An organisation would have to be downright bonkers not to try persuading their people to use insights derived from data and analytics to make strategic decisions. Many aim to, but most fail. Why is this?
Successful analytically-inclined people tell stories with data, with the intention of persuading the audience to take a particular course of action. However, studies have shown that data and analytics lovers have much ‘room for improvement’ when it comes to communication and influencing.
The majority of quantitative analysts are not very good at creating or telling stories. The implications are significant. Analytical initiatives don’t produce the desired decisions or actions that they should.
Stories are just data with soul
To effectively persuade your audience, you must know the optimal logic/feelings ratio to deploy; persuasion balances logic and emotion. Persuading by using only one element is possible, but its impact is likely to be short-lived.
(We often fool ourselves by logically reasoning emotively-driven decisions. The number of times I’ve bought yet another pair of stilettos fuelled by emotion, then used logical reasoning to support my decision is in the triple digits.)
Logic and emotion are akin to the yin and yang of persuasion and influence, here are five tips to help you strike the balance.
1. Truly know who you’re connecting with
There’s no point building a pitch deck or opening your mouth to sell it if you don’t know who’s on the other end. What’s their personality type? What do they have at stake? The more analytical types need more logic than emotion; flip this for more passionate people. Regardless of who you’re trying to influence, both elements must exist.
2. Be wary of logical fallacies
Ensure your story is legit, true and valid by including ample backup. Logical fallacies (faulty logic is an error in reasoning, not to be mistaken for factual errors) can leave gaping holes in your story. You want the audience you are persuading to believe that your logical reasoning obviously and unequivocally supports the conclusion. Avoid common reasoning errors such as incorrect root cause diagnosis, sweeping generalisations, faulty analogies and drawing irrelevant parallels.
3. Use a broad range of tools
You should aim to include these four things in your argument: testimony, statistics, analogies and examples. Remove all doubt from your audience by selecting testimony from an expert with some gravitas in the field. Stats are great, but use sparingly as they can be easily manipulated. Remember the Oral B ad with ‘Rob the dentist’? Sales for the toothbrush enjoyed a significant upswing as audiences were sold on the misleading suggestion that it was “the toothbrush that dentists use”.
I love a good analogy. They allow a new concept to be presented to an audience that they can relate to in their own lives. Consider the influential impact of Apple iPod’s ad: “put 1,000 songs in your pocket” compared to “buy a 5GB MP3 player”. Which resonates more strongly?
4. Don’t get more, just get the right stuff
We’re bombarded with data and most of the time we regard it as white noise. Select only data which is precise and punchy. Ask yourself these questions: It is current? Relevant? Verifiable? Specific? Unbiased? Consistent with my audience’s beliefs? Connects to the audience’s logical or emotional side? Unambiguously supports my conclusion? Finally: is this the optimal channel or format to depict this data?
5. Sharpen your EQ
Your ability to monitor your own and others’ emotions, and to use this to guide your thinking and actions is crucial. Tap into your audience’s emotions when persuading to strengthen your message.
Know when to create or dispel certain emotions during your story, and devise how best to do this by paying attention to tip #1! Combat worry by giving them perspective and providing solutions to their fears. Illicit compassion by sharing compelling images. Whatever you do, don’t end your story with a negative feeling.
I learn from you much more than you learn from me. I’d love to hear of your experiences.
Image credit: Columbia Pictures (US)