Persuasion: The Art of Selling

By Lucas Grabbe

Do you believe you are an effective salesperson?  No matter the area of business, everyone will have to sell, whether it is a product or service or a pitch to your boss. The ability to sell is one of the most important business skills. Ben Carlson of Business Insider argues that it is also one of the most overlooked skills in today’s business schools.

When you speak to an audience, your purpose can be to perform, persuade, or build a relationship of trust. This past year, I sold Carolina Hurricanes tickets for one of my classes. For those of you who don’t know, the Carolina Hurricanes are one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League, making selling tickets extremely difficult. I found that the best way to sell was to persuade. In sales, persuasion is necessary and accomplishable in a number of ways. Learning how to effectively persuade will help you become a better salesperson.

What is Persuasion?

The goal of persuasion is to change what others believe or to entice them to take action. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined rhetoric as three different appeals:

  • Ethos – appeal to ethics, image, or credibility
  • Logos – appeal to logic
  • Pathos – appeal to passion or emotion

Depending on the situation, you may want to use one or a combination of these appeals. Say you are pitching a stock to your boss, you could use logos to show past trends in the market and ethos to show the credibility of the company. Or if you are advertising a product, you may want to appeal to someone’s emotions.

Seven Tools of Persuasion

The following are seven different tools the Kenan-Flagler Business Communication Center provides for making persuasive appeals. Here’s how you can adapt them for selling:Seven Persuasive Tools

  • Statistics – providing numbers works well because 70 percent of people value quantifiable information to understand their environment
  • History – giving past examples provides the buyer a basis for making a more informed decision
  • Analogy – comparing  products, services, or pitches to a known idea can be very effective for making a sale
  • Example – persuading through illustration enables the seller to portray that his or her product or service is superior to another
  • Comparison and Contrast – comparing and/or contrasting what is sold or pitched to a similar product, service, or idea strengthens the argument to purchase or accept
  • Consequences – demonstrating what will occur if you do or do not buy or sell an item provides reasoning to make the purchase or accept the idea
  • Authority – supporting with a credible source of authority can make the task of selling easier

You can use these tactics in a variety of ways depending on the situation. To make your sales pitch even stronger, you may consider using many of these techniques. Many of these tools are fantastic ways to hook the buyer as well. For instance, if you are trying to obtain funds for a start-up company, an endorsement from leaders in the industry would help convince people to invest. Personally, I found that history was extremely effective in my sales experience because the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup less than 10 years ago.

To conclude, business students don’t always receive formal teaching of how to sell. At Kenan-Flagler, we are fortunate that our professors provide us with strategies to make our next sale. Therefore, I am happy to share a few tips that I have learned along the way. When making your next sale, try utilizing one or more of these seven persuasive tools in accordance with Aristotle’s appeals.

Happy selling!


November 22, 2015 at 9:30 pm 2 comments

Setting Goals and Achieving Your True Potential

By Blake Messerly

I’m an ambitious person, and I have been for the most of my life. Because of that, I’ve been setting goals for myself since a young age so I always had something to work towards. My goals gave me a reason to work harder, especially during those times when I wanted to give up.

Admittedly, over the years I’ve done a better job at achieving some of my goals compared to others, but I did manage to achieve what I would consider the biggest, and perhaps toughest, goal of my life: Gaining acceptance into UNC-Chapel Hill as an out-of-state student. And since achieving that goal, I haven’t slowed down in working hard to try to set the mark even higher and do all I can to reach it.

I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned through my successes and failures in setting and achieving goals by covering the importance of goals, the S.M.A.R.T. goal method, as well as a couple other useful tips.

Why Goals Are Important 

By setting a goal, you help give yourself a future trajectory on which you can work. As a point of reference, a goal enables you to effectively track where you stand and compare that to where you want to go. You must first determine with yourself what you want – once you do that you can then effectively communicate that goal with others and position yourself so you can best achieve it.

For me, I set my goal of gaining acceptance to UNC early – in the sixth grade after I drove through Chapel Hill for the first time. By setting this goal early, I motivated myself to work hard throughout middle and high school. My parents knew what I was working towards and helped support me in all of my endeavors. More importantly, my goal helped keep things in perspective. As soon as I became a junior in high school, my mailbox became flooded with emails and brochures from other colleges and university. Even as this happened though, I kept my focus on UNC and ultimately gained acceptance my senior year of high school.

While colleges likely will not be recruiting you in the business setting, you will likely face several other distractions such as phone calls from headhunters or an inbox full of emails with pressing needs. Having set a concrete goal related to your career or even the current task at hand will help you remain focused, even if you do have to divert your attention for a little while to handle other issues.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

By making sure you set S.M.A.R.T. goals, you set yourself up for greater chances of actually achieving that goal.Messerly%2c Blake 401 Final Blog Visual (1) This method of goal setting has proven successful and has been used in various settings such as organizational behavior or health and fitness. Each letter of this acronym stands for:

Specific: Your goal needs to clearly define what you are trying to achieve. Specificity helps prevent you from bailing out later on your original goal to say that you “more or less” achieved it when it really wasn’t what you aimed to achieve initially.

Example: I want to maintain 100% accuracy in all of the financial figures I present to the client.

Measurable: Make your goals concrete so you can both measure your progress as you go and know when you fully achieve it. If you set a vague goal, you have no way of knowing when you achieve it.

Example: I want to receive a grade of “Above Average” on at least three of the five categories on our next performance review.

Attainable: You need to be able to realistically achieve the goal that you set. If the goal isn’t realistic, then why did you set that goal in the first place?

Example: I want to arrive to work on time every day this week, leaving early if necessary to account for traffic.

Relevant: Your goal needs to be pertinent to what you want to achieve. The goal should focus on measuring outcomes as opposed to activities.

Example: I want to implement our new employee expense tracking system by Sunday so we can better track how much money our employees are spending.

Time-Bound: By connecting your goal to a timeframe, you give yourself a hard deadline by which you can achieve your goal. This provides a sense of urgency and helps give you an understanding of how much time lies between now and when you hope to achieve that goal so you can budget your time appropriately. You can even set up a couple smaller dates before the larger deadline to help hold yourself accountable and make sure you stay on track.

Example: I will set up a meeting with my manager by this Thursday to discuss my performance on the current project and to find out how I can further improve.

Other Tips

Setting the goal is just the first step – you must effectively follow through if you hope to achieve it. Communication becomes a key part in this, both communicating with others to help hold you accountable as well as communicating with yourself so you can honestly appraise your progress. Several related factors that contribute to success in achieving those goals. Some of these include:

  • Have an Accountability Partner – A recent study by Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University showed that those who gave weekly updates to a friend on their progress towards achieving a goal were much more likely to achieve their goals as opposed to those who did not. If you can effectively communicate your goals and your motivations for achieving those specific goals with someone else, he or she will be able to hold you more accountable to achieving them. Perhaps you can even convince them to become a stakeholder in the goal themselves and further increase your motivation to achieve it.
  • Write Your Goals Down – By writing something down, you’re more likely to commit that idea to memory. More importantly, writing your goal down gives you something tangible to look at. As a high school freshman I created a list of five goals I wanted to achieve by the time I had graduated. I wrote them on a piece of paper which I folded and kept in my wallet so I’d have it on me at all times to remind me over the course of my four years. Whatever method you choose to use, make sure you clearly articulate your goals so you leave no room for interpretation.
  • Have Consequences – Have a contingency plan in case you don’t achieve your goal. By creating this plan, you can potentially motivate yourself even more to achieve it on time. For example, if you don’t finish your part for the final client deliverable, you will likely face severe consequences from your manager.
  • Break Larger Goals into Smaller Ones – Putting a large final deliverable on your to-do list as your goal isn’t effective, as you likely won’t complete it for several weeks. While that may be the final goal, breaking that down into smaller segments such as financial analysis and operations implications can help you better manage your time.
  • Revisit and Revise – Revisit your goal frequently – daily, weekly, or as often as necessary. More importantly, revise it as necessary. Just like good communication skills change based on the situation, goals can change sometimes to better fit the current situation so they remain pertinent and attainable. Just make sure not to change it too much to where you sell yourself short and don’t leave yourself with an actual goal to achieve!

By adhering to some of these key principles, I’ve managed to find success in my college career and, hopefully, can continue to see that success in my professional career after graduation. Best of luck in setting and hopefully achieving all of your future goals!

November 21, 2015 at 6:08 pm 3 comments

Fearless Speeches: The Five-Step Guide to Public Speaking

By Josh Neal

Everyone is staring, waiting for you to speak. Your hands are sweaty, your mouth is dry and your mind is blank. Your nerves have gotten the best of you, and all you want to do is run and hide.

You wonder why public speaking causes you so much anxiety and cannot understand why you have been plagued with this irrational fear. However, you are not alone. In fact, the fear of public speaking is often ranked higher than death.

I remember my first professional presentation; I was so worried I couldn’t sleep the night before. Now I can give presentations without a sweat. How did I eradicate this fear? By following these five steps: knowing your audience, knowing your information, creating an outline, practicing and remaining calm. Follow these steps, and you will be able to give a fearless presentation as well.josh

Know your Audience

Understanding your audience and their expectations is the first step to successful public speaking. I have found that defining the audience helps with gauging how professional or relaxed the presentation should be. Having a definitive audience will also help you in creating a message directed specifically towards them. Additionally, knowing your audience beforehand will make you less nervous while presenting.

Next, define specific expectations of your audience. If you don’t understand what your audience hopes to gain from your presentation, you cannot gauge its success. Whether I am presenting in a classroom or a boardroom, I always reach out to get a grasp on what my audience is expecting. Reaching out to someone ahead of time and asking what an efficacious presentation would entail shows that you care and helps you understand your audience.

Know your Information

Having a well-rounded knowledge of the topic you are speaking about will help to ease your nerves. You don’t have to become an expert, but make sure that you know enough about the information to answer any questions your audience may throw at you.

The most impressive presentations I have ever given involved statistical insights that really drew my audience in. The audience was impressed that I knew the topic well enough to state real numbers, and it made the speech more memorable. Using statistics or pertinent examples will improve your presentation by adding credibility to what you are saying.

Create an Outline

One of the biggest mistakes people make when giving presentations is that they try to memorize everything they are going to say. A single slipup can throw you off for the rest of your presentation. That’s why creating an outline with cues is much more effective.

Include the main logical and structural components of your presentation in your outline. I typically create a bulleted list of everything I want to talk about and link these components together in a sequence to create the most effective outline. Following this outline will give you ease of mind and make your presentation flow smoothly.


Everyone has heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect;” well, in this situation it does. I always present to a group of friends or colleagues, and ask for feedback beforehand to polish my presentation. A polished presentation will really resonate with your audience.

However, I make sure not to over practice. Too much practice can make you seem robotic while presenting and make your presentation seem less authentic. Therefore, I typically practice my presentation about three to five times beforehand.

Remain Calm

As my professor once told me, “When you are swimming with sharks, don’t bleed.” Becoming flustered or nervous can lead you on a downward spiral and make your presentation flop. Before presenting, try using power poses or eating dark chocolate to lower your cortisol levels. Encourage yourself by thinking, “I can do this; I know the material and I am ready to present this information.”

Following these five steps will provide you with all of the tools necessary to have a successful and fearless presentation. Now go and conquer your fear!

November 20, 2015 at 1:30 pm 3 comments

In a World of Excess, Businesspeople Prefer Simple

By Emily Godwin

As students, we spend our academic career developing one skill just to find that most of society prefers a more basic version.  We progressively learn to write more elaborate, lengthier, and complex documents, when in reality, most people, especially in business, communicate through plain language.write

Plain language is “communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it.”  Writing in plain language helps the reader understand the concept more quickly and clearly. Sounds simple, right? Like we are traveling back to elementary or middle school? Well, think again. Going back to the simpler days may be harder than you think.

Think simpler. Think about what you want the reader to take away from your writing. Here are five tips from the Center for Plain Language that help people quickly read and clearly understand the message you are trying to convey.

  1. Identify and describe the target audience

Define the purpose of your writing and the intended audience.  This strategy will enable you to decide on the format, document design, and language of the piece.  Knowing your target audience keeps your writing focused on exactly what you want the audience to do or learn.

  1. Structure the content

Organization and structure are crucial to plain language. The reader needs to understand the purpose of the writing quickly. The structure of the document may vary depending on the target audience. Three universal tips for writing more effectively include organizing content logically, keeping sections short, and including verb-led headings.  The reader can skim and find information quickly in the document.

  1. Write in plain language

Say exactly what you intend the audience to know. Make sentences short, logical, grammatically correct, and to the point.  Provide important information first in each section or paragraph and use a conversational tone, active voice, appropriate vocabulary, and parallel structure when listing words.  The reader should grasp the concept quickly and accurately.

  1. Use information design

Document design will vary for different audiences.  Create a neatly organized and visually appealing document the reader will understand quickly. Use headings and spacing to structure information and typography (font size, color, bold, etc.) to direct the reader’s attention.  If necessary, include art (graphs, pictures, charts, etc.) to help the reader understand the content more clearly.

  1. Revise document design and content with target user group

Working with the target user group to test the design and content ensures readability and effectiveness.  Look for the following when reviewing: grammatical errors, structural layout, and purpose.  Documents are successful when the target audience can quickly find information, effectively understand, and confidently act on it.

In conclusion, don’t overthink plain language. Write a visually appealing, to-the-point document that your target audience will easily understand.  That’s it.  Keep it simple.  People will thank you.


November 19, 2015 at 7:05 am 5 comments

Women in Business: Be Assertive and Get What You Want

By Alsey Davidson

According to Business Insider, only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Why is that? Some people say it’s because of natural trait differences, varying educational opportunities, or general societal standards. However, one of my theories is that women are either too afraid to be assertive, or they are seen as “bossy” or “bitchy” if they are assertive.

Many articles show how women are treated unfairly in the workplace (gender inequality, workplace bias). This post is not another one of those articles. Instead, this post is about my personal experience in the business world and what I have learned about being assertive. My goal is to draw on my own experiences and help show other women that being assertive can lead to being successful.

This past summer, I worked with a team of 20 men and one other woman.alsey During this experience, I noticed that my actions were sometimes viewed differently because I am a woman. For example, oftentimes I felt that the men were caught off guard when I spoke up during meetings because I was a younger female. Another time, I requested a meeting with a senior executive, and my male coworkers told me I was being too forward. It bothered me a bit at first, but I learned to brush it off by the end of the summer.


One of the most important things that I learned is that you can get what you want by asserting yourself, but you certainly won’t get it if you don’t say anything. Please note that I am saying assertive, not aggressive — i.e. defending your own rights without hurting those of others.  There is a difference, and you should be sure to not cross over into aggressiveness.

Now, I will discuss one time when asserting myself led to a very positive outcome. An important takeaway from this experience is that I wasn’t afraid to be assertive because I truly felt I deserved what I was asking for. I hope that women can learn from my experience if they are in a similar situation.

When I first received my job offer, I was not happy with the initial salary. When considering whether or not I should negotiate, I was told by my (male) coworkers that it might make me “look bad” or “seem unprofessional and ungrateful.” At first, I worried they may be right. Will I seem rude and ungrateful if I ask for more money? Then, I spoke with my career advisor and, fortunately, my opinion changed.

My advisor told me, “You should 100% negotiate. Why wouldn’t you?” When I ended up negotiating, I was very straightforward and assertive with HR; I told them that believed I deserved a higher salary due to national averages and that I needed more money to account for the high cost of living. It was as simple as that: my negotiation efforts led to a $10,000 increase in salary. HR understood my argument and met my request.

From this experience, I learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for something. If you present your case professionally and rationally, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get what you want. So the next time you think you deserve something, go for it. Don’t worry about seeming bitchy, bossy, or aggressive. If your company respects the rights of women, and if you truly deserve what you’re asking for, you should receive it.

November 18, 2015 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

3 Reasons You Lost Your Job (Besides “Budget Cuts”)

By Casey Brecher

Many of us either already have or someday will suffer through being laid off. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that so far in 2015, more than 15 million Americans have involuntarily lost their jobs. One of the most painful aspects of this experience is not knowing why we were valued less than our peers (especially Steve, whose microwaved tuna salad wafts a pungent aroma throughout the office each day at lunchtime). We don’t realize, however, that our every word and action communicates a message to coworkers, clients, and bosses. This article will identify three behaviors that you may not have realized were rubbing your boss the wrong way.

Stop Slouching

I don’t want to sit at a desk all day, either.Mehrabian Nonetheless, we should remember that posture sends signals about attitude.
Sitting upright, or leaning forward slightly, communicates a higher level of alertness, interest, productivity, and focus on the task at hand. Contrarily, slouching communicates laziness, apathy, and general disinterest in our work. This seemingly minor difference is so important because, according to Dr. Albert Mehrabian (Figure 1), body language is the most powerful means of communication. Slouching Blog PhotoThus, when your boss glances out of her office window to find you sliding down your chair while Steve sits up straight (even though he’s just editing a picture of his cat’s birthday party), she is inclined to believe that you’re a less enthusiastic worker.

Watch “You’re” Grammar

We’ve all confused “there” with “they’re,” “your” with “you’re,” or “to” with “too.” Many grammatical mistakes can be subtle and difficult to notice – unless you check your work. To your boss, an error in grammar can signify a lack of education, intelligence, attention to detail, work ethic, or concern for the quality of your writing. This concept applies to verbal interactions as well, which can prove more difficult if you’re less familiar with standard grammatical rules. Take the time to review some of these basics, such as the difference between subjective and objective case (“who” and “whom”); otherwise, Steve’s consistently accurate apostrophe placements may determine the difference between your job and his.

Put Your Phone Down

We all have valid reasons to be near our phones at work: managers need help, clients call, and kids have to be picked up from day care for eating too many crayons. (Just me?) Nonetheless, our intentions often don’t come across in meetings. According to research from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, “older professionals and those with higher incomes are far more likely to think it is inappropriate to be checking text messages or emails during meetings of any kind.” Instead of trying to impress your boss with constant availability, do so with attentiveness and respect. Next time you see Steve check the time on his plastic Star Trek watch, remember not to pull out your phone.

At the very least, consciously monitoring your demeanor in the office may be enough to set you ahead of Steve the next time your boss considers job cuts.

November 17, 2015 at 1:04 pm 4 comments

Tell a Story: Earn a Job

By Michael Cacciatore

“Walk me through your resume”–also phrased as “tell me about yourself”–is usually the first question that the interviewer asks.  We all expect this question, yet very few people know how to answer this important question in a way that captivates the interviewer’s attention. Looking back to my first year in college, I understand why I did not succeed in interviews. My opening response was boring; I simply recited my resume. The interviewer could have read my resume for the same effect. Additionally, I didn’t make my response memorable from the very beginning. blog 2Dan and Chip Heath in their book, Made to Stick, discuss several themes that make an idea sticky. Two such themes are telling stories and making your idea or response concrete. These two themes will make your answer memorable and guarantee that the interviewer won’t forget you when deciding who will receive the job or internship offer.

Tell a Story

Brian DeChesare in his renowned interview guide, Breaking into Wall Street, advises people to answer “walk me through your resume” in a story format. DeChesare recommends designing a response that includes a beginning, a spark, a flame, a why, and a future. Each segment should link to the next providing a narrative tone to this question. By doing so, you not only demonstrate why you want the job, but you also highlight your communication skills, a necessary skill in any profession.Blog cacciatore

For the beginning, discuss where you are from and why you chose to attend a certain college. Afterwards, for the spark, mention how you became interested in the job for which you are applying. The next part is the flame section; describe what you did to grow your interest in a particular profession. This section as well as the spark are important because you are able to highlight your internships or extracurricular activities and incorporate the skills you have gained from them.

After you have summed up your resume, address why you want to work for this company. One way to tackle this section is by networking in advance, which helps you learn more about the company and its culture. Discussing connections you’ve formed and mentioning specific people will immediately make you stand out. Additionally, networking enables employees to associate a name and face with a resume and helps you make it past the “infamous” resume drop. After discussing why you want to work for that specific company, finish your answer by stating what your future goals are and why this company is instrumental to these long-term goals.

Be Memorable

Throughout the day, an interviewer may interview ten or more people. Most people fail to make themselves memorable to their recruiter. Therefore, other people may obtain the job because they first came to the recruiter’s mind. Alluding back to Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Heath discuss concreteness. Being concrete helps others relate to or perceive an idea or statement. You should intertwine unique and concrete experiences or activities into your story that differentiate you. For my spark, I discuss how losing two grandparents to cancer led to wanting a career in finance after joining Relay for Life because I realized I enjoyed using business as a vehicle to help people, specifically those battling cancer. Finance enables me, on a greater scale, to empower companies to achieve their goals. Weaving in a personal connection enables the interviewee to stand out and even relate personally to the recruiter. Add relevant details to your story that differentiate you and show how you are unique.

Speak concisely

When tackling “Walk me through you resume,” people face another problem: conciseness. For example, saying, “I believe that accounting provides me the opportunity to do XYZ” is too long. I can simplify this statement by saying, “Accounting will enable me to do XYZ.” Minor changes such as these help you tell both a concise and memorable story. Speak concisely but still allow your personality to permeate your response. Interviewers are not only looking for people who are qualified but also people who are a good fit for their company.

By utilizing these three recommendations
, you will captivate your interviewer and immediately stand out among your peers by the time you answer the first question. The only thing left is to begin applying for jobs. Are you ready to start winning offers?

November 15, 2015 at 7:13 pm 3 comments

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