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How To Make Your Message Persuasive

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How to Make Your Message Persuasive

May 12, 2015

by Dan Solin

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We all want to make our message persuasive, but few advisors pay attention to the peer-reviewed studies identifying the most efficient methods for doing so.

This research should be of keen interest to investment advisors. Your livelihood depends on your ability to persuade prospects to entrust you with their assets. It’s important to be aware of the research that could assist you.

A recent study by Kurt Carlson of the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business and Suzanne Shu of UCLA summarized approximately 100 years of research on what makes a message persuasive. Their paper also addressed the question of how many positive claims should be included in a message when the recipient is aware of the intention to persuade.

The data on persuasion often runs contrary to the way most advisors conduct prospect meetings. Fortunately, evidence-based principles of persuasion are easy to understand and implement.

Summary of research

It’s not surprising that messages from credible sources are deemed to be more persuasive. While this makes perfect sense, few advisors take full advantage of this basic principle. Rather than going to the whiteboard and giving a discourse on the merits of active and passive management, your prospect will likely find it more persuasive that Warren Buffett is a proponent of index-based investing.

The research also indicates that easier-to-process messages are perceived by recipients as more persuasive. This finding is significant for advisors because investing and financial planning are complex subjects that can easily overwhelm prospects. Distilling your message into sound bites will be more effective than inundating your prospect with data.

“Two-sided” messages, in which a perceived negative is combined with a positive attribute, can be very effective.

This observation is particularly relevant when dealing with fee issues. You are currently under pressure to lower fees in order to be competitive with discount advisors and “robo-advisors.” Instead of being defensive about your fees, take advantage of this research on “two-sided” messages by stating something like: “Our higher fee structure permits us to provide comprehensive financial planning services to a small number of clients.”

By framing a negative (your higher fee structure) with a positive (more comprehensive service to a smaller number of clients), your prospects are more likely to believe the positive message.

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