Veni. Vidi. Vici.
Friends. Romans. Countrymen.
Snap. Crackle. Pop.
For whatever reason, your brain is wired to pay more attention when provided with a list of three options. Your brain will be persuaded more easily when provided with a list of three arguments, and you’re more likely to take action if you’re given three reasons to do something.
For our brains, three is the magic number. Not two (“Too few!”) Not four (“Too many!”). No, three is the perfect number of options, arguments, or reasons to provide to the person you’re trying to persuade.
Let’s call it the Triad of Persuasion. If you can find a way to provide someone with three options, three arguments, or three reasons to justify their decision, you’ll have a much better chance of persuading them than ever before.
One of the most effective ways to put the Triad of Persuasion to use is when you need to handle an objection from someone you’re trying to persuade. It could be the judge you need to rule in your client’s favor, the potential client you want to sign, or the senior partner whose permission you need to work on a career-changing project.
Regardless of whom you’re trying to persuade, unless you’ve got the Force on your side (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”) you’re probably going to encounter objections.
For example, let’s take the scenario with your potential client. You’ve just started your new solo practice and have done such a great job of marketing yourself and improving your legal skills that now you’re sitting face-to-face with a potential client who could potentially need your legal services for years to come. But then, just as you think you’ve got everything finalized and are ready to ask for the business, she raises an objection: “I’m not sure we should do this… After all, you’re just a one-person operation.”
This might stump other attorneys, but not you. After all, since you’re a professional, you’ve already anticipated this objection. As Dr. Alan Weiss, the author of Million Dollar Consulting says, there aren’t any objections you haven’t heard before. So if you’re not prepared to respond to an objection, you’re negligent.
But you’re not negligent, that’s why you have not one, not two, but three answers ready for this objection.
Begin by disarming the objection with a confident statement, such as, “That’s exactly why you need me.”
That statement usually creates a pause or gets the client to ask, “What do you mean?” Either way, take this brief moment to gather your thoughts. Then launch into your Triad of Persuasion, outlining the benefits of hiring your single-person firm rather than a large, multi-national conglomerate: “First, you’re going to get my complete attention and will be my number one priority. You’re going to get a faster response because I can adapt quickly to respond to your needs. Second, you’re going to be dealing with the principal attorney at all times, so your case will never be handed off to somebody else who doesn’t know everything about the case. You’re never going to walk into court and see some junior attorney who you’ve never met before. And finally, since I’m a one-person operation, my fees don’t have to support a gigantic overhead or a large staff.”
(Obviously, if you work for a gigantic firm, you’d have three responses prepared for when the client objects and says, “I’m not sure we should do this… You’re such a large firm, I’m afraid my case won’t be a priority.”)
By preparing three responses to each objection, you become (literally) three times more persuasive. But actually, you’ll become even more persuasive than that, because the Triad of Persuasion has a multiplier effect. By stacking the three reasons, you appear more confident and more prepared, and therefore, you also appear more reliable.
But don’t limit your use of the Triad to those situations where you’ve prepared your responses to expected objections. You can also use the Triad when you’re speaking off the cuff and need to demonstrate your conviction or your confidence.
Let’s imagine a scenario where you’re at a luncheon and the person next to you asks, “You’re a lawyer, right? Do you think lawyers should advertise on TV?”
Again, start with confidence. “I’m glad you asked me that. There are three reasons why lawyers should/shouldn’t advertise on TV. First, because…”
When you make that statement, you may not know exactly what your three reasons are going to be. You’ll probably know exactly what your first reason will be, you’ll have some idea of what your second reason will be, but you might not have any idea at all what your third reason is going to be.
It doesn’t matter. You should still begin with the same set-up: “I’m glad you asked me that. There are three reasons why…” In fact, you should practice that set-up phrase a few times so that it rolls off your tongue. That way, while you’re delivering the line, you can put your mind into high gear and finalize your thoughts for reasons #2 and #3.
Watch how much more attentive your listeners become when you deliver three reasons for each question or each objection, rather than the customary one (or worse, the half-answer) that they usually receive.
By justifying your arguments with three points, you look more polished and better prepared. People will assume that you’ve put more thought into your answer, and will also feel that your answer is more believable, simply because you’ve done a better job of justifying it. By giving three reasons, rather than one, you’ll soon become more persuasive than ever before.