If you’re an entrepreneur, learning the art of sales is absolutely essential to your success. Without this skill, you won’t be able to grow your business.
Trying to build a successful enterprise without knowing how to persuade is like trying to drive all the way across the United States on one tank of gas. Your organization is a machine and people are the parts that move it forward.
Think about it. Your customers are people. Your employees are people. Investors are people. Vendors are people.
Are you noticing a theme here? Of course you are. In order to grow your business, you need to be able to get these people to do the things you want them to do.
However, you can’t do it if you don’t have any influence. This is where the art of sales comes in. Sales is convincing other people to take an action that you want them to take.
For many entrepreneurs, this poses a problem. Why?
Because they don’t know the first thing about selling.
It’s a common predicament. When you’re in a situation where you have to influence another person, you might feel nervous or uncertain.
You might be afraid of being rejected. Perhaps you lack confidence because you don’t have a background in sales.
Maybe you think that sales is sleazy. The word “sales” can conjure the all-too-familiar image of the used- car salesman who sells you a lemon in order to make more money.
Or perhaps you believe the myth that sales is a skill that is inborn. One is just “born with it.”
This isn’t true.
Sales is a skill that must be learned, honed, and mastered over time. Any of the preceding false beliefs about sales can easily make any non-salesy entrepreneurs tremble.
Skill at persuasion is something that you will need in all aspects of your business. Sales is a skill that is important for the following things:
- Selling more product. (duh)
- Branding your company.
- Convincing investors to give you funding.
- Motivating your employees to perform.
- Negotiating better terms with vendors.
Here’s the good news!
The prospect of learning how to influence doesn’t have to be daunting. If you dedicate yourself to learning the necessary skills, you can become a master influencer.
Look at Steve Jobs. He didn’t become a master presenter overnight. He worked at it. He practiced and learned. In the end, he became known as one of the most gifted presenters in the business world.
If you are willing to work hard at it, you can earn more deals, get more funding, and motivate your team to buy into your vision. This post will give you some tips that will guide you on your journey to becoming a better influencer.
Praise is Priceless
Carl H. Buehner said:
“People may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
This statement is absolutely true. People in this day and age are constantly bombarded by new information. Everywhere we go we are given messages that we are supposed to digest. There’s no way we could possibly retain all of the information we are exposed to on a daily basis.
However, if someone sends a message that makes us feel something, we remember it. We will associate the giver of the message with the emotion they made us feel. This is one reason praise is important.
The great thing about praise is that it’s easy. Every prospect that you deal with will have something praiseworthy that you can capitalize on.
If they have a great idea, tell them how brilliant you think it is. If they seem to know a lot about the subject you’re speaking about, compliment them on the fact that they obviously did their homework.
Here is one caveat: you have to be sincere. Don’t try to woo your customer with insincere flattery. They will know what you are doing and you will lose all credibility. If you can’t find something to praise, don’t make it up.
When you give a sincere compliment, it will make your prospect feel good about the interaction. If you want to have influence, you need to make sure that those you would influence have positive feelings towards you.
Gratitude is Great!
The benefits of gratitude are astounding. In the world of persuasion, it’s an indispensable ally. People who have a grateful attitude enjoy more social capital than those who are not grateful.
When you embrace gratitude and make it a part of your everyday life, you will find it easier to influence others. There are two key ways a non-salesy entrepreneur can use gratitude to help them influence others.
Here they are:
- Have a grateful attitude. A grateful attitude makes you happier and more pleasant to be around. This increases the chances that you will convince your prospect to take the desired action.
- Express gratitude. Expressing gratitude makes people feel appreciated and acknowledged. This will make them more open to hearing and accepting what you have to say.
Find ways to show gratitude to your prospects. There are probably several things you can thank them for in order to show them that they are special to you.
You can thank them for the time they’re giving you to talk about your offer. If you’re dealing with an existing customer, you can thank them for being a loyal customer. These are just two examples of things you can express gratitude for.
Give a Little to Get a Lot
In his book “Influence: Science and Practice,” Robert Cialdini names reciprocity as one of his six principles of persuasion. When you do something for someone else, they are more likely to return the favor.
This can help your efforts at influence in several different ways. These can include:
- Offering a helpful piece of content for free on your website.
- Giving your prospect a key piece of advice that helps her grow her business.
- Rewarding your team’s hard work by buying them lunch.
- Paying compliments and expressing gratitude (sound familiar?).
You will always have something to give that can help another person. Do them a favor, and they will be more likely to allow you to influence them.
Save Them From Losing Something
Nobody wants to lose. When confronted with loss, we are more likely to act in a way that prevents us from losing something.
Loss aversion is an incredibly powerful force in the world of influence.
Instead of only highlighting the gains your prospect will have if they do what you are asking, emphasize what they will lose if they don’t. When a sales pitch is given in a way that talks about potential loss, it becomes more effective.
Prepare to Influence
Don’t just jump right in and try to persuade your audience to do what you want. You need to be prepared before the interaction.
Instead, take the time to figure out the best way to proceed. Ask yourself some key questions:
- How will my proposal benefit my prospect?
- What potential objections will they have?
- Are they capable of doing what I’m going to ask of them?
- What is their ultimate desire? How does my proposal make it easier for them to achieve it?
When you can formulate good answers to these questions, you’re ready to influence.
Make Them Feel Part of Something Bigger Than Themselves
Yes, it’s true that people tend to focus on themselves, but they also like the idea of being a part of something bigger than themselves. Whether it’s a cause, an organization, or an elite group, people want to feel a sense of belonging.
Find a way to frame your request in a way that takes into account the bigger picture. Get your prospect to focus on a larger purpose or mission. If you can do this in a way that appeals to a sense of purpose, they will be more likely to agree to your request.
Create Evangelists to Sell for You (Hint: your customers are your best candidates)
Instead of taking on the burden of influencing all on your own, enlist others to do it for you. Find others who are passionate about what you’re passionate about, and they will do much of the persuading for you.
Whether it’s selling more product, getting investors to invest, or convincing your team to follow you, the chances of success becomes greater when you get people on your side to advocate for your cause. If you play your cards right, your customer can become your best lead generators.
Start Selling Before You Start Selling
Do you have an important meeting with decision makers? Will you be expected to put forth a compelling case to get them to do something you want? Sell them on the idea before the meeting.
It’s very likely that you will know who is going to be attending the meeting beforehand. Why not spend some time with them beforehand to test the waters? Find out what they think about what you’re proposing. See if they have any initial objections.
If you ask the right questions, you will know exactly what to address in your presentation. Here are some good questions to ask:
- “What do you like about my idea so far?”
- “What don’t you like about my idea?”
- “What part of my idea would you like to know more about?”
Of course, you must put these questions in your own words. If you can get them to answer these questions, you’re golden. You’ll know exactly how to frame your presentation and what important points to touch on.
Get Pissed! The Persuasive Power of Anger
When I was younger, I’d often see commercials for the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker. It’s a prominent law firm in Southern California that deals with personal injury cases.
What always struck me about his commercials was that Larry H. Parker always seemed so angry when he would use his 30 seconds to tell you why you should use his firm if you had been injured. As a matter of fact, he even addressed it in one of his commercials!
In general, showing emotion makes you more relatable and more attractive. Anger should probably be used sparingly, but when it is used, it can be powerful.
Whenever you’re selling or marketing an idea or product, create a villain. Create someone to be angry at. Use this anger to galvanize your prospects and get them on your side. If you can portray yourself as the hero who will “fight for them,” you will gain their trust.
Widen Your Persuasion Toolkit
One of the worst things you can do is limit yourself to only one method of persuasion. In the world of influence, you can’t afford to be a one-trick pony.
Influence is not a one-size-fits all endeavor. Sometimes, the hard sell is the right approach. At other times, it makes more sense to let the prospect convince themselves.
The key is being proficient at several different types of persuasion. Additionally, you must be able to read your prospect well enough to know what method is the most likely to get them to act.
Having a wider toolkit also comes in handy if the prospect rejects your initial attempt. If this happens, you can take a different approach. You’re more likely to get results this way.
Forget Logic. Make ‘Em Feel Something!
Don’t worry, I’m not saying that logic isn’t important. While you have to give your prospect a rational reason to take action, it’s their heart that is going to push them over the edge.
You need to connect with your prospect on an emotional level and engage with them. When attempting to move others, you must target the correct emotion.
Is it more appropriate to tap into the prospect’s fears? Talk about what they could potentially lose. What about altruism? Maybe you could discuss how what you’re proposing will help the greater good. In some cases, sadness works best.
People decide on a course of action by using logic, but it’s emotion that gets them to move. Remember this, and you will be a great influencer.
Expertise Relationships = Credibility
It’s a no-brainer that credibility is important if you want to get people to act. Your audience has to know that you know what you’re talking about.
What isn’t commonly known is that credibility doesn’t just come from experience and education. It also comes from trust.
People will respect your level of expertise if you have shown that you know how to get results. It’s also important to demonstrate that you have the knowledge necessary to help them.
However, this is not enough. You must also show that you are genuinely concerned about your audience’s needs. They need to know that they can trust you to pursue their best interests, not just yours. Both of these factors need to be demonstrated consistently if you are going to persuade people to take action.
Let Them Convince Themselves
The most effective way to get another person to take action is to get them to come to this conclusion themselves. This approach can sometimes take longer, but in the end, you will have someone who is completely sold on your idea.
The best way to do this is to engage in meaningful conversations where you do little talking and a lot of listening. It’s important to make sure you ask the right questions.
This helps you develop a greater understanding of where the other person is coming from. Additionally, this can give them the “nudge” they need to figure out why your proposal is worth agreeing to.
Position Yourself Effectively
The way you position yourself to your prospect is the way they will frame the rest of your interaction. While this is well-known in the world of sales, people tend to overlook this when it comes to selling ideas and other types of non-sales selling.
Positioning typically occurs at the beginning of the interaction, but it should also be emphasized throughout the conversation. Here are three components of effective positioning
- Your positioning statement: Who are you?
- The benefit you bring: Why do you matter?
- How it impacts the customer: What will be the result for the prospect?
Focus on the outcomes. What happens when customers do business with you? Here’s an example:
Marvin owns an IT consulting business. When he’s telling his prospects about his firm, he shouldn’t just talk about the fact that they help customers optimize their IT systems. Sure it sounds good, but the prospect doesn’t care about that as much as you would think.
Marvin would be better served by talking about the fact that his firm can ensure that the prospect’s business will run more smoothly and efficiently than it had before. His firm can make the prospect’s employees more efficient by making sure their systems are up to par.
These are the things prospective customers want to know about. Focus on the outcomes, and you will win more often.
Get Them To See The Benefit
Use visualization. If you’re in a situation where you can use pictures, make sure you use them. Our brains are wired to consume content that is more visual.
It’s easier for people to digest a presentation that is predominantly made up of images. While textual content is still important, we can recall pictures much easier.
Whenever you’re explaining why your suggestion should be taken, try to get your prospect to “see” the result. If you are unable to use actual pictures, paint a picture with your mind. Be descriptive. Tell them what it will look like when they do what you are asking.
Ask For It
When you’re attempting to persuade, don’t get so caught up in the interaction that you forget the most important part: getting to what you want. You can’t expect your prospects to just hear your pitch and then immediately buy what you’re selling.
You have to ask them for the sale. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s the steps you should take before actually asking for the sale:
- Anticipate and preemptively address any objections.
- After your pitch ask if the customer has any questions about what you’ve discussed. This will give the prospect a chance to voice any unanticipated objections.
- When there’s no more questions, go ahead and ask for what you want.
Not too hard, right? Remembering to call the prospect to action will get you to the next stage of the sales process.
Use Social Labeling – Tell Them Who They Are
This is a great technique to use in any attempt to influence. Labeling simply involves making an observation about the prospect that is favorable to your position and expressing this observation.
Here’s some examples:
If you’re trying to motivate an employee to take on a task that they are afraid of, you can remind them of how hardworking and resourceful they are. If you are negotiating for better terms with a vendor, you can emphasize the fact that their organization is known for being a company that is fair to its customers.
Labeling is very similar to giving praise, but it’s different because of the fact that you’re giving the prospect a label that helps you get to “yes.” Like praise, social labeling should be done ethically. Make sure you’re being 100% sincere when you use this tactic. Again, your prospect will know if you don’t mean what you’re saying.
Get Into Their Heads – Understanding Your Prospect
One of the most important aspects of the sales process is understanding the people you’re trying to influence. If you don’t know what your prospect’s needs, goals, and worries are, it will be harder to provide an effective solution. You will have no idea how your product, service, or idea can benefit your prospect.
When it comes time to make your pitch, you will be shooting in the dark. Ask good, open-ended questions in order to get as much information as possible. Open-ended questions get the prospect to talk more, which means you will learn more about them. The better you know your prospect, the easier it will be to solve their problems.
Additionally, the more your prospect talks, the more they will trust you. When you take the time to ask questions about the prospect, they will see that you actually care about their needs, not just what you’re trying to sell them.
Give Them Permission to Say No
Want to know one of the most persuasive sales techniques you can use? Tell your prospect that they can say no. Acknowledge that they are free to decline your offer.
Reminding the customer that they have the freedom to make their own choice actually makes them more likely accept what you’re offering. This is called the “but you are free to choose (BYAF)” technique.
In numerous studies, researchers found that using this technique nearly doubled the chances of a prospect saying “yes.” Reaffirming the prospect’s freedom to choose makes them feel less pressure. They don’t feel as if the influencer is trying to make them feel obligated to accept the offer. This makes them more comfortable with making the decision to buy from you.
Want an easy way to instantly boost your persuasiveness? Flash those pearly whites. Not only does smiling put you in a better mood, it also enhances your efforts at influence.
When you smile, it has an effect on the people around you. It’s been shown that smiling can make others trust you. In one study, researchers found that a genuine smile increased people’s willingness to trust by 10%.
Remember, people buy from those that they know, like and trust. Smiling makes you more relatable and trustworthy to your prospects, which will improve the chances that they will buy from you.
Find Your Purpose
Before, all a successful company had to do was provide better and cheaper products and services to the consumer. They also had to market and sell their product more effectively. Obviously, this isn’t easy.
But it’s not enough. Not anymore.
Now, you need something more than a great product at a great price. Your brand needs a purpose.
With the internet, people are able to communicate more often with their favorite brands. Additionally, they can easily find information on these companies. If they want to know more about a company, it’s as easy as a click of the mouse.
Because of this, your brand needs to be able to relate to your audience. This means you need to have a purpose that resonates with the people you intend to market to. Instead of focusing primarily on your unique selling proposition, you need to focus on your unique brand perspective.
What does your brand stand for? What difference is it trying to make in the world? What problems does it want to solve?
When you know what your brand’s purpose is, you will be able to show the “human” side of your brand. This is something consumers can relate to. It will allow you to better connect to them. If you want to stand out, find something to stand for.
For entrepreneurs who don’t have much sales experience, selling can be intimidating. Learning how to move others to action isn’t easy.
However, it’s important to remember that selling is a skill that can be learned, not an inborn trait that only certain people possess. There are many techniques that you can master over time. If you’re willing to put the time and energy into learning these techniques, you will become a master influencer.