As the Republicans gear up for the first primary 2024 primary presidential debate, I can’t help but recall how Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard and presidential aspirant during the 2015 Republican debate, shone as the more articulate and convincing than the rest of the presidential hopefuls, even hammering survey front-runner Donald Trump. She was well-prepared in her arguments, even using graphic examples to prove her point. She displayed and practiced what is needed to effectively persuade and convince her audience.
Even mere mortals like us engage in a daily bout of convincing and persuading other people to our viewpoint, may it be at work or personal life. People who are able to effectively persuade others follow a simple framework which I call CRA (Credibility-Relationship-Attractiveness).
Credibility entails knowing the subject matter at hand. It requires preparation and thorough studying of the topic, issues and arguments. It’s essentially knowing what you’re talking about. It shows by the use of examples that relate to the topic, and the use of frameworks that define the subject matter.
I was recently invited by a retail chain to talk about innovation among its executives and employees. To show and build credibility, I used real-life examples of innovation I employed in the business unit in my company, as well as those that were practiced by other global companies which I shared and taught in my MBA class.
Fiorina, for example, in 2015 drew strong applause during the debate for an impassioned attack on Planned Parenthood, the women’s health care provider, for what she said was profiting on the fetal issue. She cited hard facts to support her claims.
Some people, to build credibility, talk about their years of experience and exposure in a particular situation or subject matter at the onset. This tack should be used carefully so as not to appear bragging. The context of the situation should be considered carefully, and the use of proper transition phrases should be employed to segue into your experience.
Relationship, on the other hand, is your genuine connection with a person or audience. When speaking to an audience or meeting a person for the first time, it’s important to repeat his or her name or the affiliation of the audience while making eye contact. It’s also critical to listen to them, understanding their viewpoint and receiving feedback. These will make the other party comfortable and will even share more information.
Having established credibility at the onset will help you build an instant connection with your audience. When you gain people’s trust, they become more engaged, listening more intently leading to a build-up of connection.
Lastly, and probably the clincher, is attractiveness. This encompasses not only physical appearance but also the way you use gestures, intonation of voice to stress a point, how you use eye contact and even the way you smell.
Scores of research have shown that physical attractiveness is a powerful tool for persuasion, i.e., physically attractive men and women are perceived to be more trustworthy, more reliable, stronger, better educated and wiser than their less attractive peers. If you are not endowed with a face that will launch a thousand ships, then dressing the part will do the trick, such as wearing a nice, tailored suit in business negotiations.
To illustrate the use of the CRA framework, take for example two insurance salespersons, who can be both women and both men, selling you life insurance. Both display credibility by showing mastery of their product, with all your questions answered with authority. Both likewise have built an instant connection with you by listening intently, repeating your name and highlighting concerns. But one of them is physically more attractive than the other. Who do you choose to buy your insurance from? When I give this pop quiz to my MBA class, the always certain answer is — from the more attractive salesperson. Conversely, if both salespersons are equally attractive and credible, but one of them has built a stronger personal connection with you, you will go for the latter.
But the foundation of the CRA framework is being able to communicate effectively to your audience in a way that builds credibility, engenders connection and makes you more “attractive.”
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is a Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at email@example.com.