5 Tips for Senior Leadership to Liven Up Their Influencing and Persuading—and Get More Results

The old marketing saying, “People buy on emotion and then justify the buy rationally,” is usually associated with selling consumer products, implying that companies need to energize, captivate, and enchant consumers. Does this apply to CEOs, C-suite executives, and senior executives?

Daniel Pink in his book, To Sell is Human, says, “All of us are likely spending more time than we realize selling in a broader sense—pitching colleagues, persuading funders, convincing customers. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.” This applies to CEOs and senior managers as well since you are selling when you present strategies, address investors, interact with senior management in other companies, deal with important customers, and give assignments to others (you would like them to work passionately on the assignment). So CEOs and senior managers can benefit with using flair to energize their influencing and persuading.

Here are six tips to connect emotionally with your audiences and energize people to act.

  1. Story – Present your message as a story. People pay attention to and remember stories. They fill in images and details to relate the story to their situation, and audiences bond together through a story since it provides a common basis for sharing. And, most importantly, people are motivated to act by a story. Possible story topics are: how the strategy you present will work to create value, how your customer will gain value from working with your company, or how a team task assignment will be used by your company to create value.
  2. Experience – Create informative and pleasant experiences for your audience. A saying attributed to Confucius is, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” A powerful way to gain acceptance is to create an experience for your staff or customers of what it will be like if your plan is adopted. You can create an experience for your audience by presenting your idea within a hypothetical scenario related to what your audience does that clearly shows the benefits to be achieved.
  3. Entertainment – We all enjoy humor, good design, smiling at something whimsical. When entertained we pay more attention and remember. Humor, props, unusual examples are effective to capture attention. Richard Feynman, the late Nobel Prize winning physics professor at Caltech, used an entertaining, memorable example at the Congressional Hearing on the 1986 Challenger Shuttle Disaster, caused by an O-ring failure during a cold weather launch. To cut through the scientific expert jargon and explain the failure to everyone, he dropped clamped shuttle O-ring material into a cup of ice water. The rubber became dented and failed to spring back to its original shape when removed from the cold water. Feynman fascinated the hearing audience and the news media with a simple, straightforward demonstration of the O-ring’s failure to maintain flexibility in cold.
  4. Personalization – Personalize your communications and requests. Lucy Kellaway in her February column in the Financial Times says she received this email request: “This year we are partnering with XXX to launch the second annual YYY conference. I know you are busy but we would love you to host a session on women in business on the Saturday.” She declined this generic request. But she accepted another email saying, “If only you would . . . join our panel on ZZZ. We have a lot of clever but worthy people talking, and we need your genius to liven it up. Please say yes.”
  5. Concrete – Don’t talk about generalities; your audience will go away frustrated and wondering how your plan will really affect them. Be concrete in what you say so that your audience can create specific images in their minds of what you describe. Your audience will take the details from your description and transfer them to their own situations. When describing a new order processing system, describe a future scenario tracing a specific customer order through the specific steps to fulfilling the order. Explain the role of specific employees. To explain the decision to launch a new product line, create a sample scenario of the new product being designed, produced, marketed, and used by a customer. Concrete details within a story about facts illustrate their use and value in a realistic context. Audiences can envision themselves using your idea. Because descriptive writing that’s rich in telling detail can approximate experience, it can also engage a person’s emotional response to the experience.

The power of communicating rationally and emotionally is encapsulated in the words of the greatest Roman orator Cicero, “Docare et Delectare” (instruct and delight). Delighting as well as instructing will energize your audience to act. An energized person will work harder and better than a merely instructed person.