The Art of Persuasion

Entrepreneurs spend a huge proportion of their time persuading others – customers, investors, and employees. Understanding how to be better at the art of persuasion can be hugely helpful in your business.


There are two key points that every entrepreneur needs to understand about the new world of sales, persuasion and moving others. First, this is what you do. Entrepreneurs spend a huge portion of their time not only selling in the traditional sense their product, their service, their experience, but selling in a broader sense; persuading, convincing, cajoling people, trying to get employees to do something different or do something in a different way, trying to raise money from funders. That a big portion of what you do as an entrepreneur is sell, persuade and influence. It’s the essence of your job.

The second point is that you’re doing it on an entirely remade landscape. In the old days the seller always had more information than the buyer. Not only that, the buyer often didn’t have many choices and didn’t have a way to talk back. But that world has disappeared. We’re now in a world where buyers and sellers are evenly matched. The information asymmetry that defined the sales relationship is giving way to something closer to information parity. That’s a world where buyers have lots of information, as much as sellers in many cases, lots of choices, and all kinds of ways to talk back. That’s a fundamentally different world. And it’s happened so swiftly that I don’t think we’ve wrapped our minds around it.

That old world is a world of buyer beware. Buyers are unnoticed. The seller might rip you off. This is why we think of sales as sleazy and cheesy and manipulative. We are used to doing it in a world of information asymmetry. Now we’re in a world of seller beware. Seller, if you try to rip people off you’re going to get found out. And what that does is it forces people to the high road. And when we’re on the high road in our efforts to persuade people, the good news is that we can do things that are more fundamentally human. Indeed our effectiveness in persuading and influencing, moving others now hinges fundamentally on some human attributes. 

Suggested Readings

Founders School || Leadership and Motivation || The Art of Persuasion || Impact Guide (PDF).

Pink, Daniel. 2012. To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. NY: Riverhead Books.

Conger, Jay A. “The Necessary Art of Persuasion”. Harvard Business Review. May 1998.

Questions for You

What persuades me? Why?

How can I improve my ability to persuade others?

Tools and exercises

Does an image of a sleezy salesperson come to mind when you imagine sales? What images could you instead attach to modern view of the art of persuasion?