The Art Of Persuasion The One Fundamental Principle

Create A Win-Win

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.

The Art Of Persuasion The One Fundamental Principle. Graphic

Setting The Scene For The Art Of Persuasion

This article is the first in a new series on the art of persuasion. The ideas and material that I will be sharing with you are based on my experiences of working as a professional salesman in the world of corporate sales.

This is absolutely not going to be about about me trying to sell you on the idea of sales training!

What we are going to look at are some of the core principles of communication and persuasion from that world, and reframing and applying them to everyday life both in and out of the workplace.

Why do you need to know these things?

How and why are they possibly relevant to you in your life now?

Because, as we noted in the introductory article to this new series:

  • We are living in an age of unprecedented change, with far greater globalisation, connection and interdependence than at any other age in human history.
  • Your capacity and capability to survive and succeed in this environment is based on your responsiveness to change, and your ability to communicate and persuade.

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

This is not about being brash and over-bearing and trying to force people to do what you want them to do, and this is definitely not about trying to manipulate people or rip them off!

Success in the art of persuasion is not a zero-sum game, where for me to win you have to lose.

The One Fundamental Principle

There is one fundamental principle that should always be your number one priority if you really want to succeed in the art of persuasion and that is the principle  of the “Win-Win”.

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.

Most people ignore this principle, and in so doing reduce their chances of success by at least 50% because they try to argue or force their point upon the other person.

Its Not What You Say But How You Say It

As the person initiating the persuasion, your success is grounded in how you speak far more than in the content of what you say.

Successful persuasion occurs when both parties are willing and eager participants in the persuasion process because they both get a lot from it!

For this to happen you, as the persuader, need to exercise the skills that will enable this to happen.

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

    Successful persuasion occurs when both parties are willing and eager participants in the persuasion process and when both get a lot from it!

    Both parties are willing and eager to participate in this process when there is a shared recognition and understanding of their mutual needs.

The Art Of Persuasion - Identifying And Satisfying The Other Person's Need

The Art Of Persuasion - Identifying And Satisfying The Other Person's Need. Picture of shaking hands.

The basis of successful persuasion is all to do with identifying and satisfying a need that the other person has. The skill lies in:

  • Knowing how to uncover that need
  • Doing so in such a way that the other person is equally aware of their need
  • Is happy for you to satisfy it!

Why does anybody buy into anything?

Why do people buy into anything; why do they show acceptance of and a willingness to actively support and participate in anything?

Is it all about a logical reasonable process of weighing the pros and cons?

People will rationalise their decision in all sorts of ways and provide arguments and reasons that "prove" it was a good idea and the right call.

But fundamentally people buy into things for emotional reasons and this can be distilled into one of 2 main reasons:

  • AVERSION: Fear they buy into something which removes a problem and makes them feel safe
  • ASPIRATION: Opportunity – they buy into something to take advantage of a situation or to make a gain

The art of persuasion is based on the skillful use of questions

Used subtly, courteously and appropriately, questions reveal needs, aspirations and problems etc.

Also, the skilful and appropriate use of questions enables you to control the flow of a conversation or meeting.

Basically, there are two types of questions:

  • OPEN QUESTIONS: that encourage people to freely reveal information and usually start with how… what… where...when… why…?
  • CLOSED QUESTIONS: can help get very specific information and direct a person’s response in a specific direction. They will invariably elicit a specific response of yes or no.


The 3 phases to building a shared perception of the other person's need

Common sense suggests that you cannot just wade into a conversation or discussion with someone with a list of questions and fire them off and expect answers.

You have to move through 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 other key point to be aware of is that you and the other person are entering this conversation or discussion with very different agendas and expectations.

As you progress through each phase of the meeting or discussion you are aiming to ensure that at the end of each phase the other person and you have a shared perception.

The 3 steps or phases are known as:

  • ORIENTING - SETTING THE SCENEyou provide and exchange some high-level information, sufficient to keep the conversation moving along on the broad area of your proposal [but no detail at this stage]
  • ANALYSING - UNCOVERING NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS: uncovering specific information about the other person's needs and requirements that you know your proposal can meet [this will form the basis of the win-win]
  • DEVELOPING - GAINING BUYIN TO YOUR PROPOSAL: building a shared perception of the other person's  needs and how you can satisfy them with your proposal thus creating a win-win

In the next article we are going to look in more depth at how you do all of this and we give examples based on real life situations.

We will outline simple but powerful processes to ensure that both party's needs are met, culminating in a mutually beneficial win-win.


The Basics Of One-to-One Communications

The Basics Of One-to-One Communications. Quote from Mae West.

Let’s just briefly consider some very simple basics that underpin all aspects of communication.

45% is how you say it

In face to face communication:

  • 15% is what you say
  • 45% is how you say it
  • 40% is how you look

So clearly the manner and tone you use are as important as the words you use.

As you know people communicate predominantly by hearing, seeing, feeling.

Using the right modality

Therefore, it is extremely useful to try to gauge how best the other party likes to receive messages and to select the appropriate type of words and choice of media for communicating your message.

  • AUDITORIES tend to use words and phrases such as: “that sounds expensive”; “there was a lot of noise about them last year”; “I’ve never heard of that publication”; “it rings a bell”.

So, when communicating with auditories it makes sense to:

  • Use sound words
  • Match their voice, level and tones
  • Use written material – but explain it and talk it through

  • VISUALS tend to use words and phrases such as: “I don’t see what you mean”; “I haven’t pictured it like this”.

So, when communicating with visuals it makes sense to:

  • Use visual words and phrases
  • Use graphs and charts
  • Draw pictures
  • Use your hands

  • KINESTHETICS tend to use words and phrases such as: “I don’t feel it’s for us”; “it’s been a hard time”; “I think we can firm up an agreement”.

So, when communicating with kinesthetics it makes sense to:

  • Use feeling words
  • Be demonstrative and expressive
  • Let them use, touch, feel and experience things

Using hidden persuaders: [1] Mirroring

Using Hidden Persuaders: Mirroring and Mirrored Reciprocation. Graphic

Unlike the popular romantic view that opposites attract, people prefer to "do business" with people most like them.

You may be familiar with the art of mirroring.

This is a particularly powerful body language technique because it allows you to get directly in touch with the other party's subconscious mind.

This is an extremely simple and powerful technique. This is how it works:

  • From the moment you meet the other party, mirror as many of their actions as you possibly can, as quickly as you can.
  • If you are greeted with a firm handshake respond with a firm handshake. If it is a weak handshake then respond with a weak handshake. If a hug then respond with the hug.
  • If you are offered a drink - have what the other person has.

I appreciate that it might sound corny or crass but the proven reality is that:

Effective mirroring sends out the powerful subconscious messages "I’m like you".

Everything you do within the course of a meeting or discussion that mirrors what the other person is doing will cement the connection very quickly.

Using hidden persuaders: [2] Mirrored Reciprocation

What do we most want as human beings? What is it that you seek in your relationships with other people?

You want to find someone that you can trust 100%, who is principled, competent, loyal and kind, forgiving, understanding and unselfish.

As Peter Kaufman puts it:

"All you have to do, if you want everything in life from everybody else, is first pay attention; listen to them; show them respect; give them meaning, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Convey to them that they matter to you.

And show you love them.

But you have to go first.

And what are you going to get back?"

Mirrored reciprocation!"

How you behave and how you are within the course of a meeting or discussion will lead to mirrored reciprocation. This can be more of a long term strategy, but it is powerful.

To quote Charles Kingsley's paraphrase of multiple biblical references:

Do as you would be done by.

    This is all about creating the environment where they want to buy into your offer, suggestion or request.

Key Communication Concepts

Key Communication Concepts. Cartoon of Donald Trump

    Here are a few key basic terms and concepts that you need to be aware of and that will make you more effective in your communication and persuasion:

    Positioning statement

    This is a clear and precise statement that focuses the other person's mind when you introduce your idea or suggestion. 

    You don't use this until you have identified a need that the other person has and that you both recognise.

    You could think of this as your "elevator pitch" - except that you don't just blurt it out as soon as meet the other person.

    You will do yourself a big favour if you give this some thought before you speak to the other person.


    A feature is a description of your idea or proposal what it is and how it works. But always remember that a feature tells the other person about the idea or proposal it does not explain the benefits.

    e.g "that holiday house on Airbnb has a big field attached to the property"

    It is a common mistake to rush into describing the features of your idea or proposal too early in the process and before you and the other person have a shared understanding of that person's need or requirement.

    It is also a mistake to assume that the other person will automatically see the benefit - chances are they probably won't.


    A benefit is a brief explanation of what a feature of your idea or suggestion can do for the other person - i.e. how it meets their need, how they stand to gain.

    e.g. "that holiday house on AirBnB has a big field attached to the property - which will be great for your dogs to run around in while we are relaxing and enjoying a glass of wine before dinner..."

    But, as above, you can only discuss this when you and the other person have a shared understanding of that person's need or requirement.

    So, dont raise your pitch about the property on Airbnb until you have identified that the other person is in need of a few days break and until they have confirmed that they have that need.

    Most times, most people overlook this when they are trying to persuade someone.

    Impression Management

    You should always be aware of and consciously manage the impressions that the other person is receiving about you. Think of this as your personal PR campaign.

    This is about how you are making the other person feel - remember what we said about this above in the basics of one to one communication.

    Always remember that people buy into your ideas, proposals and suggestions for emotional reasons.

    So always give careful thought to the impressions you are going to create - and especially in the early stages of your discussion with the other person.

    Expectation Management

    This is closely related to impression management – but is specifically to do with the delivery, implementation and follow-through on your idea, suggestion or proposal.

    This another area where most people fail badly.

    Once the other person has bought into and commited to go ahead, you should pay close and careful attention to keeping them informed and up-to-date with all aspects of the follow-through.

    This includes good news, bad news and no news situations.  Most people wrongly assume that the other person will only want to hear from them right at the "point of delivery".

    People have a need to kept informed at all stages of the implementation process for 2 reasons:

    1. It reduces the likelihood of "buyers remorse" i.e. they have second thoughts and pulling out of their commitment
    2. It is in your interests to pay close attention to expectation management because it affects your long term relationship with the other party and what they will say about you to others.

Counter-intuitive Advice For Persuading Senior People In Corporates To Do Something

Counter-intuitive Advice For Persuading Senior People In Corporates To Do Something. Graphic

I want to conclude this first article on the art of persuasion by sharing some practical advice on how to persuade senior people in corporates to take action.

This may sound counter-intuitive but please bear with me because this stuff really works and will give you the highest probability of getting your desired outcome when dealing with senior people in large organisations.

I now want to focus on the internal political dimension in corporate life.

Whether you are aware of it or not, in corporate life, the political dimension is all important.

The higher your contacts are up the ladder, within an organisation, the greater the extent to which the internal political dimension is important.

At director level, in all large organisations, the political dimension can shape the decision making process very considerably and will often be the major determining factor.

Therefore it is of paramount importance that you recognise this dimension and that you are aware of and exploit your contacts’ political agenda.

So, here's how it works.

"Compelling Events" & "Exposures"

A compelling event in corporate life is frequently the result of changing situations that impact on an organisation's performance and a senior individual's performance.

An exposure occurs when the impact of a compelling event affects a senior individual's performance in such a way that it is highly probable that he or she will become accountable.

Generally speaking, directors and senior managers will only be motivated to make decisions if there is a compelling event that impacts them personally and that is likely to create an exposure for them.

Given the political nature of corporate life and the potential implications for both financial and job security, most directors and managers will, quite understandably go to almost any lengths to avoid experiencing such an exposure.

For an individual director or senior manager an exposure is greatly increased where a perception of under performance may be exploited by to the detriment of the company by third party activists.

The intensity of the exposure to a senior individual may be greatly increased if it is exploited by his/her rivals and political enemies within that corporate.

So you may be saying - what's all this got to do with me?

The power of exploiting exposures

Understanding these corporate decision-making dynamics is important because you can exploit them and benefit from them when you need to persuade someone in a senior position to do something!

It is generally pointless appealing to their better nature or any other form of positive encouragement to take action.

The skilful persuader will do everything within their power to increase the perception of an exposure within the mind of their senior contact.

In my experience, and in non-sales situations, the best way to persuade a corporate contact into action is to show them as graphically as possible  their reputational, legal and financial exposures.

Spell it out as specifically as possible with as much supporting reference to legislation, damaging consequences, bad PR etc as possible.

You would be surprised how fast these people can and will move when handled in this manner.

The greater the perception of an exposure, the faster the decision will be made.

Persuading senior people by exploiting the political dimension in the manner I have outlined is very effective.

An example

Some years ago there was flash flooding that occurred near to our house and which was a hazard to local residents and especially young mothers collecting their small children from the adjacent primary school.

The problem was caused by the underground collapse of a medieval drainage system. The council were resistant to undertaking the required work for reasons of cost.

My neighbours had made unsuccessful representations to the local council.

So I prepared a brief for them comprising a portfolio of pictures [2 of which I include below] of the flooding and a draft document to be subsequently personalised and sent to the CEO of the local council reminding him of his exposures. I have reproduced the full text of that draft below:


Attention of CEO Local Council

Dear Sir

As you can see from the accompanying photograph’s the area outside Pound Cottage, St Mary’s School & School House at the lowest end of Castle Street floods! The water level was 3 inches higher at the peak than is captured in my pictures!

I have lived at School House for nearly 7 years and we have experienced flooding from time to time – but not to this extent. Over the last 12 mths, the situation has deteriorated. We seem to be experiencing more heavy downpours and they see to be generating more water than before.

School House does not currently flood thanks to the remedial action undertaken by your engineer Alan Irons last year in creating a raised ramp at the entrance to our side gate. Prior to this our house was always at serious risk of flooding.

Pound Cottage and the Pound Building are currently at risk. On the day I took these photographs, it was fortunate that I happened to check my neighbour’s house (as they were away). The floodwater was about to flow over the top of the 2 sandbags that were already placed across their gate. Fortunately I managed to locate 3 more sandbags and secure the property. Without this protection, Pound Cottage would have been flooded to a depth of 2-3inches.

The disturbing feature of all this is that it all happens very quickly. There is now way of knowing when it is going to happen. The water rises within 10-15 minutes and starts to subside within 5 –10 minutes of the rain stopping – although it takes 30-60 minutes to completely drain away. So the Pound properties are at risk for a critical period of a several minutes – enough to do significant damage!

As you can see from the pictures half of the road floods and the whole of the area at the foot of the path to St Mary’s School is submerged beneath several inches of water.


  • The Pound properties need to be fully protected from flooding – for obvious reasons.
  • Measures need to be taken to put floodwarning signs to traffic – to avoid road traffic accidents.
  • Warnings need to be given to parents of pupils at St Mary’s re danger and risks when path submerged, and alternative plans made for collecting children in these conditions.
  • The Council need to properly address the drainage issue – and undertake the required work.


It doesn’t need me to remind the Council that it faces considerable liabilities if as a result of its negligence or failure of a duty of care, any of the following events happen:-

  • A small child, handicapped person or elderly person stumbles and drowns (yes it is deep enough at 6-9inches!)
  • Road traffic accident
  • Pedestrian accident
  • Flood damage to the aforementioned properties

Yours Faithfully

The result was that within a short space of time council engineers were on site and the remedial work was undertaken very quickly!

Free Download

The Art Of Persuasion 1 - Summary Notes


[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 The One Fundamental Principle" to: Communication Persuasion and Change

Or to: Walking The Talk

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