How to be more persuasive: the 5-step process


Being persuasive is one of those strange things that are hard to quantify. We all know when we’ve heard someone give a persuasive talk or speech, as well as when we haven’t. Yet we find it very difficult if not impossible to quantify exactly what gave it the quality of being persuasive.

Most of us are aware that having good persuasion skills is an important quality to have both in life and in our careers. Despite this, almost all of us dedicate no time to the improvement of this skill. Perhaps because we feel that persuasion is something you are born with, something innate, that can’t be learned.

Well, that just simply isn’t the case. In fact, the art of persuasion is something that has been around and written about for thousands of years. Aristotle wrote about persuasion (The Rhetorical Triangle) in his book, Rhetoric, written around 400 B.C. (you can learn more about the Rhetorical Triangle).

More recent books about persuasion have included Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, written early in the 20th century, and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, written by Robert B. Cialdini and published in 2009.

learning to be persuasive

Hopefully, by now you are convinced that the art of persuasion has been around for some time. Now it’s time to use what remains of this article to learn a quick and simple process to improve your persuasion skills.

The simple 5-step process is:

1. Attention

You first need to grab the attention of the person or people you’re trying to persuade. If you’re speaking face to face with someone this isn’t such a problem, but if you’re speaking to a group of people then you only have about 5 seconds to get their attention before their focus begins to fade.

how to catch someone attention

A simple method to grab attention is to state a dramatic fact. For example, “did you know that fish stocks have depleted by 50% worldwide in the last 9 years?”, or “did you know that banking is one of the last remaining industries that hasn’t yet been shaken up by the Internet? But that is about to change.”

Okay, so those facts above are made up, but you get the idea. You need to GRAB HOLD of your audience.

2. Need

You have to establish a need with the person listening. You’ve got their attention now it’s up to you to keep it. To be effective here you need to understand what’s important to the people listening. What do they care about? It could be that they simply want to keep their job, to be healthier, or to make a dent in the world. Whatever it is, this is your chance to engage them.

3. Satisfy

Now that you’ve established the need, you can’t just leave them hanging, that’s right, you’ve got to satisfy the need. You do this by describing how their need would be fulfilled if they agree with what you are proposing.

As an example, let’s say their need was to get home from work on a Friday afternoon feeling fresh and ready for the weekend. You know just how they can do it, by buying your audio relaxation solution! Other ways to meet the need commonly include saving money, making money, being healthier, and looking better.

4. Visualize

So far we’ve grabbed their attention, established their need, and then satisfied that need. Now we’ve got to drive things home. We do this by painting a picture of what their world will look like once they have agreed with you.

being persuasive in 5 steps

For example, “imagine how refreshed you will feel and how happy your wife/husband/partner will be when you arrive home as your relaxed best self!”.

5. Action

Now that you have them where you want them, you need to get them to take action. You do this by telling them what you want them to do right now. This makes it easy for them to know what to do next and then to do it.

An example of how to be more persuasive

All of this might sound as though it is only applicable to a salesman, but that simply isn’t the case. Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate this point. Suppose we’re trying to convince our team at the office to work late all week so they don’t have to work the weekend. In an example like this we might use this sequence as follows:

Attention: “Did you know that our team has a reputation for always delivering its projects late? That’s the kind of bad reputation that hangs over each of us wherever we go within the company.”

Need: “How would like to put an end to that reputation? How would you like to be part of the most timely and reliable team in the company?”

Satisfy: “Well, we’re so close to our current project. I think if we worked hard this week, working late if necessary, then we’d have everything done by Friday, and that would be a great feeling. It would also surprise our superiors as they never expect us to deliver on time.”

Visualize: “Imaging how great you’d feel all weekend knowing that your team has really delivered. Knowing that you’d given your best. You’d be ready to fully engage with your family and enjoy the weekend with them knowing that you didn’t have a half-finished project hanging over your head.”

Action: “If you’re ready to do this then email me immediately as simply say: I’m In!”


There you have it; a simple 5 step method that can help you to persuade anyone. It is worth noting that being persuasive is a skill, and even if you use these 5 steps you might not get it right the first time. But keep at it, persist, and you will learn how to be a master persuader.

About the author:

Denis Geoghegan is the founder of EPM, a website dedicated to helping professions improve their business skills. Prior to this he was Head of Program Management at Nokia, an co-owner of SportStat, a sports data company.

The content published on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, health or other professional advice.

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