I wrote recently about Daniel Pink’s Book To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. If you haven’t read that post, go back and take a look. I’ll wait.
Pink writes that both in sales and ordinary human interactions, people aren’t likely to be persuaded by your reasons. No matter how compelling your argument, they essentially must persuade themselves to buy, change, or take action.
So Pink has developed a 2-question technique that he says will move the needle for anyone when you use it. It’s the start of real persuasion if it’s used well. The technique consists of asking two questions. Assuming that there is an action that someone has not been willing to take in the past, you ask: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to change this pattern (take this action, buy this product; whatever the discussion is about)?”
The other person will pick a number that represents her readiness for change. Let’s say she picks 4 (it could be anything, including 1; more about that later.) Here’s your next question, “Thanks for being honest with me. You picked 4 on the scale of 1 – 10. You could have picked a 1. Can you tell me why you didn’t pick a lower number?”
When you ask this second question, it’s critical that you stop and listen. Really listen. Because the other person is going to start to give you reasons she might actually buy or change behavior. “I have been thinking about making this change for a while, but needed time to figure out a way to make it work.” “I would have changed earlier if I knew it bothered you so much – I want us to work together well.” “The product I use now requires lots of expensive upkeep, so I’d change if I could figure out how to pay for it.” “I’d do it if it didn’t take so much time to learn the new method.”
Any and all of these reasons are pure gold, because they are her reasons for wanting to make the change, or her conditions for doing so. She’s in the act of persuading herself to make the change or take action. And she’s giving you insight into what matters to her – it’s your job to figure out how to help her make the change for the reasons that matter most to her.
But what if she says: “On a scale of 1 – 10, I’m at one.” Obviously, that’s the lowest number she could pick. Do you just give up on persuasion? Not necessarily. Daniel Pink says that your next question in this case would be: “What can we do to get you to a 2?” You will probably get some of the same valuable feedback. “If it were more affordable, I’d probably consider it.” “If I knew my boss really needed it, I might go ahead and do it.” “If it made my job easier each month, I’d probably think about it.”
This technique will wear thin if you use it every day; it will feel like manipulation. But it can be a powerful way to break through an impasse and really begin to understand your buyer, your family member, or your coworker’s motivation.
Have you tried this technique? Did it work? Leave a comment and let me know.