Channeling Aristotle for Successful Software Selection

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Do you remember learning about ethos, pathos, and logos?  Nope, they’re not the Three Musketeers, but perhaps knowing about them can be just as helpful when selecting software.

In fact, understanding ethos, pathos, and logos, and more importantly, how software vendors use them can help ensure you make the right software selection.channeling aristotle software selection

How you ask?

When it comes down to it, the Sales and Marketing Team is trying to persuade you to buy their product…and they are very good at it.  They know about ethos, pathos, and logos.

And soon, so will you. Let’s take a look at what they are, how software vendors attempt to use them, and how your understanding of them will lead to a successful software selection.

First some background and definitions:

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Rhetoric is the art of speaking or writing effectively.  Sounds like Sales and Marketing to me.

Expanding on that, Aristotle defined rhetoric as the ability to recognize the available means of persuasion in any given situation.  Sounds like really good Sales and Marketing to me.

And in his book, Rhetoric, Aristotle described the three technical means of persuasion:

  1. Ethos: the speaker’s power of evincing a personal character which will make his speech credible
  2. Pathos: the speaker’s power of stirring the emotions of the hearers (readers)
  3. Logos: the speaker’s power of providing a truth, or an apparent truth, by means of persuasive arguments

It’s important to note that these three means are used by writers as well.  All those fancy brochures are full of them.

With that basic understanding, let’s take a look at how software vendors can use these means and how you can defend yourself against them.

Software Vendors and Ethos:

Why do you think vendors state, “#1 Industry-Leading, Most Awesome, World Renowned, Bestest Software Ever…EVER!” on their website?

They are attempting to prove their character and build credibility, albeit in a very ineffective way.  Buying the right to post the BBB logo or joining industry groups and listing them are almost as bad.

You and Ethos:

It’s essential that you evaluate and prove the “character” of any vendor on your list.  The best way to do this is by talking to the experts… not the Marketing Team but the actual users of the software.

User testimonials, references, referrals, etc… are the best way to judge the character of a company that you are about to form a long-term (hopefully) relationship with.

Make sure you hear from those that really know.

Software Vendors and Pathos:

This one is easy to spot because we’re bombarded with them all the time…advertisements that tap into your emotional reasoning.

Every good Sales or Marketing person has learned to connect on an emotional level, or find the “pain points” and discuss those.  We know that most purchases are made not because of the rational points but because of the emotional points.

All Sales and Marketing people love to use this.

You and Pathos:

Funny thing is… you love it too.  It works for you as well as them.  You need it just as much as they do to justify the purchase; to feel good about it.  After all, it’s your feeling of hope, frustration, or sheer agony that has you looking at software.

The trick here is to make sure you’re emotionally considering the proven benefits rather than the flashy features of a system.  Make sure you are aware of the deep-seated emotional reasons you are looking for software.  And make sure the benefits address the reasons.

Software Vendors and Logos:

Most of the white papers, technical documents, and case studies you get are trying to persuade your logical side.  They are attempting to prove a truth with data, stats, and figures.

These can be very effective and very helpful during your evaluation.

You and Logos:

Just make sure you consider the source.  There is nothing wrong with using vendor information.  Just don’t stop there.  In addition to their information, make sure to find objective third parties that can verify the claims that are being made.

Make sure you are getting the truth.  As you know, just because they said it, doesn’t make it true.

Putting Them All Together

Persuasion isn’t bad.  Ultimately, someone will persuade you to buy software.  Question is, “Who will it be?”

Understand how vendors are trying to persuade you and dig a little deeper to get the information you need to persuade yourself.

Get the facts (logos), make sure your “reasons” are met (pathos), and verify that the company is legit (ethos) and you’re on your way to a successful software selection.

Ps. While we’re not on par with Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle, we can teach you a thing or two about selecting the right software for your business.  Call for FREE expert guidance (855.GO.SOFTWARE) when you’re ready to start the process.

Looking for software? Check out Capterra's list of the best software solutions.

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About the Author


Ryan Yeoman

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Ryan Yeoman currently resides in the always sunny Cabo San Marketing neighborhood at Capterra working with a great team to help software buyers find the right software. He's inspired by his two sons, the mountains, and Life is Good T-shirts.


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