How to Influence Without Being Pushy

By Andres Lares, Managing Partner, Shapiro Negotiations Institute
Two silhouettes having a conversation with a circle of blue arrows behind them

Sales representatives often have a bad reputation for being aggressive or pushy when they’re trying to close deals or attract new customers. This often causes the opposite of the desired results – many customers walk away because they feel uncomfortable. More often than not, how you attempt to influence a client will make or break the deal.

Here a few key strategies that will lead you to more effective interactions and better results.

Get to Know Your Customer. An easy way to get people to open up is asking questions about them. Discover their values, needs, and goals – and how your product can satisfy all of the above.

Don’t jump right into business, though; instead, ask about and listen carefully to what he or she has to say. This is also a great way to build trust and rapport. Rapport is about finding common ground – similarities between people that help people “like” one another. Rapport and trust don’t need to come at the cost of your objectives, but they do require the other side to perceive you have their best interest in mind.

Genuine Curiosity. No one enjoys conversations that seem rehearsed or fake. Think about automated customer service agents – they often leave customers confused, frustrated, and feeling like their time is not being valued.

To best connect with another party, make sure to be fully present. Demonstrate genuine curiosity about whatever is important to the other party. Come prepared but don’t feel the need to follow a specific script, which will sound rehearsed.

Finally, consider paying attention to body language – both the other party’s and your own. Be friendly, smile, face the other person with hands and arms open, and try to keep good eye contact. The more confident you appear, the more persuasive you will be. On their end, take note of any consistent body language patterns. Crossing their arms could mean they are cold, but facing you at an angle, crossing their arms, and having their hands closed in a fist all together also likely mean they are not too keen on the topic at hand – so consider changing directions.

Framing. People like to spend time with other positive people. If you are upbeat, interesting, and always smiling, you are more likely to engage the other side and have them walk away feeling positively about your interaction. It’s contagious and can be a good influencing tactic.

Equally, there are times to frame a topic in a negative manner. People are more motivated by losing something than they are by winning something. So, for example, if your product or service helps companies convert more opportunities, consider framing your impact around how they might currently be missing out on 77% of their leads but you expect your product, based on other clients’ results, to help to convert 10% more leads. This framing will likely be more compelling than walking them through the same situation while focusing instead on their 27% close ratio – as it does not highlight as strongly the missed opportunities that come with not utilizing your product.

Be Adaptable. Most of us tend to communicate with others the way we like to be communicated to. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same communication style. So, next time you are speaking with someone, try to pick up on signs such as:

  • Do they speak quickly?
  • Do they like to take their time with a decision?
  • Are they analytical?
  • Will they be presenting this internally or are they the final decision maker?

Then, tailor your approach based on that information. For example, if they speak quickly, they may not have the patience to sit through a one-hour presentation. Instead, consider shortening the meeting and asking them lots of questions throughout.

If they prefer to take their time with a decision and are analytical, consider sending a slide deck ahead of the meeting with facts supporting your case. Then use the time together to walk them through any questions they may have. Remember: When it comes to communication, it’s important you remain flexible – you can’t speak with everyone the same way.

Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for your next sales meeting or conversation. Remember that influencing is all about communicating the connections between what you offer and what they want in a way that will be most persuasive for them.

Get more information on how to develop your persuasion and communication skills.