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Don’t Memorize, Internalize. Embrace, Anticipate, Practice!

At a recent sales training event I encouraged attendees; don’t memorize, internalize. These were salespeople and we were talking about how to deal with objections whenever they arise. The key with objections is to embrace them. After all, if you’re in sales then objections are part of the game just like running is part of soccer or jumping is essential in basketball. Nobody would start playing soccer and complain about all the running. Likewise, no one would take up basketball if they didn’t like jumping. Now apply that thought process to sales and dealing with objections.

No surprises here

If you’ve been selling for any length of time you face the same objections over and over. Sure, there are rare case something new is tossed at you but the vast majority of the time there’s no surprise when an objection is lobbed your way.

I recall when I was learning hapkido (Korean version of aikido, think Steven Segal) every offensive attack move I attempted, the black belt I was working with had a counter move that would break my wrist, elbow or arm. No punch I threw at him caught him off guard.

You’re in control

With objections the ball is in your court so to speak because when you know what to expect you’re actually in control. Consider this; if you were playing a competitive sport and had an answer for every move you opponent might make there’s no way you’d lose!

Back to hapkido; because I could not surprise my black belt opponent he was always calm in control. That allowed him to stay focused on what needed to be done to protect himself and subdue me.

You have answers

You can’t control other people but you can control yourself. Not only do you know what’s coming, which allows you to stay in control, you should know exactly how you’re going to respond.

As noted previously, the black belt I was working with had a counter to every move I made. His counters, if fully executed, would have quickly ended the confrontation and because of the damage he could do it was scary stuff.

Practice you moves

There’s nothing worse than dealing with a salesperson or customer service rep who gives pat answers that sound like a bad telemarketer who mindlessly memorized a script. Even worse might be the person who obviously doesn’t care because “they’ve heard it a thousand times before.”

My black belt friend needed more than knowledge of what I would do and how he would respond. He needed to be really good at his response in order to protect himself and end the confrontation. That meant countless hours of practice on his moves.

Conclusion

You may not be in sales but you’re sure to run into objections in your career. Those objections may be to a project you’re proposing, training you believe is needed, budget approval or any number of other initiatives. Knowing this you need to be embrace the reality of objections, anticipate them and practice your responses. The better you get at this the more likely you are to get the approval you need.

To Do This Week

Take time to write down the five most common objections you face. Next, think about how you might incorporate the principles of influence into your responses to make it easier to hear yes. Then begin to practice your responses out loud.

Two principles that are excellent when it comes to dealing with objections are social proof and authority.

  1. The more you are viewed as an expert or invoke expertise (principle of authority) the easier it will be to get beyond the objection.
  2. Tapping into social proof, what many or similar others are doing, is often an indicator that the person or group you’re trying to influence might want to consider doing the same.

Remember, just like my black belt friend, anticipate, practice and respond. Don’t memorize, internalize so your responses become and authentic part of who you are.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by almost 90,000 people around the world!

PS That’s a picture of me with our daughter Abigail at Taekwondo.

Persuasion: Your Key to Professional Success and Personal Happiness

Persuasion is more than changing hearts and minds, it’s about changing behavior. Aristotle said as much when he told the world persuasion was, “the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” Whether you want someone to buy from you, your boss to approve your project, get a promotion, or just get your kids to do their homework, persuasion is the skill that can help you achieve those goals and more.

We Need People…

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, said, “Nearly everything I’ve accomplished in life has been with other people.” It didn’t matter how good Jack’s vision or strategies were if he couldn’t persuade people to execute. People are vital to your professional success and personal happiness so understanding how to ethically influence people is an essential skill.

But There’s a Catch…

Okay, you need people but things aren’t always so easy. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, told the world more than 85 years ago, “Dealing with people is the biggest challenge you will face, especially if you’re in business.” You need people but they’re your biggest challenge. This is why understanding how to ethically persuade is critical to your professional success and personal happiness!

Three Hours a Day!

In To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink cites a survey of more than 7,000 business people when he wrote, “People are now spending about 40% of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.” This means the average worker spends more than three hours a day trying to persuade others. If you’re going to spend that much time on one activity doesn’t it make sense to learn how to do it well?

Persuasion is a Skill

Make no mistake a about it, persuasion is a skill. However, unlike hitting a 300 yard drive, dunking a basketball or running a 5-minute mile, it’s not something only a chosen few are capable of. Persuasion can be learned, practiced, and perfected by anyone. My focus is teaching you how to use the principles of ethical influence to change people’s behavior. For a short introduction to these principles watch this video from Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D., and Steve Martin, CMCT,

Want to Learn How to Influence People?

I’ll teach you the science of persuasion and more importantly, how to apply that knowledge to ensure your professional success and personal happiness. Are you looking for a speaker at your next event? Do you  need one-on-one coaching or consulting? How about training for your team? Whatever it is, I’m ready to help you and your organization. Contact me today and we’ll explore how we can begin working together.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on incorporating persuasion into sales and coaching have been viewed by 90,000 people around the world!

 

6 Reasons Santa is the Greatest Salesman Who Ever Lived

I’ve shared variations of this post in the past. Because Christmas is just days away I thought it appropriate to share it once again. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Santa Claus is the greatest salesman who ever lived! Why do I believe Santa is the ultimate salesman? To start, he has a couple of success stories most of us can’t compete with. First, he’s successfully run the same family business for hundreds of years. There’s something to be said for stability, especially over the long haul.

Second, Santa has a client base that expands every year — no matter the state of the global economy.

Can your business make those two claims?

But those aren’t the reasons I believe Santa is the greatest salesman who ever lived. Contrary to what you might think, his success doesn’t come from his business savvy. After all, consider the obstacles he has to deal with.

  • Business attire: Santa obviously doesn’t buy into the “dress for success” business attire philosophy. Power suits are fine but a red suit and hat, both lined with fur, is a little over the top in today’s casual business environment.
  • Delivery system: Santa’s remains way behind the times here. His “One Day Delivery” is literally that – you get your packages one day a year. He doesn’t seem to notice in today’s economy people want what they want, when they want it, and that usually means now. But the real problem behind “One Day Delivery” might just be his delivery method. I think you’d agree the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS would be much more efficient than eight tiny reindeer pulling a small sleigh.
  • Manufacturing: Some say Santa’s operation is too labor-intensive to survive much longer. After all, he’s competing with Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple and other giant organizations. In today’s marketplace, how can any business can get by without automating? Perhaps if he automated a process or two he’d have enough inventory to open this store more than one day a year.
  • Efficiency: I realize Santa gives his product away for free but that doesn’t mean it costs him nothing. He has all those elves and reindeer to take care of. Food and lodging are bad enough but health care costs have to be crushing his profit margin! And what about worker’s compensation costs? If he automated at least he’d save a little money and might be able to take Mrs. Claus on a nice vacation – somewhere warm for a change!
  • Branding: All companies change their branding to fit the times and Santa might want to consider doing the same. After all, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!” has gotten a bit old and stale.
  • Orders: I think Santa could fill orders much faster if only he’d just set up a website. And how about replacing all those last minute letters with email, text, instant messaging or a Twitter account? It has to be painfully slow for him to read all those handwritten letters.

So, all this begs the question, “Why is Santa so successful…in spite of himself?” In business if you continually land new customers and retain the old ones then you’re doing something right. Here are six reasons Santa continually attracts new customers and retains all his current ones:

  1. He loves his job! Perhaps, “Ho, Ho, Ho,” is his corporate culture and not just some slick branding slogan.
    – Could you do the same job day after day, year after year, for most of your life, and remain so upbeat and jolly?
  2. He genuinely cares for his customers. His goal is to meet everyone’s needs and all he hopes for in return is to see joy on their faces. He personifies what it means to be customer focused.
    – Do you get joy from serving others?
  3. He gets to the personal side of selling. Granted he’s not always accessible but he doesn’t expect clients to come to him. When he’s at his absolute busiest, with his deadline approaching and delivery date nearing, he can be seen everywhere talking with his customers. How he can be in so many places at one time I’ll never know.
    – How often do you initiate contact with your customers, even when it’s inconvenient for you?
  4. He creates an experience. A toy is just a toy, except when it’s from Santa. Because it only comes once a year and will be found under the tree on Christmas morning it creates anticipation and builds excitement! That’s so much better than getting something online or from some mail order catalog.
    – Do you create an experience for your customers?
  5. He adds value. When people hear the word “free” they often think “cheap” or wonder, “What’s the catch?” Even though Santa gives his products away we love what he gives us mostly because it comes from him. Don’t you have a few things you value above all others because of the person who gave it to you?
    – Do your customers see you adding value?
  6. He delivers on his promise. Santa does what he says and always delivers; no excuses, no extra charge, always on time!
    – Can your customer count on you to be that consistent?

So there you have it, six reasons behind the success of jolly old St. Nick. Did you notice that everything Santa does is within your power to do with your customers? That’s right, there’s no reason you can’t do the same things Santa does. And here’s some welcome news for most of you – you don’t have to wear a silly red uniform while you do those things!

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you and your loved ones have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 85,000 people around the world!

The Greatest Salesman Who Ever Lived

I’ve shared variations of this post in the past. Because it’s Christmas Eve I thought it appropriate to share it again. Enjoy!

Santa Claus is the greatest salesman who ever lived! Why do I assert that Santa is the ultimate salesman? To start, he has a couple of success stories most of us can’t compete with. First, he’s successfully run the same family business for hundreds of years. There’s something to be said for stability, especially over the long haul.

Second, Santa has a client base that expands every year — no matter the state of the global economy.

Can you or your business make those two claims?

But those aren’t the reasons I believe Santa is the greatest salesman who ever lived. Contrary to what you might think, his success doesn’t come from his business savvy. After all, consider the obstacles he has to deal with.

  • Business attire: Santa obviously doesn’t buy into the “dress for success” business attire philosophy. Power suits are fine but a red suit and hat, both lined with fur, is a little over the top in today’s casual business environment.
  • Delivery system: Santa’s remains way behind the times here. His “One Day Delivery” is literally that – you get your packages one day a year. He doesn’t seem to notice in today’s economy people want what they want, when they want it, and that usually means now. But the real problem behind “One Day Delivery” might just be his delivery method. I think you’d agree the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS would be much more efficient than eight tiny reindeer pulling a small sleigh.
  • Manufacturing: Some say Santa’s operation is too labor-intensive to survive much longer. After all, he’s competing with Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple and other giant organizations. In today’s marketplace, how can any business can get by without automating? Perhaps if he automated a process or two he’d have enough inventory to open this store more than one day a year.
  • Efficiency: I realize Santa gives his product away for free but that doesn’t mean it costs him nothing. He has all those elves and reindeer to take care of. Food and lodging are bad enough but health care costs have to be crushing his profit margin! And what about worker’s compensation costs? If he automated at least he’d save a little money and might be able to take Mrs. Claus on a nice vacation – somewhere warm for a change!
  • Branding: All companies change their branding to fit the times and Santa might want to consider doing the same. After all, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!” has gotten a bit old and stale.
  • Orders: I think Santa could fill orders much faster if only he’d just set up a website. And how about replacing all those last minute letters with email, text, instant messaging or a Twitter account? It has to be painfully slow for him to read all those handwritten letters.

So, all this begs the question, “Why is Santa so successful…in spite of himself?” In business if you continually land new customers and retain the old ones then you’re doing something right. Here are six reasons Santa continually attracts new customers and retains all his current ones:

  • He loves his job! Could you do the same job day after day, year after year for most of your life? Could you do it and remain so upbeat and jolly? Perhaps, “Ho, Ho, Ho,” is his corporate culture and not just some slick branding slogan.
  • He genuinely cares for his customers. His goal is to meet everyone’s needs and all he hopes for in return is to see joy on their faces. Do you get joy from serving others?
  • He gets to the personal side of selling. Granted he’s not always accessible but he doesn’t expect clients to come to him. When he’s at his absolute busiest, with his deadline approaching and delivery date nearing, he can be seen everywhere talking with his customers. How he can be in so many places at one time I’ll never know. How often do you initiate contact with your customers, even when it’s inconvenient for you?
  • He creates an experience. A toy is just a toy, except when it’s from Santa. Because it only comes once a year and will be found under the tree on Christmas morning it creates anticipation and builds excitement! That’s so much better than getting something online or from some mail order catalog. Do you create an experience for your customers?
  • He adds value. When people hear the word “free” they often think “cheap” or wonder, “What’s the catch?” Even though Santa gives his products away we love what he gives us mostly because it comes from him. Don’t you have a few things you value above all others because of the person who gave it to you? Do your customers see you adding value?
  • He delivers on his promise. Santa does what he says and always delivers; no excuses, no extra charge, always on time! Can your customer count on you to be that consistent?

So there you have it, six reasons behind the success of jolly old St. Nick. Did you notice that everything Santa does is within your power to do with your customers? That’s right, there’s no reason you can’t do the same things Santa does. And here’s some welcome news for most of you – you don’t have to wear a silly red uniform while you do those things!

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you and your loved ones have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

 

Systems Plus Persuasion Equal Success

Something I’ve noticed over time is how much systems contribute to success. It’s not to say that being carefree and creative don’t have value – they do. However, my observation has been with most things – learning, fitness, health, sales, coaching, leadership, etc. – having good systems in place are much more beneficial than winging it. Even with creative endeavors like improv comedy, there’s a system or approach that’s used. It may appear as though those doing the comedy are just going with the flow but there’s a structure underneath their creativity.

Two athletic examples come right to mind when I think about systematic approaches: weightlifting and running.

As a teenager I learned a system for weightlifting that made a world of difference. Before my junior season of high school football, I worked out consistently for a year and only gained 5 lbs. Pretty disappointing! During the offseason before my senior year I learned a system for working out and put on 30 lbs. before the season started. At my peak in college I was 90 lbs. heavier than when I first started lifting.

When I took up running my first marathon was a disaster. I covered the 26.2 miles in four hours and fourteen minutes and “hit the wall” about 20 miles into the race. Then I learned a system for running and eventually cut an hour off of that first marathon time and qualified for the Boston Marathon in the process.

In business I’ve seen this play out time and time again. People and organizations with systematic approaches win consistently. Let’s take leadership, sales and coaching as examples.

I’ve spent a lot of time learning and applying leadership concepts from Focus 3. At a high level their system focuses on three things: leaders, culture and behavior.

In the Focus 3 approach leaders create the culture that drives the behaviors that lead to results. If you want better results you need better behaviors which means creating the right culture to support the right behaviors. That’s why culture is the #1 responsibility of leaders.

When it comes to behavior Focus 3 uses the following formula: E+R=O. In plain English this means Event plus Response equals Outcome. Life happens (events) and we usually have no control over those events in the moment. We can influence outcomes in the direction we want by choosing disciplined responses. These disciplined responses are our behaviors.

When it comes to sales the system is pretty simple. Selling is about building rapport with the prospective customer, overcoming objections they may pose then closing the sale.

Coaching has a system very similar to sales. Coaching also starts with building rapport, gaining trust, then motivating the person being coached to new behaviors. Without relationship and trust it’s not likely someone will follow the advice of a coach.

Where does influence come into these business systems? Every step of the way! According to Aristotle, persuasion is about getting people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask. Whether you’re leading, selling or coaching, the principles of influence can be used to support the system because they can be used to change behaviors. For example, the principles we call liking and reciprocity are excellent ways to build rapport. To gain someone’s trust or overcome objections the principles of authority and consensus come into play. And finally, to close a sale or motivate behavior change try the principles of consistency or scarcity. Do you have a system in place that will lead you to success? If so, then consider how you’ll execute your system. If your system involves other people at any point then you’ll want to decide which principles of persuasion you can tap into to get a better result.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLEand Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 130,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

A Top Down or Bottom Up Approach to Selling

There’s old saying that applies to persuasion and selling, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” I don’t actually know anyone who’s ever skinned a cat so I have no idea how many ways you can do it but I’ll trust there are multiple ways. When it comes to persuasion there are many approaches you can use to hear “yes” more often.

What I’ll share this week is directed towards salespeople but the application goes beyond just sales. When it comes to landing a sale, there are a couple of ways you can approach it: top down or bottom up.

Top Down. Sometimes you want to go for it, pull out all the stops and be bold. After all, you have no chance of hearing “yes” if you don’t ask for the sale. Too many salespeople censure themselves with a belief that the prospective client will never go for their top of the line proposal. What they end up doing is reducing their offer…and their chances of making the sale.

I’ll give you an example from my industry – insurance. I can tell you from more than 30 years of experience that far too many people are underinsured when it comes to their homes, cars, businesses, and lives. Here are just a few reasons this happens:

  1. People feel “forced” to buy insurance. The state says they have to insure their car and the bank that holds their mortgage requires them to insure their home.
  2. Laws require business owners to carry certain coverages like workers’ compensation.
  3. Nobody wants to contemplate the end of life so the decision for life insurance is put off again and again.

Because people don’t like to buy insurance they can be quick to dismiss coverages and suggestions from their insurance agent. It’s always in the best interest of the customer that the agent recommends the policy and coverages he or she believes will afford the proper protection. During my time in the insurance industry I’ve never heard someone say after a loss, “Darn! My agent sold me the right coverages and I’m fully protected!” However, many people have said, “Damn! My agent didn’t sell me the right coverage (or amount) and now I’m paying out of my own pocket!”

By offering the right policy and coverages up front the agent risks being rejected and that’s okay. First, never underestimate that some people will buy what’s presented because they recognize it’s in their best interests to do so. If the individual rejects what’s presented the agent has the opportunity to engage what’s known as “reject and retreat.”

If someone rejects your initial offer and you step in with a more moderate offer, one that still affords the essential protection they need, the likelihood that the prospect will say “yes” to the second proposal is higher than if you’d have started with it outright. Why? Because of the principle of reciprocity. This principle of influence tells us people feel obligated to give back to those who first give to them. In the case of rejection, when you make a concession, take a step to the middle, quite often people will make a concession too and meet you part way.

My advice to salespeople is always this – don’t censure yourself! Put the proposal on the table that you believe is right for the customer. When you do so, anticipate they might reject it and be ready with reduced offers you can use in case you hear “no.” Anticipating “no” is not pessimistic, it’s strategic because it allows you to strategically engage reciprocity.

Bottom Up. Sometimes it’s best to tackle the situation from the opposite direction. There might be reasons you can’t go for the whole enchilada because it will surely result in hearing “no” without any fallback options. This might happen because:

  1. You don’t have enough experience with the type of account you’re trying to write.
  2. You don’t have a strong enough relationship with the business owner to warrant going after all the policies associated with his or her business.
  3. The main part of the account comes up for renewal at a different time.

Your best opportunity under these circumstances would be to try writing something smaller like the prospect’s home and auto or part of their business account (auto, worker’s compensation, etc.). The reason you want to approach the sale in this manner is to get your “foot in the door.” If you write any business for the prospective customer you become their agent. Assuming you do a good job for them that little step forward will make it easier for them to give you an opportunity on the bigger parts of their insurance package.

The psychology behind this approach is the principle of consistency. This principle of influence alerts us to the reality that people feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what they say and do. Once you’ve become someone’s agent it’s a consistent next step to see if you can help him or her with their other insurance needs. Now the whole enchilada is within sight!

Persuading a person isn’t always as simple as some would lead you to believe. Due to situational factors and individual differences you can never predict what a single individual might do any more than a doctor can predict which person will live a long life. However, just as a doctor can confidently predict more people will live longer if they live healthy lifestyles, we can confidently say more people will say “yes” when you correctly tap into social psychology. We can make this claim because there’s more than seven decades of research you can rely on to significantly increase the odds that you’ll hear “yes” when you make a request of another person.

So, next time you go into a sale consider whether or not top down or bottom up is the right approach. A little strategic planning could make the sale much easier.

Selling Without Making People Feel Sold

One of the nicest compliments I’ve received came after a presentation I gave a few years ago at a large insurance event. An attendee said afterwards, “I think Brian came across as a guy who, quote unquote, was not interested in selling you and invariably he sold us.” That compliment came to mind recently as I worked with a young intern at State Auto Insurance.

I spent an hour with this high school student talking about coaching in business. I started with the example of a basketball coach because she had a clear picture of what a good basketball coach should do to prepare a team to play to the best of its ability. From there we transitioned to business coaching and eventually focused on her.

As we talked about routines I asked her if there was something she’d like to change in her typical day. She acknowledged having a hard time getting ready for school in the morning. We discussed why that was the case and what she could do to make it easier on herself. She talked about possibly laying out her clothes the night before, perhaps showering the night before and doing her hair. She also knows she could start making the choice not to hit the snooze button after 6:45 AM.

Once we’d discussed all the options I asked her what she intended to do. She said she knows a better routine would help and committed to write down a few things we had talked about then try them over the next seven days. I encouraged her that even if it doesn’t work out as well as she would like we could talk about it again and see what part of her new routine might need to change.

Then I surprised her with this, “Do you realize we just had a coaching session?” Her eyes got wide; she smiled and shook her head to indicate no she didn’t realize it. I didn’t come across as someone who intended to “coach” her and in the end I coached her because there was no resistance. My coaching was just part of the bigger conversation we were having.

If your attempts to coach, sell or persuade someone come across as anything but a conversation you might want to rethink your approach. In our Principles of Persuasion Workshop I often tell salespeople the best way to close a deal starts the moment you shake a prospective customer’s hand and look him or her in the eye because everything builds from there. Your “selling” should really be informing people into yes and that happens best when you ethically employ the principles of persuasion.

I didn’t intend to convince you of anything here but I hope I convinced you.

The Greatest Salesman Who Ever Lived

I boldly proclaim Santa Claus to be the greatest salesman who ever lived! Why do I assert that Santa is the ultimate salesman? To start, he has a couple of success stories most of us can’t compete with. First, he’s successfully run the same family business for hundreds of years. There’s something to be said for stability, especially in today’s economy. Second, Santa can boast a client base that expands every year — no matter the state of the global economy. Can you or your business make those two claims?

But those aren’t the reasons I believe Santa is the greatest salesman who ever lived. Contrary to what you might think, his success doesn’t come from his business savvy. After all, consider the obstacles he has to overcome.

  • Business attire: Santa obviously doesn’t buy into the “dress for success” business attire philosophy. Power suits are fine but a red suit and hat, both lined with fur, is a little over the top in today’s business environment. Now if he were in Hollywood…
  • Delivery system: Santa’s remains way behind the times here. His “One Day Delivery” is literally that – you get your packages one day a year. He doesn’t seem to notice in today’s economy people want what they want, when they want it, and that usually means now. But the real problem behind “One Day Delivery” might just be his delivery method. I think you’d agree the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS would be much more efficient than eight tiny reindeer pulling a small sleigh.
  • Manufacturing: Some say Santa’s operation is too labor-intensive to survive much longer. After all, he’s competing with Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple and other giant companies. In today’s marketplace, how can any business can get by without automating? Perhaps if he automated a process or two he’d have enough inventory to open this store more than one day a year.
  • Efficiency: I realize Santa gives his product away for free but that doesn’t mean it costs him nothing. He has all those elves and reindeer to take care of. Food and lodging are bad enough but health care costs have to be crushing his profit margin! And what about worker’s compensation costs? If he automated at least he’d save a little money and might be able to take Mrs. Claus on a nice vacation – somewhere warm for a change!
  • Branding: All companies change their branding to fit the times and Santa might want to consider doing the same. After all, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!” has gotten a bit old and stale.
  • Orders: I think Santa could fill orders much faster if only he’d just set up a website. And how about replacing all those last minute letters with email, text, instant messaging or a Twitter account? It has to be painfully slow for him to read all those handwritten letters.

So, all this begs the question, “Why is Santa so successful…in spite of himself?” In business if you continually land new customers and retain the old ones then you’re doing something right. Here are six reasons Santa continually attracts new customers and retains all his current ones:

  • He loves his job! Could you do the same job day after day, year after year for most of your life? Could you do it and remain so upbeat and jolly? Perhaps, “Ho, Ho, Ho,” is his corporate culture and not just some slick branding slogan.
  • He genuinely cares for his customers. His goal is to meet everyone’s needs and all he hopes for in return is to see joy on their faces. Do you get joy from serving others?
  • He gets to the personal side of selling. Granted he’s not always accessible but he doesn’t expect clients to come to him. When he’s at his absolute busiest, with his deadline approaching and delivery date nearing, he can be seen everywhere talking with his customers. How he can be in so many places at one time I’ll never know. How often do you initiate contact with your customers, even when it’s inconvenient for you?
  • He creates atmosphere. A toy is just a toy, except when it’s from Santa. Because it only comes once a year and will be found under the tree on Christmas morning it creates anticipation and builds excitement! That’s so much better than getting something online or from some mail order catalog. Do you create an experience for your customers?
  • He adds value. When people hear the word “free” they often think “cheap” or wonder, “What’s the catch?” Even though Santa gives his products away we love what he gives us mostly because it comes from him. Don’t you have a few things you prize because of the person who gave it to you? That’s your change to add value. Do your customers see you adding value?
  • He delivers on his promise. Santa does what he says and always delivers, at no extra charge, on time! Can your customer count on you to be that consistent?

So there you have it, six reasons behind the success of jolly old St. Nick. Yes, I stand firm on the assertion that Santa Claus is the ultimate salesman! Did you notice that everything Santa does is within your power to do with your customers? That’s right, there’s no reason you can’t do the same things Santa does. And here’s some welcome news for most of you – you don’t have to wear a silly red uniform while you do those things!

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you and your loved ones have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Persuasive Selling – A New Lynda.com Course

I had the privilege this year to work with the people at Lynda.com, 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 Lynda.com 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.

WIIFM – Is It Always The Motivation?

Salespeople like to say everyone’s favorite radio station is WIIFM. In case you don’t know it, WIIFM is an acronym that stands for “What’s In It For Me?” The assumption salespeople make, and most other people for that matter, is humans are always motivated to act in their best self-interest. State Auto’s former Chief Sales Officer Clyde Fitch put it this way, “Self-interest isn’t the only horse in the race but it’s usually the one to bet on.”

In the absence of certain factors people do act in their best self-interest quite often. But the smart persuader knows there are many decades of research from social psychologists and behavioral economists that refute this claim.

This was brought to the forefront of my mind as I reread Robert Cialdini’s new book Pre-suasion. He highlighted a study conducted by Adam Grant and David Hoffman. These two looked at the hand washing behavior of doctors. If anyone knows the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of germs it would be doctors. Despite their knowledge, doctors wash their hands about half as often as they should. That’s not good for doctors or patients!

In an effort to see if they could motivate more hand washing to prevent the spread of germs and disease Grant and Hoffman tried two different approaches. One appealed to WIIFM and another appealed to why most people chose to become doctors – to help patients.

In the WIIFM scenario doctors saw signs that read, “Hand hygiene protects you from catching diseases.” In the patient focus appeal the sign said, “Hand hygiene protects patients from catching diseases.” So the difference was a single word – “you” vs. “patients.”

The WIIFM approach caused no change in hand washing behavior but the patient focused approach cause a 45% increase in hand washing!

What does this mean for you? It’s easy to default to WIFFM and that leads to typical ways to motivate – salary increases, bonuses, rewards, etc. Make no mistake, those traditional approaches do change people’s behavior but sometimes there are better, less costly ways to motivate a behavior change. Taking time to know why people do what they do then tapping into that can be far more effective.

Most people don’t become doctors to make lots of money or for fame. Those are nice by-products but not the motivation. Usually people get into healthcare because of a personal experience that leads them to want to help others.

Teachers certainly don’t get into that profession for the money. A love of learning and desire to help kids are big reasons people become teachers. Coaches usually choose that profession because of a love of sports and the impact a coach had on them. They want to pass along the love and impact people the way they were impacted.

When you discover someone’s why and craft your persuasive appeal around it you’re tapping into a powerful principle of influence – consistency. When your persuasive appeal reminds them of their why it’s much easier for them to say yes to you.

My encouragement for you this week is to pay attention to those you interact with, see if you can discover their why then make sure your attempt at persuasion incorporates that knowledge. Do so and you’ll be far more successful when it comes to hearing yes.