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We’ve often talked about the importance of communication skills for startups. While there are many personal qualities and experiences that a founder needs to become successful, communication is without a doubt one of the most important.

Moreover, while communication skills are crucial for all walks of life, startup founders desperately need the ability to persuade people about non-obvious, often new and experimental things and ideas.

This is a task you shouldn’t underestimate – going in without a strategy is a bad idea.

Here are a couple of tips that would help up succeed more often:

1. Demonstrate You Have The Group Interest In Mind

Most people with some life experience behind their backs tend to immediately raise defensive barriers when they are getting sold to.

In order to be able to persuade, you need to overcome this. To do so, it’s crucial to clearly demonstrate you are not thinking only of your own interests and to start building trust. How you do this is case-specific, but it’s a good practice to explicitly point out the benefits for both parties – the win-win situation you are trying to build.

If you have some sort of a conflict of interest (which is often the case if you are selling your products or projects), make sure to point it out right from the start. This is a powerful tactic that builds trust, which is vital if you want to evoke curiosity in people, rather than defensiveness or even fear.

2. Demonstrate Consistency

A meta-analysis of 97 studies about how people advocating minority opinions exert influence found that people perceived as being especially consistent in their views are more influential.

In a way, this is not surprising – in a social setting, reliability and consistency are premium qualities. It’s hard to trust chaotic and unpredictable people.


Of course, this has a downside – sticking with your views no matter what the facts show is not a great idea, especially in a startup setting in which you need to be able to constantly adapt to new signals from your environment.

That said, this doesn’t mean consistency is a bad thing. Rather than sticking to particular views and opinions, however, it’s a good idea to stick to goals and values. If you manage to build a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness, then persuasion would become much easier.

3. Get Support

The first customer, investor, or follower is the hardest one to get. Once you have them, however, things start coming easier.

This is true because of a simple fact – people want social proof. They don’t want to be the first ones to bear the risk. At the same time, once a critical mass of people has bought into an idea, fear of missing out starts setting in people late to the party.

Consequently, it’s best to first go to the people who would be easier to persuade, usually because of closely aligned interests. Approaching hard to convince people as a group rather than on your own can makes persuasion much easier.

Of course, if you can get authoritative and credible allies, then persuasion becomes even easier. This is arguably the main reason why Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, was able to fool a notable list of investors to back her company even though she lacked any proof her product worked as intended.

4. Lean On Objective Information

Last but not least, it’s hard to argue with facts. Make sure objective facts argue for you rather than against you. Taking the time to support your views and opinions empirically can make your arguments much stronger.

You need the logos from the ethos/pathos/logos modes of persuasion triad. In other words, after establishing your credibility and taking care of the emotional barriers of your audience, you need to make sure you’re delivering a persuasive logical argument.

In summary:

  1. Start by converting the “we’re on the same team” message.
  2. Build a professional reputation of trustworthiness and consistency.
  3. Don’t swim against the current alone – get support.
  4. Find empirical proof of your arguments

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