Persuasive Selling Techniques: 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Trust-based Selling
How to win over even the most skeptical sales prospect
Today’s sales reps have it tough. Contemporary consumers have inherited a keen skepticism. It’s born of an entire century of exposure to marketing and sales techniques.
Before persuasion comes knowledge: Research, research, research
The definition of persuasion
Persuasion is the process of leading someone to respond in a desired manner by skillfully presenting logical ideas while demonstrating credibility and ethical proof for your implicit argument.
“Ethical” is the operative word here. Engaging in duplicity is guaranteed to destroy any foundation of trust, which is paramount to the persuasion process.
The best offense is a good defense
The first step to upping your persuasive selling game takes place before you ever even contact your sales target. The key here is research.
To present those logical thoughts and demonstrate credibility, you need to know your stuff inside and out. Remember, the prospect has likely done some research and is coming into the conversation with presuppositions of their own.
Know your product
First things first: familiarize yourself with the product or service you’re selling at the most granular level.
Do the kind of in-depth research that will allow you to situate your product in its historical and cultural context, and be able to describe accurately and in detail how the product compares with similar ones on the marketplace.
Pro tip: You can achieve this most efficiently by interviewing employees in various positions throughout your organization. For example, let’s say you’re selling software. The development team will have a different perspective on some of the technical benefits of the product. In contrast, the support team will have a more customer-centric approach to benefits as opposed to features.
Both are important, and creating a diverse understanding of whatever you’re selling is essential. There’s no better way to do this than engaging in real conversation with real people.
Know your target
Just as important as knowing your product is to knowing your customer better than they know themselves. You need to be familiar with your sales target’s purchasing behaviors and patterns, tastes and preferences, and, most importantly, their frustrations and pain points.
Pro tip: Research into customer types is one area where the new sales technologies available on the market today can add value.
Accent Technologies, for instance, offers a Marketing Insight tool that allows sales professionals to gather information on how buyers engage with their content and messaging and how content performs with different types of personas.
Access to this kind of information lets sales pros extrapolate critical data about customer behavior patterns, enhancing their understanding of different demographics.
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Making the pitch
Persuasive selling techniques that don’t seem persuasive
Now comes the hard part: writing that sales letter or delivering that presentation. How do you best leverage all essential customer and product knowledge into a persuasive pitch?
Chances are you might need to unlearn some ineffective sales techniques before you adopt a new set of best practices. Therefore, let’s start by looking at a few things you shouldn’t be doing.
And once you’ve cast those unhelpful practices to the wayside, read on for a rundown of what you should be doing.
The 5 Don’ts of persuasive selling:
1. Don’t think you’re the star of the show
Conventional wisdom holds that sales reps need to be highly extroverted to be successful—after all, extroverts tend to be charismatic, energetic and brimming with contagious enthusiasm. What could be more persuasive?
Here’s the problem: extroverts also tend to be attention hogs, which affects their credibility with sales targets. A 2013 study published in Psychological Science demonstrated that “ambiverts” (or people who demonstrate both extroverted and introverted traits) achieve the best sales outcomes because, while they are enthusiastic about their product, they also know when to be quiet and listen.
So tap into your inner introvert: you’re not the star of the show here. Make the client feel like they’re the center of attention.
2. Don’t adopt a “one-size-fits-all” approach
So your last sales pitch was a winner? Toss it out anyway. You need to start from the ground-up with each new sales target—just like no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people will have identical needs and motivations or respond to the same sales language.
Custom-tailoring your pitches requires factoring in variables like age, gender, professional milieu, and cultural background. You can also utilize data about individual purchasing patterns, and content engagement gleaned from tools like Accent’s Market Insight platform.
3. Don’t rely on stereotypical sales and persuasion techniques
Persuasion research shows that consumers become defensive when they realize their interlocutor is trying to influence them in a specific direction.
Sales reps who adopt “stereotypical” approaches that consumers have been exposed to in the past, like employing excessive flattery or “hard-sell” language, are perceived negatively by consumers.
Studies have found that consumers demonstrate greater trust in a salesperson who employs persuasion techniques that are not stereotypical and are even willing to pay higher prices in those sales scenarios.
4. Don’t make the direct, hard sale
Sales targets tend to interpret direct sales statements as pressuring, aggressive, or conflictual. Another key finding of persuasive selling research is that prospective clients respond more positively to indirect claims and assertions.
When you watch old movies like Glengarry Glen Ross, you might get the impression that salespeople can make their living through bullying and aggressive swindling.
Firstly, I’m sure that’s not a culture you want on your sales team. Secondly, with the internet, endless customer reviews, forums describing customer experiences, and price comparison sites, these sorts of tactics are counter-productive.
5. Don’t make more than three positive claims to sell a product
A 2014 Journal of Marketing study found that a critical persuasive selling technique is to limit the number of positive claims that you present to the sales target. The study demonstrated that the magic number of positive claims a sales rep can make is three.
Once a consumer hears four or more positive claims, they become skeptical of the salesperson and are less likely to purchase.
This only reaffirms that you need to make the prospect and their pain the main focus. Whatever you’re selling is only a means to an end of their goals. Adopt that mindset, and your close rate will improve in kind.
The 5 Dos of persuasive selling:
1. Do listen
The most crucial persuasive technique doesn’t involve persuasion at all: it’s listening. We mentioned above that you can’t be the star of the show in the sales transaction.
So what’s the antidote to off-putting self-absorption? If talking too much about your product is the problem, then asking friendly, open-ended questions and listening with empathy is the cure.
Demonstrate that you’re hearing them with affirmative comments and follow-up questions.
2. Do keep it simple, stupid!
Persuasion research demonstrates that consumers find information that’s simple to process more persuasive than more complex data.
Yes, you’ve done all that research we discussed above, but don’t pummel your sales prospect with endless facts and figures or try to persuade them with rhetorically convoluted arguments.
After all, the master of a particular discipline isn’t the one that uses big words and abstract concepts. It’s the one with the prowess to break down complex concepts enough for a child to understand them.
Keep your pitch simple, easy to digest, and brief.
3. Do demonstrate mutual understanding
As early as you can, find common ground with your prospective client. You may discover information in the research phase that you can leverage to locate commonalities and also discover connections in the course of a friendly, pressure-free conversation.
This fosters a sense of trust and solidarity between the sales rep and sales prospect and helps you present your message in a way that will resound with your audience.
Pro tip: When engaging with a prospect, recite back to them their pain point in the form of a question. This helps you understand what they’re feeling, gives them a chance to correct false assumptions, and prompts them to engage with their frustrations.
For example: “So, if I hear you correctly, you’re telling me that you don’t have insight into your sales reps’ performance, and you feel like it costs you business. Is that a fair summary of what you’re saying?”
4. Do validate your target’s objections
Your prospects will inevitably express some sort of objection to your pitch, even if it’s just by staying silent.
The key here is not to try to persuade them by dismissing or brushing off their concerns. That sort of behavior immediately throws up defensive walls with prospective buyers.
This goes back to the point about listening: consider the customer’s objections and reiterate those issues to let the customer know you’ve heard them.
You may surprise them when you agree their objections are legitimate and valid, and you want to work with them to find a solution.
For example: “I hear you that you’re concerned that a sales enablement tool is too expensive for you right now. It’s certainly an investment. Let’s talk about some of the implications of not implementing a sales enablement tool, and potentially some revenue you may be missing out on as a result.”
5. Do nurture your target’s sense of agency
The Socratic method is a form of argumentation (though it doesn’t need to be argumentative) concerned with asking and answering questions. The goal is to draw out underlying conclusions and help people arrive at presuppositions on their own.
It’s a popular form of argumentation in legal matters and certainly has its uses in sales persuasion. (To a certain extent — don’t treat your prospect like a hostile witness.)
Unsurprisingly, persuasion research shows that allowing people to reach their own conclusions effectively convinces them of an idea far more than imposing a decision upon them.
This is, after all, the entire plot of Inception.
It’s essential that prospects feel they have agency in the transaction and aren’t being influenced by the salesperson’s prodding. When you give consumers the space to arrive at a conclusion on their own, they have a greater propensity to agreeing with your arguments.
A few more considerations to boost your persuasive abilities
Keep them happy
Studies show that sales prospects who are already in a good mood will be more receptive to and more trusting of a persuasive sales pitch.
If you’re making your presentation in person, a subtle persuasive selling technique fosters a sense of well-being by making sure your space is brightly and cheerily lit, and maybe even try diffusing some soothing aromatherapy in the room.
Get them in the morning
This one might sound crazy, but research has shown that consumers who are exposed to sales information in the morning are more like to be persuaded than if they were exposed to the same information at night. (The authors of the study suggest it might have to do with the previous point—more people are in a better mood early in the day.)
As always, you’ll want to A/B test tactics for your business, as your clientele may have particular schedules or workweeks that preclude morning sales calls.
We’ve gone in-depth here on the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral tactics you can employ to subtly and ethically persuade your sales prospects.
But we’ve also touched on how data science and sales management platforms can help enhance those persuasive sales techniques. Accent Technologies offers a suite of technology solutions that can enrich the sales process at every step of the way.
For more information on how we can help you win more deals through AI-powered insights, contact our team for a demo today.