Persuasive Selling – A New Course

I had the privilege this year to work with the people at, now owned by LinkedIn, to create an online sales training course. It was quite an experience to visit their facility in Carpentaria, CA, a stunningly beautiful place! I worked with a director, producer, make-up artist, lighting technician, and a digital artist. And that was only part of the crew that ultimately made Persuasive Selling come to life.

Understanding how people think and behave is key to mastering the art of persuasion and an essential ingredient to any successful sale. In this new sales course I draw on the work of social psychologists and behavioral economists to provide concrete, actionable items and transferrable ideas for each step of the sales process.

I start the course out by sharing eight psychological concepts that you can easily employ throughout the sales cycle. If you’ve been a reader of Influence PEOPLE for any length of time then you’re familiar with reciprocity, liking, social proof, authority, consistency, scarcity, compare and contrast, and using the word because to get people to say “Yes” to you.

After laying that foundation you’ll learn how these concepts play a role in the early stages of the sales cycle, as well as how they can help you realize the qualities of your ideal client, deliver presentations, handle objections, negotiate, close, and ask for referrals. Lastly, you’ll learn how to grow from each sale and continuously refine your approach. Topics include:

  • Reaching out to prospects
  • Developing a rapport with customers
  • Making a good first impression
  • Giving a successful presentation
  • Providing the correct amount of options
  • Handling objections
  • Understanding the value equation
  • Closing the sale
  • Asking for referrals

The course lasts an hour and by the time you’re finished you’ll feel much more confident as you ready yourself to tackle the next sales opportunity.

Want to get started? First, if you’re not already a member you’ll need to sign up. To get that process started click here. Once you’re inside the site type “Persuasive Selling” in the search box and you’ll see the course with my name next to it. Click on the link and you’ll be ready to launch the course and start learning.

I hope you find Persuasive Selling entertaining, enlightening, and most of all, useful for your career.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Referrals

For the most part salespeople don’t have a great reputation. This is so because many people feel they’ll be pressured into buying something they don’t want or need by someone who is manipulating them. I teach sales and don’t always like dealing with salespeople because most of the time they don’t add value to the transaction. If someone can only tell me what I can already read on online or find on a label, then they’re not doing me much good. Good salespeople add value because they:

  • Ask questions to help uncover a need you might not have considered before.
  • Save you the time and effort of having to do lots and lots of research on your own.
  • Point out features you might not have known about and demonstrate how they’ll be beneficial for you.
  • Can be a “go to” person for you when something goes awry.

When you interact with someone who really helps you, it’s natural to want to help him or her in return. That’s the principle of reciprocity and it will make the client happy to help you by giving you some referrals.

It’s common for salespeople to ask for referrals at the close of the sale.

“John, I’m really glad we’re doing business together. One way my business grows is through referrals. Do you know anyone else who might be interested in the services I offer?”

Personally I think that’s a terrible approach because you’ve not done anything yet to deliver on your promise! If the client doesn’t say no right off the bat it’s likely to be met with a name or two off the top of their head quickly just to satisfy you.

Here is an approach that combines the principles of reciprocity and consistency that is sure to get more and better referrals! You disarm the client by telling them you’re not going to ask for referrals but would like to ask a favor. Ask if you can talk sometime in the future about referrals, after they’ve had a chance to see how your product or service performs. This is where planning comes in because you’re planting a seed. Here’s what I recommend to insurance agents. I’m sure some variation might work for you in your business:

“John, I’m really glad we’re doing business together. At this point in the sales process I know a lot of insurance agents would ask for referrals but don’t worry, I’m not going to do that. I would like to ask a favor though. After you’ve had a chance to experience our service, say nine months to a year from now, if we’ve done what we said we would and you’re happy with us, could we talk about referrals at that time?”

Humans are funny in many ways and one is our willingness to put things off into the future that we’d rather not do today. I guarantee nearly everyone will agree to talk with you in 9-12 months about referrals.

Now it’s up to you to have an efficient diary system for following up with clients.

“John, it’s Sue. I’m calling to see how things are going and if there’s anything you need from me as we approach your renewal date?”

Towards the end of that conversation try this:

“John, do you remember when we started doing business together last year? I asked if we could talk about referrals if we’d lived up to our promises and you were happy. I feel we’ve done that (reciprocity). Are you happy with the decision you made to move your business to us?”

Don’t just ask for names and numbers at this point because the customer will be scrambling. They were not thinking about referrals when they picked up the phone, so continue in this way:

“I don’t want to take any more of your time today and I’d like to give you a chance to think about who might appreciate the kinds of things we’ve done for you. Could we set a time next week to talk for about 15 minutes?”

You’ve planted the seed for them to really give this thought and they will because they told you they would. On next week’s call you’re sure to get the names of people who would be most likely to appreciate what you have to offer.

This is the final post in this series where we’ve looked at using particular principles of influence at different points in the sales cycle. I hope you’ve found the posts enlightening but more importantly, that you employ what you’ve learned and see your sales soar as a result!

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Closing

I remember when I was young and single I would go out with friends and see pretty girls, but rarely had the gumption to go up and talk to them. The reason was fear of rejection. Nobody likes that feeling so we do what we can to avoid that possible self-inflicted wound.

In the same way I was afraid to talk to a pretty girl, salespeople are reluctant to ask for the sale for fear of rejection. It’s safer for the ego to let the prospect “think it over and get back to you.” In their uncertainty, prospects do one of two things: 1) take the safe route and don’t change anything, or 2) go with the salesperson who fearlessly asked them if they could start on the paperwork.

The number one question salespeople ask during The Principles of Persuasion Workshop® is, “What’s the best way to close?” My standard response is, “The best way to close starts the moment you meet prospects for the first time, look them in the eye and shake their hand.” From that point forward how easy or difficult closing is depends on what you do. I believe closing the sale should just be a natural part of the ongoing conversation with a prospect. The best compliment a salesperson can hear from a client is, “I never felt like I was being sold.”

Early on in this series I quoted Jeffrey Gitomer, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” Tapping into liking early and often will make a big difference by the time you ask for the business. Always start your contact with a prospect on a social level bonding over things you have in common and looking for opportunities to offer genuine compliments.

The more you’ve done for the prospect and the more you’ve gone out of your way on their behalf, the more likely they are to look for some way to give back to you. If you’re unable to close the deal for some reason you might still leverage all you’ve done as a way to get some referrals because of reciprocity.

People want to know they’re doing business with an expert because it gives them more confidence in their decision. As you make your way through the sales process, show yourself to be professional and someone your prospects can rely on for answers when they need them. In short, tap into authority.

I believe consistency is the most important principle to tap into during the closing. Reminding people of what they said is a powerful motivator of behavior! This is where the upfront close comes in handy early in the sales cycle. At some point during the initial meeting or qualification stage you need to find out exactly what it will take for you to earn the right to do business with the prospect. If you know you can’t meet their requirements, cut your losses and move on. But, if you believe you can meet the requirements you might want to say something like this: “Shirley, from what you’ve shared it sounds like if we can meet your specifications at the agreed upon price by the delivery date you mentioned, we’ll be doing business, correct?”

You want the prospect to come back with: “Correct. Meet those specs at that price by the delivery date we discussed and you have a deal.”

This is also the time to confirm there are no other hidden reasons that might crop up to kill the deal: “Just to be very clear Shirley, are there any other reasons I’m unaware of that could get in the way of us doing business?”

Again, you want her to confirm what you’re asking. When it comes time to close you only need to refer back to what you’ve already agreed on: “Shirley, great news. We can meet the specs at the price we discussed and can even deliver a little earlier than you requested. Can we go ahead and start the paperwork so we can get everything in motion?”

It would be very hard for Shirley to come back and say no at this point after you’ve done everything she asked for. Will there be times when someone backs out? Sure. But, using consistency in an approach like this will have more people saying yes and will make it much easier and natural for you to seal the deal.

Last, but not least, is scarcity. Pointing out what someone might save or gain by going with your proposal will not be as persuasive as honestly sharing what they stand to lose by not taking the step you recommend. For example, if you are in financial services, talking about how much more someone might be able to save for retirement by setting aside an extra percent of their income will not be as motivating as sharing what they will lose if they don’t save a little extra.

Ineffective – “Ed, if we can find a way to set aside just 1% more you’re going to have more than $100,000 extra in the bank by the time you retire.”

Effective – “Ed, if we can’t find a way to set aside just 1% more you’re going to lose out on more than $100,000 by the time you retire.”

Hopefully these examples of weaving the principles of influence into the sales process will take some of the fear out of closing. There’s one more post in this series – asking for referrals. Next week we’ll look at ways to make that happen as naturally as the close, by effectively working the principles of influence into your sales cycle.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Overview

Selling, like most endeavors you want to succeed at in life, requires a disciplined process, sharp skills, and good planning. Just as there are specific sales skills that need to be honed through continuous learning and practice there are parts of the sales cycle that require attention and planning. Sharpening your sales skills and refining your sales process are great ways to ensure success over the long haul.

I will be devoting a series of nine posts to exploring the sales cycle, looking at which principles of influence are most appropriate to focus on at different points in the cycle. My goal for this series is to help you understand how to get the most “bang for the buck” when you’re selling.

Let’s start with the sales cycle. Other sales trainers may combine some of these steps and in some businesses the cycle might look a little different. I see the typical sales cycle as an 8-step process, which includes the following sequence:

  1. Prospecting – Looking for new potential customers or clients.
  2. Initial Meeting – The first contact with a prospect.
  3. Qualification – Fact finding sessions primarily designed to assess whether or not you can – or want to – do business with the prospect.
  4. Presentation – Presenting your service or demonstrating your product to the prospect to show him or her how it meets some need they have.
  5. Objections – Dealing with reasons the prospect might bring up that indicate a hesitancy to move forward.
  6. Negotiating – Potentially altering pricing, terms and/or other aspects of your product or service in order to reach a final agreement.
  7. Closing – Getting the prospect to agree to do business with you and your organization.
  8. Referrals – Getting the names of people or organizations you can approach using the client’s name as a lead-in.

The six principles of influence, as popularized by Robert Cialdini, we’ll look at in conjunction with the sales cycle are:

  1. Liking – We prefer to do business with people we know and like.
  2. Reciprocity – We feel obligated to give back to those who first give to us.
  3. Consensus – We look to others to see how we should behave in certain situations.
  4. Authority – We often defer to those with superior knowledge or wisdom (i.e., experts) when making decisions.
  5. Consistency – We feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and do.
  6. Scarcity – We desire things more when we believe they are rare or diminishing.

Another psychological concept that will come into play throughout the series is the contrast phenomenon. This isn’t a principle of influence but is a psychological concept that works in conjunction with the principles of influence at different times. Contrast, sometimes known as “compare and contrast,” alerts us to the reality that two things will appear “more” different depending on what was presented first.

I encourage you to stay tuned because if you do, your ability to sell, and getting to yes, will be much easier when you add the science of influence into your sales approach. Next week we’ll start with prospecting.