influence sales

If you’re selling something, you need to be persuasive. But you don’t need to be annoying.

Case in point: I was at the gym the other day, in the middle of a sweaty elliptical workout, when a trainer came over and asked if my name was Christine. Apparently he was asking every woman in the gym because Christine did not show up on time for her appointment. I told him that my name was Allie, and expected him to mosey along, but instead he struck up a conversation with me. While I was out of breath. And – it bears repeating – extremely sweaty. He wanted to know how often I came to the gym, when I’d be coming in next, whether I was making any fitness goals in the New Year, and then he had the audacity to ask if he could make an appointment with me for next week. Even though I made it clear that I “like to do my own thing,” he insisted, so I told him I’d be back next week and I’d find him then.

Now, you can look at this story and see it from his perspective: he got his appointment with me, sort of. But at what cost? I was bothered the rest of my time there, scanning around for him and the mysterious Christine, and I was pretty pissed that I had to spend five minutes of my workout awkwardly walking and talking instead of actively running on the elliptical. He influenced me to make an appointment – admittedly just because I wanted the conversation to end – but he also succeeded in annoying me.

Use The 6 Principles Of Influence In Sales Development

In the same way, a sales rep can interrupt sales prospects’ mental workout throughout the day with untargeted calls and emails that turn out to be giant wastes of time. Prospects may make appointments, but they could also decide not to show if you’re not careful.

So it’s important to be extremely sensitive when conducting B2B sales calls with prospects. Learn not only to persuade – which can lead to annoyances – but to influence. Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion identified the six principles of influence, otherwise known as the six weapons of influence, by examining people skilled in the art of convincing others. Let’s take a look at these six principles and see how we can use them to trustfully influence B2B prospects in sales development.

1. Reciprocity

It’s the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated. We generally aim to return favors, pay back debts, and buy from people who perform kindnesses. In B2B sales, reciprocity is pretty much front and center: for a bit of your time, I will tell you about a system that can improve your time management tenfold. But you can also use reciprocity in other ways, lending a helping hand to prospects. In our email templates, we recommend giving a tidbit of advice to prospects about their process. Selling to start-up companies? Link them to an article that might help their growth hacking strategy. Selling to tech companies? Show them you tried their tool and enjoyed it. They’ll remember you, plus the interaction won’t be scripted and will be specific to them.

2. Commitment (And Consistency)

Cialdini states that once we’re deeply committed to doing something, we’re more inclined to actually go through with it. Makes sense, right? We all crave consistency. While garnering commitment is kind of the point of sales prospecting, you can help the process along by being consistent yourself. If you promise a prospect that you’ll call him or her at a specific date or time, follow through. Create a scheduled call plan so you know when and how often to prospect them. If they don’t answer on the first Monday you call in a call plan where you call every Monday, they may answer your second, or your third. Once you have a concrete appointment time that wasn’t coerced out of them, your prospect will feel more obligated to show up. Especially if that appointment has a calendar invite!

3. Social Proof

We’ve all heard of this one. This principle is rooted in the idea of “safety in numbers.” If other people are doing it – and other people are liking it – then it must be okay. This principle is also most helpful to those who are wavering in their decision, and they’re more likely to be influenced by seeing the successes of people just like them. That’s why, in sales, it’s best to let your customers speak for you, through case studies, online forums, etc. A customer advocate can help garner praise for your product or service, and an excellent case study can drive excitement towards its implementation.

4. Liking

Here’s another one that needs very little explaining: we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likability, of course, is a little more elusive: we may like someone because they have a nice voice over the phone, because they’re respectful, because they seem familiar to us, or simply because we trust them. Employ this principle in sales by getting to know your customer inside and out: studying your buyer personas, building good rapport with prospects, and becoming a more active listener. Be careful of trying too hard, though; it’s easy to spot a phony. Be relaxed and treat your prospects with the respect and kindness you would extend to a friend or close acquaintance.

5. Authority

Cialdini says that we feel a sense of obligation to people in positions of authority. In the marketing and sales community, “experts” and “gurus” abound, but only the truly influential make great thought leaders. When influencing prospects, use the authority of others and the authority of numbers to make your point. Highlight well-known customers, gain support from industry experts, and underline research and statistics. You may not think you have authority as a sales development rep, but you actually have a mine of impressive authority resources at your disposal to help influence your prospect.

6. Scarcity

Finally, scarcity is the idea that things are more attractive when their availability is limited. This is easy to implement in B2C: limit the stock availability or create special editions of products. However, it can be trickier to apply in B2B. That’s why I would change the scarcity principle to urgency. Help your prospects understand the possible consequences of the problem your product or service helps to solve, without being too negative. It also helps to warn prospects if your next call will be your last, creating that sense of urgency.

Stop interrupting prospects during their mental workouts, and instead influence them with Cialdini’s six principles. What would you add? And how do you think my trainer friend could have conducted himself differently?