Monday, November 26, 2007

Presentation Skills: Your Persuasion Path

From Wilder’s Presentations.

There is a book called The 5 Paths to Persuasion by Robert B. Miller and Gary A. Williams that describes five decision-making styles based on the authors’ surveys of 1,700 executives:
  • Charismatics
  • Thinkers
  • Skeptics
  • Followers
  • Controllers
You’ve set your objective, planed your three or four key messages, and organized your content logically and systematically. Now you have to decide how your information should be presented to persuade these five kinds of decision maker, and Miller and Williams provide some insights.

Charismatics: They seem excited, attracted to new, out-of-the-box ideas. They don't want the whole PowerPoint talk—they just want to hear the bottom-line results. You must engage charismatics immediately, before they lose interest. But don't be lulled into thinking that you don't really have to follow up or present detailed information. You do need to present the risks and how to minimize them. From the way charismatics talk, you think the decision is imminent, but they will give all the details to others to examine. Then they'll decide. Although charismatics might not seem interested in the analysis, others will. In Miller and Williams' survey, 25% were charismatics.

Thinkers: Thinkers are open to new ideas when you have the facts backing up the idea. Guarded and cautious, they explore every advantage and disadvantage. They are very rational and use numbers to make their decisions, quizzing you about the information. This is why they might not have the best social skills. While they are proactive and do want to win, thinkers use logic and exhaustive analysis to make decisions. In the survey, 10% were thinkers.

Skeptics: They are distrustful of information that does not fit their worldview. To a skeptic, everyone is suspect, and they will question you right away. You have to be credible in their eyes before they listen to you. Skeptics say what they think without regard to your reaction. While thinkers take in the data to make a decision; skeptics look through the data to find what supports their vision. Don't get defensive, and don't rush a skeptic. Because they're unafraid of being wrong, they make bold, risky decisions. Almost 20% of the survey respondents were skeptics.

Followers: Followers come across as open and enthused, but unless you talk about how your process was successfully implemented elsewhere, they lose interest. They want proof. A follower keeps asking, "Where has this been done before?" That's why they buy well-known brands. Not innovators, followers want to protect what the company already has. They are excellent with people, always aware of how their behavior affects others. One last thing: followers like bargains and enjoy a bit of haggling over prices. Although 36% in the survey were followers, only 6% of sales presentations are targeted to them.

Controllers: Highly independent, they like to be in control of the total decision-making process. Controllers don't like to be pushed - you have to get them to believe they made the decisions. Because controllers see information through their perspective, it can be difficult to get them to truly take in a piece of data that runs contrary to their view. They are also perfectionists who are not very interested in getting along with people and making them feel comfortable. Controllers run to their own tune, so be careful not to present contrary information. They have a tendency to shoot the messenger. In the survey, almost 10% of the respondents were controllers.

Why is this information useful when you are presenting to a group of people? In reality you are "selling" your idea to your audience. You will certainly do a more effective talk if you have an understanding of how people make decisions.

Next: How to persuade each kind of decision maker.

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