Industry Update
Opinion Article29 November 2007

The Simple Secret to “Persuasive Speak”

Develop and expand upon your talent to communicate. Make your audience feel a certain way or encourage a response is essential in advertising, selling and consensus building. Improve your bottom line with Persuasive Speak

By Alan Keith

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Maximizing persuasiveness is critical in advertising and selling, as well as in consensus building in HR and team contexts. While much research on the psychology of persuasion shows that non-verbal techniques are effective, simple verbal tactics are among the easiest to learn and have the widest applicability for print and in-person communications. Here you will learn some of these verbal tactics, which are collectively referred to as “persuasive speak.”


Talk is not cheap

“Persuasive speak” is language that sells and builds consensus. If you are not accomplishing these two goals in your communications, then you are not maximizing your persuasive power. When consistently used with internal and external customers, it enhances your bottom line. The secret of persuasive speak is simple – the verbal focus should be on the target of persuasion, rather than on the speaker.

It sounds simple and obvious, yet it is easy to fall short. In fact, it takes practice to do it effortlessly, since people tend to be self-centered and consequently phrase their speech in terms of themselves (e.g., frequent use of “I,” “me” and “my”). However, turn this proverbial coin over, and now you have the basis for a powerful tactic of persuasion.

Phrases that focus on the target of persuasion are highly effective for selling and building consensus. This is because people pay more attention and are more receptive to what you say when they specifically become the center of attention. For example, people instinctually turn when they hear their name called and they cannot help but look at themselves when walking past a mirror or reflective glass. Likewise, carefully watch someone look at a group photograph and you’ll see that they are the first person they seek out in the picture.

Some practical examples

The table below gives two examples of “persuasive speak” for sales and consensus building. Notice how the communications are more compelling and influential when the verbal focus ceases being on the speaker and instead the verbal phrasing focuses on the person to whom you are trying to persuade. It takes strong self-efficacy to transfer the center of attention, but it will become second nature with practice and effort. Indeed, good people skills and strong service orientation take practice and effort to master.

Final tips

Be mindful of these final points when practicing or applying “persuasive speak” in professional environments:

  • Use the name of the person or organization whenever possible and appropriate, but do so sparingly to avoid sounding trite or manipulative.
  • Use the active tense in words and phrases, not the passive tense.
  • Use action-oriented words.
  • Do not over explain; use the least number of words to get to the point. Directness is often perceived as a sign of honesty, whereas convoluted or verbose communications are confusing and can be perceived as manipulative.
  • Avoid prefacing statements with phrases like, “I think, I know, I believe.” By omitting qualifications, you convey a greater sense of authority.

Admittedly this was a rudimentary overview, but 20|20 Skills Assessment™ can train your organization in applying “persuasive speak” for customer service and coaching initiatives. Contact us for more details on special seminars and training sessions.

About Alan Keith

Alan Keith received an M.B.A from the Schulich School of Business, York University and a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in Industrial Relations from the I.H. Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba. Alan joined 20|20 Skills™ assessment as Vice President following twenty years of experience in the service and assessment industry. A frequent speaker on talent management and service excellence, he has markedly increased financial results by establishing performance based cultures that are focused on attracting and retaining talent. Alan has also consulted with Fortune 500 companies on talent management issues including assessment. He provides personal coaching to people looking to improve their career path and also offers sales and service training to the service sector. He is currently on the Board of Directors for JVS Toronto, a community organization that offers career, employment, training and psychological services. For information on Best Practice 20|20 Coaching ™ services and employee assessment, contact: [email protected] 516.248.8828 x 265

HVS International is a hospitality services firm providing industry skill and knowledge worldwide. The organization and its specialists possess a wide range of expertise and offer market feasibility studies, valuations, strategic analyses, development planning, and litigation support. Additionally, HVS International supplies unique knowledge in the areas of executive search, investment banking, environmental sustainability, timeshare consulting, food and beverage operations, interior design, gaming, technology strategies, organizational assessments, operational management, strategy development, convention facilities consulting, marketing communications, property tax appeals and investment consulting. Since 1980, HVS International has provided hospitality services to more than 10,000 hotels throughout the world. Principals and associates of the firm have authored textbooks and thousands of articles regarding all aspects of the hospitality industry. Click here for more...

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