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Book Review:
The Five Paths to Persuasion

By Matthew Arnold Stern

Know your audience. This is the cardinal rule of all communication, and it is especially important when it comes to persuasion. The problem is figuring out how to approach the person you're trying to persuade. Does that person get easily excited by cool new ideas? Or does that person need plenty of facts and figures before making a careful decision? Or does the person refuse to listen to any ideas unless he or she is the one who comes up with them?

The Five Paths to Persuasion by Robert B. Miller and Gary A. Williams with Alden M. Hayashi shows you how to identify different types of decision makers and the decision-making methods they use. The authors present five main categories of decision makers. Although I'm usually wary about pigeonholing people, the authors back up their categories with exhaustive research and provide plenty of examples of famous executives who fit those groups. As I read those profiles, I saw how useful these groups are and how others I've worked with fit into them.

For example, does the customer seem to light up when you give an innovative proposal and swiftly offers you a firm commitment, but that person never returns your calls when you expect to complete the order? You may be dealing with what the authors call a charismatic. Such decision makers embrace risk and new ideas and make decisions quickly. They won't act on those decisions, however, until they feel the pieces are in place. They're willing to change their minds if they discover that the pieces don't fit.

Or, when you give a presentation, does the executive constantly interrupt you and ask pointed, hostile, or maybe even downright rude questions? You may have other words to describe that person, but the authors label such people as skeptics. As aggressive as skeptics may seem, you can persuade them if you establish your credibility, state your case without putting that person on the defensive, and try not to become defensive yourself.

For each of the different types of decision makers, the authors provide clear descriptions of their decision-making methods and the reasons behind them, and the techniques you should use before, during, and after you meet with them. All of the information is clearly written as bullet points, fascinating case studies, and easy-to-follow charts.

What if you're not sure what type of person you're trying to persuade? The book provides a handy tool called a Behavioral Dial that shows you the differences between these decision-making styles and helps you identify by process of elimination where the person fits. One chapter shows you how to avoid mistakes in identifying different types of decision makers by focusing on what executives do rather than what they say or how they claim to act.

What if you need to persuade large groups? The Five Paths of Persuasion gives you helpful suggestions and a PowerPoint outline that addresses the needs of the majority of listeners. You will also learn how to turn an "elevator speech" into a dialogue that can bring the results you seek.

The Five Paths of Persuasion is a valuable and enlightening tool that will help you understand different types of decision makers. When you know your audience and how they make decisions, you will know the right approach to sway them to decide in your favor.

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The 5 Paths to Persuasion: The Art of Selling Your Message

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