significance of the buyin you are seeking.

Without a structured framework, you will find it hard to know where you are in the processs, how you are progressing, and hard to share and discuss with anyone else who may be involved with you.

After the event, having this structured approach will help you gain more insight into why you did or [more importantly] did not succeed.

Your planning of the persuasion cycle, should involve the following two activities:

[1] Defining The Key Events Of The Persuasion Cycle

  • This with you identifying and mapping out the sequence of the key events that will need to happen for you to successfully achieve buyin to your proposal.
  • As you do this, you may identify gaps in your current knowledge and understanding and if so,  list all areas where you need more information in order for you to complete this step.

Key events are objective things that have to happen and that are:

  1. Tangible 
  2. Observable
  3. Objectively Recognisable [by any third party observing]

Key events serve as objective milestones that help you monitor your progress toward getting your result.

  • Having clarity about the specifics of the key events will stop you using guesswork and making assumptions.
  • They will also show you when and where you are not making progress and that you have hit a delay or obstacle that is blocking your progress and that needs to be resolved.

[2] Determining The Decision Making Process

Throughout the persuasion cycle you need to be aware of the decision‑making processes at work that may sit behind your other party's potential buyin to your proposal.

  • If the person you are seeking to persuade is within an organisation, then there will almost always be other people who will be involved in influencing the decision.
  • Even in a domestic situation there may well be other people such as a partner and or other people who live with the decision maker, and these may well have direct or indirect influence over the decision maker.
  • The key point here is that you need to [a] figure out who these people are, and [b] try to understand how and where they exercise their influence on the decision making process.
  • The how and where will relate to the key events that you have identified.
  • Depending on the circumstances and appropriateness of the situation, and where it is are crucial to the success of a key event, you may have [or seek] direct access and interaction with one of more of these people.
  • If you do this, then you may need to conduct a mini persuasion exercise on them - which of course will involved you applying some or all of the steps outlined in the previous article to satisfy their needs and build a win-win with them in order to progress from one key event to the next.

The Planning Process Checklist

The Planning Process Checklist. Graphic

Make a note and record the following points:

  1. What is your proposal that you want to secure buyin to, and when do you want this to happen by?
  2. What are the high level key events that have to happen in order for you to get buyin to your proposal
  3. What is the sequence of these events?
  4. What are the things that have to dealt with to successfully move on to the next key event? [This could mean more information is required, or specific issues need to be addressed - basically anything and everything that will hold up your progress if you don't deal with it.]
  5. Where are there gaps in your current knowledge and understanding? List and prioritise all areas where you need more information
  6. Who are the decision influencers and locate them against each key event.
  7. What are their known or likely agendas?
  8. What are the major factors that may be impacting this overall situation? [e.g external factors such as the political and economic environment, or personal factors such as health, availability of funds etc.]
  9. What are the plus and minus factors that will affect a successful outcome?
  10. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your position, and your proposal?

Based on all of this write yourself a prioritised action plan.

Example Of How This Planning Process Secured A $500,000 Tax Refund For 60 Doctoral Students

Example Of How This Planning Process Secured A $500,000 Tax Refund For 60 Doctoral Students. Graphic

This a true story about how I helped my daughter Tansy to secure a $500,000 tax refund for 60 of her fellow students and herself about 5 years ago when she was undertaking her applied doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

We applied the persuasion principles outlined in the previous article in this series and specifically How To Persuade Senior People In Corporates To Do Something.

Setting the scene

Tansy was in her second year of an applied doctorate in clinical psychology and working for one of the major UK health authorities.

The way the system works in the UK is that trainee doctors of clinical psychology work several days a week for the health authority and spend the balance of their time at University doing the academic part of their training.

The work that they do for the health authority is paid for by the health authority as these trainee doctors are already highly qualified and are delivering professional services.

Tax free salaries

Historically, under a long standing Government policy of support to the medical profession, the salaries of trainee doctors was tax free.

Tax authority reverse this policy

However the Inland Revenue [tax authority] had determined that these payments were no longer tax free.

This was challenged and after a period of issuing confusing advice the Inland Revenue did eventually reverse this policy.

Return to the status quo

The health authorities were instructed to issue full tax rebates to all trainees who had paid this tax. On average this amounted to about the dollar equivalent of $8,000 per trainee.

Health authorities stalling on paying tax refund

The issue was that various health authorities - including the one Tansy worked for - were delaying and stalling the issuance of these tax refunds.

After 18 months' stalling, Tansy was nominated by her peers to act as representive of her cohort of trainees to contact the senior management at their health authority and perusade them to issue the tax refunds.

How we applied the "art of persuasion planning for success" principles

How we applied the "art of persuasion planning for success" principles. Graphic

Tansy contacted me for advice. We applied the principles outlined in this article and starting with the checklist and this is what she noted:

[1] What is your proposal that you want to secure buyin to, and when do you want this to happen by?

I want to get the CEO of our health authority to commit to instructing the head of HR to get payroll to issue the tax refunds in 2 months time.

I know that he is decent man and wants to see this situation resolved fairly. But he is weak and doesn't know how to.

I am going to make it easy for him to do what we both want by creating the conditions that support him in delivering that outcome.

[2] What are the high level key events that have to happen in order for you to get buyin to your proposal.

  1. Confirmation in writing that the inland revenue definitely had reversed their policy and a clear statement that the trainees were entitled to the full tax refund.
  2. Contact the CEO and confirm that I have been nominated by my cohort to speak on their behalf and to request immediate refund on the next payroll run.
  3. To review his response and seek clarification on any reasons he gives for stalling.
  4. To talk to Head of Payroll  [HP] to understand what he needs to make the refunds
  5. To seek face to face meeting with CEO and Head of HR [HR] - to resolve any still outstanding issues to agree payroll date for implementation .

[3] What is the sequence of these events?

As set out above

[4] What are the things that have to dealt with to successfully move on to the next key event? [This could mean more information is required, or specific issues need to be addressed - basically anything and everything that will hold up your progress if you don't deal with it.]

To find out exactly:

  1. What is the cause of their inertia?
  2. Who is causing or allowing the blockage -[i.e. is it the CEO, HR or HP]?
  3. Are their genuine outstanding issues that need to be resolved - or is just sheer incompetence and/or the internal political dynamics?
  4. Once I understand this, to put together an action plan for rapid resolution and that allows none of these senior people ANY wriggle room, that will include:
  5. Creation of an email thread - at every step - that documents clearly who commited to action and then the outcomes,  with the aim of building a case - with clear, admissable evidence - for litigation [as a last resort]

[5] Where are there gaps in your current knowledge and understanding? [List and prioritise all areas where you need more information.]

As stated above, plus additional point 3 below:

  1. Unambiguous written confirmation of Inland Revenue's position that refunds are applicable to our category of trainees.
  2. Understanding the legal position and how and on what basis we can threaten the health authority with legal action for wilfully witholding payments to which we are legally entitled.
  3. Understanding how our wider peer group are getting on at other health authorities - which ones have paid the tax refund, which ones haven't, which one where students are taking legal action.

[6] Who are the decision influencers and locate them against each key event.

  • CEO [the CEO of Health Authority] is ultimate decision maker. Relates to key events 2 and 5 above.
  • HR [the head of HR] is key decision influencer and supposed to be managing the process of implementing tax refunds. Relates to key events 3 and 5.
  • HP [the head of the outsourced payroll company] is key decision influencer with responsibity for implentation  once he is give the go ahead and what ever information he needs to do this. Relates to key event 5.

[7] What are their known or likely agendas?

CEO is a people pleaser, well intentioned but weak and ineffective.

  • Has delegated the resolution of tax refund issues totally to HR.
  • But, does not take ownership of seeing this through and does not hold HR to account.
  • Allows himself to be B*** S*** by HR.

HR is totally incompetent, seems incapable of executing anything.

  • Has not fullifilled any commitments in this situation.
  • Is far more concerned with protecting his staff from the annoyance of the students and sees them as a gross intrusion.
  • Seems to be more focused on grandstanding rather than actually doing anything.
  • This man is a waste of space and we have to lock him down with measured steps and communications recording everything. At the final meeting with him and CEO expose his incompetence with full evidence and set out exactly  - to the pair of them - the simple steps thay have to take to enable payroll to implement the tax refunds

HP is a decent guy and runs an outsource facility handling the health authority's pay roll. His agenda is one of providing excellent service to the health authority who are a major client.

  • He has told me that he knows that the Inland Revenue have approved the tax refund to our people and his team can implement this with one month's notice on the next pay roll run. 
  • He has also told me that in his view HR is the cause of the problem and is totally unfit for his role as HR and is totally and utterly incompetent!
  • He has told me he will do all he can to help us.

[8] What are the major factors that may be impacting this overall situation? [e.g external factors such as the political and economic environment, or personal factors such as health, availability of funds etc.]

The single biggest factor impacting this situation is corporate inertia, resulting from weak and ineffective senior management.

The single biggest factor in getting or tax refunds paid will be [1] my focused campaign to create a compelling event that identifies significant exposures that the CEO has [or will very soon have] if he doesn't take action, and [2] make it so easy for them to do it and they are going to have "nowhere to hide" and no more room for any more excuses; basically I am going to shame them into taking action.

[9] What are the plus and minus factors that will affect a successful outcome?

The plus factors are that the facts of this issue are on our side - the tax refund has to be made as per latest tax authority ruling, plus the process of doing this seems to be simple and HP is on our side.

The minus factor is corporate inertia and ineffective senior management.

[10] What are the strengths and weaknesses of your position, and your proposal?

I don't see any weaknesses in our position, plus I have my Dad on my side guiding me through this! All I have to do is just do it!

Tansy devised her action plan based on all the checklist information above.

6 months after she got involved with this it culminated in her sending  the following letter [which we drafted together] to the CEO:

Dear CEO,


It is now the 4th December and I am disappointed to inform you that yet again, and now 6 months are having raised the issue, senior management of HEALTH AUTHORITY have failed:

[1] To deliver on a committed deadline.

Trainee Clinical Psychologist’s (TCP) tax status remains unchanged. This is now the second deadline provided to us that has not been met. Please see timeline below.

[2] To communicate regarding the processing of Tax Refund.

This is a failure of the most basic level of stakeholder management.

On repeated occasions, correspondence has explicitly stated that individuals may not communicate with the Trust regarding Tax Refund including even the suggestion that this may amount to harassment.

I and the TCP’s that I represent have honoured this (to my knowledge) and I have done my best to discourage any additional communication with HR or payroll.

Conversely, HEALTH AUTHORITY have not honoured their agreements to process Tax Refund within the agreed time scales and to communicate with TCPs.

Timeline in reverse chronological order

# June 26th, first email sent/received and CEO organised meeting with Tansy Warrilow.

# July 18th, Tansy and CEO met to discuss Tax Refund. Agreed that HEALTH AUTHORITY would provide a response by 27th July.

# 26th July HR forwarded a copy of an email written for other trainees. In this email the complexity of exploring Tax Refund was discussed. It was explicit that the Trust would not respond to individual requests for information: “As I have communicated to staff and the Trade Union previously, I won’t get drawn into individual email exchanges / queries as that is not a useful use of time. We will have the meeting on 6 August and I’m sure X will feed back the outcomes from that”.

# 8th of August HR communicated that TCPs would be re-enrolled onto Tax Refund scheme. The email states that: “early September is the target date”. Again, communication was discouraged: “So we all agreed not to issue a general communication at this stage, but to issue something nearer the end of the process when we know more”.

# 26th September having not received any communication I requested an update. I was informed that HR was managing the processing of Tax Refund but would be on leave for another week.

# 23rd October – As no update was provided I made a follow up call.

# 24th October HR sent an email response stating: “I am personally going to ensure this is progressed with payroll within the next 4-6 weeks”. 

This situation is totally unacceptable and reflects badly on HEALTH AUTHORITY.

There is a very considerable amount of frustration and anger within the collective group of TCPs and there is talk of taking action - as has happened at other Trusts - in the form of:

[1] Commencement of a Group Litigation Action [under CPR part 19]

[2] Adverse regional and national publicity

I am very concerned that this situation is in serious danger of getting out of control. Therefore, as a matter of urgency I request another meeting with you to agree the following:

A formal commitment from you on behalf of HEALTH AUTHORITY that all TCP Tax Refund claims will be processed in December payroll, and written communication from you to be sent to all TCPs confirming this commitment.

I look forward to hearing from you.

The outcome

Prior to this meeting with the CEO and HR she had found out from HP that all he needed was a list of the names and tax reference numbers of the trainees who were entitled to the tax refund.

Tansy got this data from her peer group of trainees in about one hour and it comprised 3 sheets of A4 paper with the details!

At the meeting with the CEO and HP she waved the 3 sheets at them and threw them onto the table and said:

"Gentlemen - this list of names is ALL that HP requires to make the tax refunds, and he has been waiting for this list for 6 months!

Shall I walk down the road to his office and give this to him or will one of you?"

Then she shut up and glared at them.

There was a pregnant pause, then HR sheepishly said:

"...let me photocopy that list..."

And the CEO said:

"...HR will you please give that list to HP this afternoon!"

The tax refunds were paid on the next payroll!


This story is totally true. It sounds ridiculous I agree, but so often this stuff happens when you are dealing with corporates and large institutions.

These principles in "the art of persuasion planning for success" really do work.

I have used them many times and coached others to do the same.

These principles can be scaled right down and applied simply in domestic and other less complex situations.


[1] The Art Of Persuasion The One Fundamental Principle - Create A Win-Win

[2] The Art Of Persuasion Advanced Communication Skills - Gaining BuyIn

[3] The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success - Here's How To Do It!


Getting From A to B Is Not Aways A Straight Line

Group Culture - The Invisible Software That Rules Your Life

Change Questions To Change Your Outcomes


How To Influence without Authority - 6 Key Tips

Return from "The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success" to:

Communication Persuasion and Change

Or to: Walking The Talk

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