David is a best-selling author, speaker and trainer. He is also CEO of IPD, a world-class marketing agency based in Tampa, Florida.
I have been a business owner for more than half of my life now and a salesperson for even longer than that.
I have seen companies in my industry come and go. I have seen technological advances that have benefitted current processes immensely and rendered others obsolete. I have seen and made good business decisions, bad business decisions and everything in between.
What I have learned in this time is that in order to become a true master of your craft, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. You don’t even have to be particularly talented or gifted. You just have to master the basic elements of your job.
This rings true for sales. It’s true for leadership. I believe it to be true for any role, in any industry. You name the job, and those at the top of that job are there because they became really good at doing the basic-level things correctly. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you just have to understand how to make it roll.
I remember sitting in English class in high school as my teacher went over the teachings of Aristotle. I remember thinking to myself, “How are these teachings going to help me in the real world?”
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I didn’t know that what I heard that day would become something that I would use every day in my professional life as a marketer and salesperson.
In his book Rhetoric, Aristotle wrote about the modes of persuasion — three key components that form the basis for any debate or persuasive argument.
The first principle is ethos, which is defined as an appeal to the authority of a presenter.
In order to persuade or even properly instruct on a topic, the presenter should have some level of expertise in their field, or at the very least, enough sway on public opinion for the audience to listen to them. A world-renowned chef holding a lecture on working in a restaurant is going to garner more public interest than an engineer giving the same lecture. However, while ethos appeals to the authority of a presenter, it does not mean that the presenter has to be an expert, per se. Think about all of the celebrities you see acting as a spokesperson for a product or company. We are familiar with the celebrity and we may like some of their work; therefore, we are likely to listen to what they have to say. That is ethos at work.
The second principle in the modes of persuasion is pathos.
Pathos is defined as an appeal to emotions. In fact, the words empathy and sympathy both are believed to come from the word pathos. Pathos can be used in positive and negative manners. Speakers can strike fear and anger into their audiences in the hopes that they will rise up and join their own ideology, or they can use it to paint a picture of prosperity and happiness if the audience is willing to change their mindset. Pathos appeals tend to focus heavily on passionate word choice and exclamations or emotional imagery. If, for instance, McDonald’s decided to run an ad that discussed a recent natural disaster and its commitment to donating a dollar for every Big Mac sold, this would likely do two things: It would make viewers aware of the disaster and feel for the victims, and it would make them feel more inclined to purchase Big Macs because it’s for a good cause. That is how pathos works.
The third and final principle is logos.
Logos refers to an appeal to logic. Logos involves using facts, statistics and research to show why a decision is correct or incorrect. Presenters who are relying on a logos-heavy approach to their message will use graphs and studies to support their argument or belief and seek to engage the audience on a logical level. Geico stating that “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” is a popular example of a logos-based appeal.
However, like ethos and pathos appeals, logos appeals can be flawed. Statistics and facts can be overused, which can often confuse the audience, sometimes even intentionally. In addition to this, some statistics are simply false or require further explanation.
The modes of persuasion are used in politics, marketing and, really, in everyday life. When two parties disagree, they first seek to show each other their points of view and why they feel the way that they do. However, everyone’s perception of what is more important varies. Some will rely heavily on emotion and the humanity of people, while others are more heavily focused on what is logical and what isn’t.
Ethos, pathos and logos are all basic elements that salespeople, marketers and leaders use every single day. By mastering them, you can understand when to use them effectively, as well as when to combine them. Some people won’t respond to a pathos-based argument and some will. Being able to differentiate will allow you not only to market effectively, but also to lead and sell effectively.
To master the three modes of persuasion, first determine who your target audience is, as well as the pain points associated with that specific audience. By knowing the matters that are important to your audience, you can determine which of the three modes of persuasion will most likely impact them. Like many aspects of marketing, there will be a lot of trial and error when first incorporating the modes of persuasion into your approach. However, by using the three modes of persuasion and then evaluating each specific marketing campaign, you will be able to determine which technique is most effective for your industry.
This may sound complicated when broken down, but chances are that you use the modes of persuasion in your personal life and professional life every single day. It’s about getting back to the basics. Master the basics, and you will soon master the craft.
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Author: David Villa, Forbes Councils Member