Your success as a salesperson depends on your ability to influence and persuade your prospects throughout the sales process. It can range from persuading a prospect to take an initial call with you, influencing them on what criteria is most important during the evaluation process, to convincing them to accept your pricing and terms during negotiations. We can all agree that getting to “yes” at every step along the way is the goal, but drawing the map to do so can be less clear.
Dr. Robert Cialdini is one of my favorite thinkers on the science of persuasion and the factors that influence us to say “yes.” In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion he’s boiled it down to six universal principles that are easy to understand. The book is a must-read for anyone in sales. I’ll review three of the six along with specific examples of how you can use them in your sales process to build better relationships and close more deals.
1. Reciprocity: We feel obliged to give when we receive.
Reciprocity is the act of rewarding kind actions. When someone does something nice for us, we’re more likely to do something nice for them in return. In everyday life, this could be the desire to invite someone to a party at your house if they’ve invited you to one at theirs previously or the simple act of returning a compliment. You might be surprised at how powerful the principle of reciprocity is, though. (Unless, of course, you’ve seen this clip from “The Godfather” movie.) A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that even something as simple as a waiter giving a customer mints after a meal could increase tips by up to 23%. What you give sometimes isn’t as important as just the act of giving.
2. Authority: We follow the lead of credible, knowledgable experts.
Having authority and expertise is extremely powerful when it comes to influencing decisions. As buyers, we’re much more likely to purchase products or services that have been recommended by people we view as having authority. This is why doctors display their diplomas on their office walls or why you’re more likely to try a restaurant that’s received a favorable review from someone with “Elite” status on Yelp!.
As sales people, we can build a stronger relationship with prospects by signaling our authority in the industry. Introductions can be an extremely powerful and effective way to provide this signal. After all, immediately telling each of our prospects how brilliant and accomplished we are might come off a touch egotistical. A study on one real estate company found that by having the receptionist mention the credentials of the agent (e.g. “Let me connect you with Joe. He has 15 years of experience in selling properties.”) before routing a call increased appointments by 20%. Researching and leveraging your existing connections for warm introductions that highlight your expertise needn’t be difficult. You can easily use LinkedIn, your CRM, or software like Introhive to identify people in your network that are connected to your prospect. When asking for an introduction to a valuable sales prospect, be sure to provide your introducer with what makes you an expert, such as your years in the field, knowledge of your industry, or experience with similar client. A strong introduction can open the door and establish yourself as the expert.
3. Consensus: We look to the actions of others to determine our own.
In an ideal world, buyers would have all information available to them and an infinite amount of time to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each decision. More often than not, this isn’t the case, and we must rely on social cues to aid us in our decision making process. One of these important social cues is consensus. We’re more likely to do or purchase something if others have done it in the past, even more so if they are similar to us. This is one of the reasons why nightclubs will often keep a long line of people waiting outside even if it’s empty inside. The line signals to people walking or driving by that others are going to the club.
There are a number of ways we can leverage social cues of consensus in our sales process. One great way is through case studies and customer testimonials. Showing a prospect that others have purchased your product and seen success can go a long way to convincing them that you’re the right choice. It’s even better if you can provide examples of companies that are similar to them, either in terms of industry, company size, geographic location, or customer focus. Other ways that you can provide evidence that others like them are evaluating and purchasing your product is through providing customer lists, referencing the number of customers you have, or displaying marquee customers on your site. Prospects will be more likely to do business with you if they see that others like them already are.
In his book, Cialdini outlines three additional principles of persuasion in his book — Liking, Commitment, and Scarcity. Understanding the psychology of persuasion and what influences your prospects in their decision making process can help you close more deals. Which of these six principles are you using in your sales process today?