Traditionally, communicators overcame objections by providing counterpoints to any of the audience members’ objections. In other words, they showed how their own ideas, products, or services were superior to the competing ideas, products, or services the audience favored.
Overcoming objections with counterpoints, however, is risky in the post-trust era. This approach may unnecessarily carry a me-versus-you tone and delegitimize the readers’ concerns. Michael Maslansky, in his research about emerging trends in sales messages in the PTE, states that validation is “using words to let people know that their concerns are valid,” and that it is the “polar opposite of overcoming objections.”19 He says the “new sales mantra [is to] agree with objections.”20 This perhaps ironic approach shows respect and balance because you validate the potential customer’s feelings and ideas. When you validate your readers, they are more likely to accept the merits of your persuasive message.
Thus, consider carefully whether to include counterpoints to your readers’ objections. When you know people well and believe that you will not create a me-versus-you adversarial stance, tactfully state how your ideas, products, and services outperform those of your readers.
Skilled business communicators understand that building support for their ideas takes time. Especially for persuasion within companies, you will generally use a mix of communication channels. Rarely will your ideas be accepted and enacted with one written message. However, one written message can make a powerful statement and open avenues of communication that lead to acceptance and adoption of your ideas.
You conclude persuasive messages with a call to action, which asks your readers to take a specific step toward the purchase of a product or service or acceptance of an idea. However, a call to action should not be a hard sell; pressuring others is increasingly ineffective in the PTE.21 In external persuasive messages, the call to action is typically a specific and explicit step. In internal persuasive messages, the call to action is sometimes explicit and sometimes implicit. It is more likely to be implicit for controversial change ideas and when corresponding with superiors who have ultimate decision-making authority.
Guidelines for Tone for Persuasive Messages
- Apply the personal touch.
- Use action-oriented, lively language.
- Write with confidence.
- Offer choice.
- Show positivity.
LO9.3. Explain how the tone and style of persuasive messages impact their influence.
The tone for persuasive messages should be confident and positive, yet at the same time avoid exaggeration or hype. This is tricky! You will no doubt need to make some trade-offs. The more confident and positive you make your message, the more you risk being perceived as pushy or exaggerated. As you reduce confidence and positivity, you risk your product, service, or idea being perceived as weak or unexciting. One benefit of asking colleagues to read your persuasive message before you send it is they can help you decide if you have achieved the right level of confidence and positivity without sacrificing believability.
The writing style of your message should be action-oriented and lively. But again, you risk being perceived as unbelievable or overly enthusiastic if you overdo the language. However, you risk being perceived as dull or unexceptional if you don’t use engaging, lively language. Proofreading by yourself and with the help of colleagues will help you get the right writing style to set your message apart.