All business is personal, and even the biggest deals, orders, projects, sales and contracts come down to two or more people making a connection. If the ‘profit’ you seek is wealth, you must realize that all the money you will ever earn is currently sat in someone else’s pocket. If your ‘profit’ is more influence, respect, clients, support, challenge, reputation or excitement, you must go through other people to get it. Being more is a cornerstone of ‘getting through’. Here are eight of my favourite strategies for ensuring people buy you, your arguments, your excuses, your services and your products.
1. Make The Difference Dramatic!
All of your prospects probably have another bank, another law firm, another accountancy firm, another existing provider of your services in place. If they’re going to come over to you, they have a right to ask you two very tough questions;
1. As a prospective client, why should I choose you?
2. What added value do you bring to me or my business that I cannot get anywhere else?
This is sometimes called the Tyranny of Choice, and all of my work is dedicated to helping you find the answers to these two questions. As a matter of fact, that’s where my TRIP strap line, Turning Relationships Into Profits, comes from. So what is so distinctive and memorable about you and your product? Where are the dramatic differences between you and everyone else who does what you do? Why should people go for you over and above your competition?
If they don’t see it, understand it, value it, or remember it, you’re dead in the water and it’s almost certain they will turn you down. You’ve got to emphasize the dramatic difference between you and your rivals. You do this by illustrating and demonstrating rather than asserting and claiming. You have to differentiate through war stories, case studies, testimonials, quotes and real life examples they can relate to. They might not need you today, but things change in business, and when the time comes and ‘the wheel falls off their wagon’, they will DDD for you – Discern the Difference, Decide the Deed and Do the Deal!
2. Educate Yourself on Their Education!
Whether you’re approaching a new prospect or cross-selling or up-selling to an existing client, you need to know what they know before you pitch. How much does your potential client already know about you and what you do? What prior knowledge do they have? It’s crucial you ascertain where they are in their education. If they already know plenty, there’s no need to oversell by going over all of the benefits again. Experts need more detail. If they know less, home in on the benefits, not the detail.
3. Realise When Enough is Enough!
When people go into graphic detail about things, we sometimes say ‘that’s way too much information!’ This also applies to you, my friend! Have you ever ‘over sold’? You knew they were ready to buy, but you went on too much and actually talked them out of it! I learned the hard way when I was selling private medical insurance for BUPA. Talked my way out of a lot of good commission until my low bank balance taught me to shut up!
Master persuaders have a strong feel for how much information to give someone. Kevin Hogan, one of the world’s leading experts in this area, says this is based upon whether the person you are communicating with is likely to mentally process your information peripherally or centrally. Let’s explore this.
When people are considering, pondering, analyzing and thinking, they are centrally processing your message. When they rely on other cues your appearance, your expertise, your status and your company reputation, they are using peripheral cues that often have little to do with your actual message. The more information people consider, the more they evaluate and the more information you need to give them. The less information they want, the more likely you will elicit a negative response if you go over the top on detail.
How much is too much? Hogan gives this advice;
“The more expert a person is in a given area, the more features (not benefits) that person needs to make a decision. They are going to match your message to what they already have stored in their memory and mind. If you come across as not knowing the actual working details of whatever your idea or proposal is, you lose. If you have quality information, you engage them and optimize your chances of making the sale.
When a person is not an expert in a certain area, less information is generally more likely to be processed more quickly and favourably. And because in this case, less is better, you want that message to be very different. You want to share benefits and not features with this person. When they are not an expert, peripheral cues become crucial.”
4. Use the Power of Arousal!
Arousal is simply getting people excited, happy and enthusiastic. It’s changing the mood. It’s creating an atmosphere or enjoyment. Anyone who has studied NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) will know that getting people to laugh or think good thoughts are classic ways to influence mood. When hairdressers ask you where you’re going on holiday, they know that thinking about such things puts you in a terrific mood (and open to the luxury shampoo and the big tip!)
Without getting too technical, arousal decreases central processing in the brain, and increases peripheral processing. If you want someone to be persuaded by central cues (the core message, the benefits), you will need to keep arousal to a minimum. If you get them excited, they’ll miss the message and be more guided by emotion!
If you want them to be persuaded by peripheral cues, be the hairdresser and use subtle strategies to arouse them and open them up to your peripheral cues.
5. Repeat as Necessary!
Remember the old news motto – tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them? Master persuaders know that the simple repetition of key thoughts, ideas and concepts can lead to big results. They apply the knowledge the advertisers use; that people need to hear a message several times before they consider buying. In my business life, I have waited years for prospects to turn into clients, and kept in contact through KIT (Keep In Touch) Marketing outside the transaction.
Your job is to deliver your message in easily repeatable ways. Hogan uses the term memes – a message that can be easily replicated. Memes are ideas that pass from person to person to person via word of mouth (or sometimes called viral) marketing, and can be very powerful. One way I do this is to state what I’m going to cover on meeting agendas. Then I cover it and then I recap. That way they get the message three times, all in slightly different ways. And each time it goes deeper!
6. Exercise Your Authority!
Everything being equal, people will buy from those they consider to be the most credible source. In my Personal Branding Bible, I give plenty of examples of how you can become, and make it known that you are the source, the expert. I actually like the GTG phrase – the ‘go to guy’ or ‘go to girl’.
Beware that these days, everyone claims to be an expert, and this can create competition in the mind of your prospects. The trick is to hold that mantle long term, through article writing, speaking, radio and magazine appearances, sitting on influential boards and having sound opinions.
When people are not experts and you know more than your audience, it is not always the message that matters. They listen to you more than what you say. There is a consultant in my field who charges up to $25,000 per day for his services. His message is not radically different to mine in that he advocates building relationships to sell. It’s just that he’s written a few very good books and held a position at Harvard. That’s positioning and I’m working on it!
7. Look Good for Best Results!
This one is simple but overlooked. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence – Science & Practice, highlights how your physical attractiveness makes a difference when you communicate. When you’re simply focus on numbers, statistics and details, physical appearance is less of a factor. But in conversation with other experts and key decision makers, research shows it can help considerably if you look your best!
8. Remember It’s All About Them!
Hogan uses the phrase “paint people in the picture of your presentation.” It is sometimes called ‘self referencing’. Your prospects will give far more weight to your suggestions and proposals if they are encouraged to see themselves using your product or service. They will also remember more and buy more as a result.
Self referencing is a peripheral cue. If you address someone who has significant prior knowledge of your products and services, any time you spend on putting them in the picture is wasted. However, if you are the expert and they have marginal knowledge, then self referencing is a powerful peripheral cue to hit on. This especially holds true if you can see they already have some motivation to use you. Obviously, if they have no desire to make use of you, all the self referencing in the world won’t make the sale! So say ‘you’ a lot more than ‘I’ and ‘we’ to make them feel it’s all about them. The more people self reference, the more likely they are to buy, and the more likely they are to remember you and your services.
Now go out there armed and dangerous to make the most of your persuasive powers. Work on one or two at a time until you nail them well enough to have them all in your tool box!