What is selling? How about negotiating? What’s your definition of persuading? I often hear salespeople say, “We’re always selling.” Of course, negotiators like to say, “Everything is negotiable.”
Where I worked for decades, we had an internal slogan, “Everybody Sells.” It was a great reminder that everything we did mattered. From the mailroom to the boardroom, every action and conversation was building a case for, or against, insurance agents choosing to place their best business with us.
But I must confess, despite working with salespeople and negotiators, I don’t believe we’re always selling, nor do I believe every conversation is a negotiation. The old saying, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” seems applicable here.
How you view selling and negotiating in daily life depends on how you define each. When it comes to selling, the best definition I’ve come across is from sales guru Brian Tracy. Tracy says selling is, “The process of persuading a person that your product or service is of more value to him or her than the price you’re asking.”
Looking at sales through this lens, I’m not trying to “sell” my wife on my ideas. Rather, I’m trying to persuade her to my way of thinking. No goods, services, or compensation are exchanged in those benign, daily conversations we have..
Negotiating is the process of give-and-take, the compromise that’s often needed to reach an acceptable solution between parties. It can occur during a sale, or sometimes it takes place entirely outside of making a sale.
What I appreciate about Brian Tracy’s definition is that he highlights three important truths about selling. First, selling is a process. Second, persuading people is at the core. Third, it’s about demonstrating value.
Selling isn’t winging it. Good salespeople follow a process. The process may look very different depending on what you’re selling but it’s safe to say, almost all selling involves eight steps.
Each step is distinct and merits attention on its own, but many steps can happen at the same time. The steps in the sales cycle include: prospecting, first meeting, qualifying, presenting, dealing with objections, negotiating, closing, and getting referrals.
According to Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, “Persuasion is the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”Persuasion is about changing behavior and it is something you do every day.
A baby doesn’t know what persuasion is, but babies are always trying to change parent’s behavior to get their needs met. If you pause to think about it you’ll realize, we’re all persuading every day, from womb to tomb.
Now consider this; there’s no step in selling where persuasion doesn’t come into play. You’re persuading when you attempt to negotiate. You are not going to close a sale if you’re not persuasive. Getting referrals is much easier if you know how to influence someone’s thinking. I could go on but you get the point. Persuasion is the foundation of each step in sales. It won’t matter how good your process may be if you can’t persuade people.
The final consideration in Tracy’s definition of selling is value. As he rightly points out, if somebody believes what you’re offering is worth more to them than the price you’re asking, they’ll view the transaction as a good deal. That makes closing a sale much easier.
It’s incumbent upon salespeople to show the value their product or service has for prospective clients. You can’t always get that understanding by reading a brochure or comparing product specs. Different aspects of influence come into play when demonstrating value, especially how you make comparisons.
I think we need to be careful when we make pronouncements like “We’re always…”, be it selling, negotiating, or something else. Sometimes the people you’re interacting with don’t want to be sold. Many people don’t want to feel like they’re always having to negotiate with you. This is especially true with friends and loved ones.
Even when it comes to persuasion, you shouldn’t always be looking to do that. Sometimes people just want to have a conversation, a give and take of ideas and experiences.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT
Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.
As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in the world, Brian was personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable designed to teach you how to apply influence concepts at home and the office.
Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world!