Every Conversation Is an Act of Persuasion

I reported to a sales executive in a former life and the headline of this article was his favorite saying (at least it is the thing I remember when I think of him).  I used to believe the expression applied only to the sales process, but now feel it is applicable to EVERY conversation.   When we have conversations we are trying to persuade people that we are right, knowledgeable, funny, caring, interested, etc.  And I consider “conversations” to include any interaction, not just one-on-one discussions.

That’s why I was curious when I read a recent article about the funnel for converting web site visitors.  The top of the funnel was labeled “persuasional” with the explanation that you have to convince visitors they are on the right website, that you have the products or services they’re looking for, and that they should spend time exploring to find out more. The next phase of the funnel was labeled “informational”, with the explanation that this is where you need to answer your prospects’ questions, sooth their objections, and move them to take action.  The bottom or third part of the funnel was labeled “transactional”, with the explanation that this is where conversion happens, whether it is purchasing, requesting more information or whatever the desired action.

Maybe it is just a matter of semantics, but I was bothered that the label “persuasional” was used for just the mouth of the funnel.  In thinking about “every conversation is an act of persuasion” it seems that the entire funnel should be a series of “conversations” called the Persuasion Funnel and that every step is some type of persuasion:

  1. Persuade visitors they have landed at the right place
  2. Persuade visitors you have the answer to their needs/wants
  3. Persuade visitors they should explore further
  4. Persuade visitors your product/service is better than other companies’ products/services
  5. Persuade visitors of the value of your products/services
  6. Persuade visitors to purchase or move to the next step in the buying process

If the desired action is inquiry, you may not include all these steps.  But by persuading at every step, the conversion is natural and not a forced “close” from which visitors might disengage at the conversion point.

I also thought of this funnel compared to the traditional Sales Funnel employed when there is a sales force.  The Sales Funnel looks at the buying process from the seller’s perspective, from first interaction with a possible customer to closing the deal.  The process typically starts at the mouth of the funnel with awareness or inquiries and proceeds through qualifying, proposal, contract and close (or some variant of these steps).  It is called a funnel because prospects drop out of the process as the funnel narrows and fewer of those inquiries pass to the next stage.  So every step is an act of persuasion that the company’s products or services are the answer to the customer’s needs/wants.  The persuasion becomes more and more focused on the individual buyer’s specific needs/wants as the process advances.

This focus on “every conversation is an act of persuasion” does not need to be overt.  In fact, for some customers it should not be blatant because some people hate to be “sold”.  I think we have all experienced a variant of “what will it take to put you in this car” even if we just had an initial test drive and we’re not sure we want to be put in that car at any price.  Sometimes just asking questions and providing information persuades a prospect that you know what you’re talking about and moves you closer to a sale.  For some, subtle persuasion is the best type of conversation.


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