Getting Your Audience in the Right Frame of Mind
I was recently asked by a private equity company to help sell the launch of a new co-managed fund to prospective investors.
What a great opportunity to apply pre-suasion!
That’s right. Pre-suasion.
Whether you are in communications like me or a consumer, we’re all too aware of the typical persuasion tools – glowing testimonials, emotional tugs, last-chance opportunities — used to trumpet, convince and sell. Perhaps because they are effective, most of us miss the accompanying truth: for maximum impact, it’s not only what you do; it’s also what you do just before you do it.
In other words, pre-suasion is about how we can best set up a situation to be optimally persuasive. It’s about positioning our message in a way that puts our audience in the right frame of mind to take action.
Practically speaking, when we have a precise goal for a message, say in this instance launching a new fund, the before and during the exchange can have a significant effect on the outcome.
Here’s how: in trying to sell this fund to new investors, our challenge was one of establishing trust. Beyond numbers and sleek decks, it was about getting prospective investors to trust the management team enough to fork over tens of millions of dollars.
Part of encouraging this sense of trust, we structured our investor meetings into three parts: first, discussing a particular instance where the management team missed the mark on an investment; second, discussing their recent investment wins; and third, making the investment pitch for the new fund.
While this approach eventually resulted in a fully subscribed fund, it was the feedback that was particularly surprising: investors often used the words genuine and authentic when describing the management team.
The lesson here: by activating a concept in someone’s mind – for us, manifesting trustworthiness by discussing investment misses first – we’re increasing the importance of that concept (trust) for a short amount of time. This set the stage for persuasion to occur (pitching the investment).
Here are 3 tips to help your team step-up their marketing or sales game with pre-suasion, or simply be more aware of attempts to influence them:
1) Define Your Goal. Before each interaction, define what you want to emphasize. Ask yourself, what are my goals, and then support these with a specific anecdote, image or even a quote. Identify something specific that will reflect your goal and resonate with your audience. These are as your openers to attention in that they begin to move attention towards something while saying this is important to your audience.
2) Ensure alignment. Set up the situation so that the context you’ve chosen is aligned with your request.
For instance, if you want someone to try a new product, you could ask them if they consider themselves an adventurousperson beforehand. By having them think about the fact that they’re adventurous, they’ll be much more likely to comply with your request.
3) Identify commonalities. Tailor your pitch to each audience, always with your overall goals in mind. Identify commonalities up front with those involved in each setting. Consider such shared interests as core values, locations or charitable organizations. Highlighting these commonalities will not only make other individuals feel closer to you, but the process will also make you feel closer to them.
Final Take-a-way: Whether you’re trying to sell a new product or service, or seeking consensus during your Monday morning staff meeting, optimal persuasion can be more effectively achieved through optimal pre-suasion.
If you only concentrate on the message itself, then you’ve missed a crucial component of the persuasion process: the practice of getting your audience in the right frame of mind so they agree with your message before they know what’s in it.