Presenting the last session of a two-day conference is always a tough act, but Mario Moussa, co-author of The Art of Woo had no problem keeping my attention. His presentation was about the psychological barriers that stand between you and a “yes” to your ideas, proposals and initiatives. Woo is Moussa’s idea-selling process, and a way of leading.
I appreciated Moussa’s presentation style … easy, smart and laced with stories, research findings and humor. “Depressed people are more in touch with reality than most of us,” Moussa started out, and proceeded to take us on a journey through the complexities of persuasion.
There are five barriers we face when trying to persuade, he said. Two are related to you (relationship and credibility) and three are related to your idea (beliefs and values, interests and channels and language).
“How does the other person see you? Are you credible? That’s the first barrier you have to hurdle.” Interestingly, he mentioned research that showed if a person had seen a picture of you before your first meeting, you will come across significantly more persuasive than if your picture hadn’t preceded you.
“We’re connected creatures, said Moussa. If the person likes you or sees you as similar, you will be more persuasive.”
To sell your ideas you have to get in your potential buyer’s head to the extent that they see you as “thinking their thoughts, feeling their feelings and speaking their language,” said Moussa.
Effective leaders are credible chameleons. They get inside the skin of their constituents and turn barriers into positives.
Language, behaviors and beliefs comprise a corporate culture, he said, and organizations are highly political creations. Ninety-five percent of all organizations are political to some extent and nearly 50% are political to a very great or fair extent.
“Political skills are the strongest predictor of performance, outstripping by far both intelligence and personality traits,” said Moussa.
Collaboration involves cross-cultural communications. It’s tough because beliefs are so ingrained.
How do you get your point across persuasively? You have to make your case simple, memorable and with evidence, says Moussa. “We’re hard-wired to respond to evidence,” said Moussa.
You also go down the path of influence through credibility, persuasion by picking the right reasons, and negotiation which is “perceived conflict that you settle with a trade.”
Moussa concluded by dropping the surprise that you can’t persuade anyone; they have to lead themselves to your desired end. You can only lead them to take a small action step, which is key because actions drive beliefs.
He then asked the philosophical question: Do we run because we’re scared, or are we scared because we run? It’s the latter, he said.
“You’re not done when the person buys into your idea. You have to get them to sign on the dotted line, or say they will come to your next meeting and endorse your idea. It’s the action that counts.”