If someone is looking to you for advice, or they want to buy something from you, or they want to seek advice about making a change in their life, it is essentially an effort to improve or enhance their existing situation. The core issue is an emotional need. The actual product itself is just a means to an end; it is not in and of itself the solution. The emotional satisfaction that the product provides, however, is. This is why asking questions is so critical…

It is foolish to make a judgment call about your audience’s intentions before you’ve had a chance to ask them questions and to uncover their hot buttons (i.e., what’s really driving them). The potential buyer might want your product, but why does he or she want it? That information is really what you need to know to persuade.

Great persuaders know that when someone is evaluating their product or service, in the beginning they look for every reason why they should not purchase. This is a natural defense mechanism. But once they mentally and emotionally commit to the idea that it’s the right decision, the really interesting psychology is they they start looking for every reason why they should go through with it. When we’ve invested a lot of time and energy into making a commitment, we want to feel validated and justified in our decision. We even convince others to do the same (now you know how referrals work).

How does this apply to you as a persuader? Once you’ve helped your audience see the imbalance between their current state and their desired state, and once they feel motivated to act, you must be swift to get them committed. They’ll search for positive reinforcement to feel secure in the new balance they feel. If you don’t maintain that momentum, their enthusiasm and energy will wane, doubts about their decision will creep in, and they’ll drift back to their comfortable state.

Great persuaders use open-ended questions. These questions allow your audience to express their feelings and concerns. Your audience wants to feel that you have their best interests at heart. Open-ended questions also reveal more information. Questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no don’t give you much to go on. Remember, you’re gathering information so you know best how to suggest the alternative that meets the needs and wants of both parties. You need as much information as possible in order to present a win–win situation. Here are some good examples of open-ended questions great persuaders use to help involve their audience:
• When did you start . . . ?
• Where did you find . . . ?
• What do you think about . . . ?
• Have you ever thought about . . . ?
• How do you feel about . . . ?