While we women have made great strides in business leadership in recent years, we still face daily competition, from both male and female colleagues. Whether we’re facing questions from potential investors or asking for a salary increase, it is important for us to be as persuasive as possible.
The power of persuasion can propel a leader forward. The good news is, persuasion is a major strength for women. In fact, a study from Caliper found that female leaders studied were more persuasive than their male counterparts. Here are ten tips to help women fine-tune their persuasion skills to improve business success.
1. Use your strengths.
The Caliper study specifically mentioned traits like assertiveness, willingness to take risks and empathy as beneficial to female leaders. Instead of quashing these personality features, women should learn to apply them in professional settings, where they become valuable tools.
A female leader can use her ability to read the reactions of others, consider them and apply them in a way that appeals to her listeners' concerns. Instead of pushing others to see their point of view, female professionals often tend to be more gentle, a quality that can be much more effective.
2. Find common ground.
Everyone you meet throughout the course of your day will likely have something in common with you. Whether it’s disgust with the persistent bad weather or a shared hobby, like wine-tasting or fine food, you should find this common ground and use it as a springboard. People will be much more responsive once you’ve connected on a personal level.
3. Solve a problem.
Before explaining your product to someone, first ask a few questions. Extract important data that can be used to convince the other person that your business can help. If you’re seeking investment dollars, learn about the type of business the investor is interested in, then explain how your business is exactly what that investor wants.
4. Prepare for arguments.
The longer you’re in a particular industry, the more arguments you’ll hear against it. Over time, you’ll develop an arsenal of answers to these common complaints. One of the most important tools of persuasion is your ability to counter these objections with convincing counter-arguments. Before you find yourself in the middle of one of these conversations, make sure you’ve prepared for all the objections someone could have.
5. Be persistent.
Out of fear of seeming too aggressive, professionals are often reluctant to consistently reach out to someone. Persistence can pay off, however, especially when follow-up actions are well timed. You may have a lunch meeting with a potential client early in the year and find he’s not currently interested in your product. However, a few months later, that person’s circumstances may change. By being politely persistent, you’ll find that you land deals you might not have otherwise done.
6. Do your research.
Most people you meet each day are primarily interested in their own lives. A person’s business and family occupies the vast majority of his or her mind space. Make it a point to research in advance every person you will encounter, so you can position yourself to reach out on a personal level. If you go into a meeting knowing exactly why someone would be interested in what you have to say, you’re more likely to successfully connect.
7. Take notes.
Professionals come into contact with so many people throughout the course of a workday that they’re impressed when they meet someone who remembers them. Make an effort to remember names and crucial details about each person you meet. For many people, this means keeping a contact database with information like children’s names, favorite meals and items you’ve previously discussed. If you spot someone at an event, you can quickly refresh your memory on these small details before approaching that person.
8. Use names often.
A person responds on a subconscious level when she hears her own name. Once you’ve learned someone’s name, work it into the conversation intermittently without being too obvious. Once you become aware, you’ll likely notice that some of the most persuasive people in the world use this ego-building technique.
9. Use "mirroring."
Studies have found that body language is an important part of communication, often influencing how one person perceives another. "Mirroring" is a popular body language technique that helps build rapport. As you’re speaking to someone, adjust your body language to match his in subtle ways. If he shifts his weight from one foot to another, shift yours. You should also adjust the volume of your voice to match his to increase the perception that you’re operating from the same place.
10. Be confident.
Confidence is an important factor in business success. When you project fear, others see this as a weakness. Instead, go into each interaction with the confidence that you know exactly what you’re doing. That confidence will be contagious.
Professionals today are challenged to convince others to understand and accept their way of thinking. By honing confidence and practicing persuasive techniques, female professionals can dominate every business meeting and networking opportunity, advancing in their careers and succeeding in everything they do.