Last Friday an estimated four million people in over 150 countries took part in The Global Climate Strike, a protest against government and business inaction on climate change.
The event was led by Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish activist who is fast becoming a household name.
After watching Greta’s speech to Congress last week and seeing how much traction and support she is gaining where others have failed, I’ve become fascinated by the way she has built up credibility and convinced people to support her cause.
Despite climate change being a key issue with strong evidence to back it up, governments have historically been slow to act on it. However, Greta has succeeded where others have failed, garnering support from influential figures like Barack Obama and being invited to speak in front of political leaders around the world.
Although Greta is not a salesperson in the traditional sense of the word, I often find it useful to step out of the sales sphere for inspiration. In this article, I want to take a look at some of the techniques Greta uses to enhance her credibility and win support, and how they can be applied in the sales world.
Create a Sense of Urgency by Giving an Ultimatum
Although there is a general awareness that climate change could have serious negative effects on our planet in the future, Greta puts this into a perspective that people can relate to by using time frames.
In a speech earlier this year at the Houses of Parliament, she told MPs that unless we cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50% by 2030, we will “set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it”.
By using this rather definitive ultimatum, she forces people to acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be solved immediately rather than in a distant future.
In doing so, Greta frames time as a precious commodity that is running out. This approach reminds me of one of Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion: scarcity.
His theory states that as soon as people become aware of the scarcity of a product, they will want more of it. Whether it’s an idea you’re selling or a new product, it’s crucial to create a sense of urgency and encourage people to invest in your product sooner rather than later.
Become an Expert in Your Field
Greta increases her credibility by demonstrating a thorough knowledge. She uses relevant, up-to-date statistics to support her claims and cites well-respected, credible sources in her speeches such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s body for assessing the science related to climate change.
Greta recognises the importance of using reliable, objective data, which will prove her credibility, stating in her speech to Congress last week: “These numbers are not my opinions. They aren’t anyone’s opinions or political views. This is the current best available science.”
Using data to convince people of the validity of your product is another of Cialdini’s principles of persuasion: authority. To gain trust, it’s important to establish yourself as a credible, knowledgeable authority with the latest data about your product, your client and the industry.
Appeal to People’s Emotions
Facts and figures are crucial for building credibility and trust. However, research has shown that to convince people to buy your product, it’s important to appeal to them as humans with feelings and emotions. Greta does this by putting initially arbitrary facts and figures into a context that people can easily understand and which appeals to them on an emotional level.
In her speech to the Houses of Parliament, she puts the year 2030 into context by saying that she will be 26 years old, “like many of your own children or grandchildren”. One of the keys to her success is the way she appeals to important leaders on a human level, making them think about how their actions (or inaction) could have a negative effect on people they care about.
A similar technique is effective in sales too; Bain & Company’s elements of value pyramid demonstrates the importance of appealing to people’s more subjective, emotional values when selling a product rather than solely focusing on objective values like product specifications and cost.
By addressing and offering a solution to your clients’ anxieties, you can build up a high level of trust and increase customer loyalty.
Build a Wide Coalition of Support
Greta enhances her credibility by networking with influential people. In a video released last week by the Obama Foundation, she was seen fist-bumping with Barack Obama as he tells her “you and me, we’re a team”. This kind of exposure raises Greta’s profile and builds trust.
This is a well-known technique in sales, as companies often highlight their work with blue-chip clients to create an image of a highly reputable business with valuable connections.
As well as speaking to highly relevant and influential people like Obama, Greta also builds a diverse coalition of support from less obvious sources. She recently featured on a song with pop band ‘The 1975’ and is extremely popular in the art world too, with many artists choosing to use her image to raise awareness of climate change.
In the sales world, it’s equally important to maintain a diverse network of support and spread awareness of your business. I regularly attend networking events, write guest blog posts and have built up connections with a wide range of local businesses and journalists to promote my company to the wider community.
By creating a sense of urgency, positioning herself as an authoritative figure, appealing to people’s emotions and building a wide coalition of support, Greta has succeeded in selling the idea that governments must act on climate change now. These same techniques can be applied in sales to improve credibility and convince clients of a need for your product.