What’s the Best Way to Persuade Customers?

By Brian Ahearn, Chief Influence Officer, Influence PEOPLE, LLC

According to author and sales trainer Brian Tracy, “Selling is the process of persuading a person that your product or service is of greater value to him or her than the price you’re asking for it.”

Selling is a skill that’s really about your ability to ethically persuade another person. But what exactly is persuasion? 

What Is Persuasive Selling?
The definition I hear most often is, “to convince someone of something.” That might be a good first step, but it’s not enough. 

Consider this: If you tell your children to clean their room, do you want them to A) say, “That’s a good idea!” or B) get in there and really clean their room? I bet you want B! It’s not enough to think a clean room is a good idea; you want the room cleaned.

Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, said persuasion was “the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” The “art” is how you communicate – and that can make all the difference when it comes to hearing yes or no.

Why Salespeople Need to Be Persuasive
Selling comes down to changing someone’s behavior. For example, with the independent insurance agents I’ve worked with, that might entail getting people to switch insurance carriers, change agents, add coverages, or myriad other actions related to their insurance protection. How a salesperson communicates with a prospective or current client will make or break the sale.

When it comes to persuasive communication, there are over seven decades of research into what causes people to say yes to one another. Tapping into that research by employing Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence can make yes (closing the sale) come easier and quicker. 

Let’s take a brief look at each of Cialdini’s Principles of Influence. 

People prefer to say yes to those they know and like. Building relationships early in the sales process by connecting through what you have in common with someone makes each future step in the process easier.

People feel obligated to give back to those who first give to them. Giving can be tangible or intangible, but the point is this: Look for ways to give and people will naturally be open to doing something in return for you. 

People take their behavior cues from other people. By talking to a prospect about satisfied customers who are most like them, you’ll have the best chance of getting your prospect to act.

People look to experts to help guide their decision making. The more a prospective client views you as an expert – or the more you can bring expertise into the conversation – the more likely they are to believe you and act on what you’ve shared.

People feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in word and deed. This is perhaps the most important principle to tap into when selling because, at its core, consistency is about gaining commitment through good questions. The best salespeople don’t do all the talking; rather, they ask lots of questions. In doing so they learn about wants, needs, and desires, then show a prospect how their product or service fills those.

People value things more when they believe those things are in short supply. According to science, humans are much more motivated to act when they think they will lose rather than gain. That means telling a prospect how much they’ll save (or all they’ll get with your product or service) will not be nearly as persuasive as telling them what they’ll lose if they don’t go along with what you’re proposing.

At each phase of the sales process – building rapport, overcoming objections, and closing the sale – the principles of influence come into play. It may be that no single principle is the difference maker, but that ethically employing each principle throughout the sales cycle can help move the sale along. 

For example, if you don’t build a relationship with someone early in the process, the prospect might decide to talk with someone they do like. If you’ve done something genuinely nice and helpful, a prospective customer will be more likely to take your call or give you an appointment. 

If you’re in the middle of the sales cycle and can handle questions by talking about other satisfied clients – and, if you’ve set yourself up as an expert – a prospective customer will find it easier to hang in there with you as you sell your product or service.

Finally, tying everything back to what a prospect said they needed, and clearly showing how they cannot get all you offer anywhere else, builds a strong case to get a yes when you ask for the sale. 

Each application I’ve described may seem like a small thing, but when it comes to persuasion small things can make a big difference!

Brian Ahearn is chief influence officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC, is author of the new book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade That Are Lasting and Ethical.