Selling is About Influence

Selling is About Influence

In any business, the key to success is the sale. Even if you don’t have a product, you are selling a service, an idea or even just selling that you know what you’re talking about.

I believe we are all in business all the time. Life is a business. Think about how persuasive you need to be when you put your kids to bed (at bedtime), convince a friend they need to get out more, get your team at work to adhere to a new system, ask your partner to see the movie you want to watch.

All these things are sales where the results will benefit from your influence. That’s the true heart of selling, being able to influence someone into seeing what you see and doing things your way, or at least meeting you halfway.

I’m not sure what you think of when you see or hear the word Influence. It depends on your personal past experience. For some people influence = deception, manipulation and dominance. That’s certainly one way to attempt to get what you want, however it’s not necessarily the most effective strategy. It wastes a lot of energy and can cause conflict that might last for a long time after you get your way, or the person leaves.

If you believe in a firm hand approach or manipulative translation of influence then you will probably come across sales tactics and strategies that are unethical, unfriendly and setup so that the sales person wins and the buyer comes off second best, even if you don’t use these strategies yourself, it’s something you will have experienced.

That’s only one of the ways to view Influence. I really hate the above kind of scenario, I like to find and present solutions that are a win-win for everyone. Those win-win situations always exist. It gets me excited when I can help someone step closer to their goal and reach success. It also benefits me because that person is likely to refer me, or my business, or come back again to help overcome a different problem or offer me help down the track.

This is smart business: building and maintaining a loyal customer base (and staff base). Taking a cooperative approach, where you listen to the other person’s needs and point of view will open up space where you can also present your needs and your point of view. When you listen to them, they will want to listen to you. From there, the best solution can be worked out to get each person to a position that moves forward, rather than sliding backwards.

All this is achieved through positive influence. When I say Influence, what I mean by that is inspiration. I actively look for people who excel at what they do and I allow them and their patterns of behaviour to influence my life and my actions so I can generate the same results.

Guess what, it works! And it works rapidly.

When I think of myself as an influencer, I put my ideas, my lessons learned and successes out there so that other people can benefit. That’s it. It’s a cooperative relationship that gives other people choices about what parts of my success they want to adopt and what patterns they want to bring into their own life.

If they trust me, and my results are close to what they want to achieve, then they are more likely to model what I offer closely and get really rapid results.

If we put this into a situation where you are trying to put your kids to bed, your desire to get them asleep as soon as possible and their desire to stay awake as long as possible are worlds apart. To find a cooperative win-win approach you’ll need to find a new common ground, a goal or desire that is bigger than wrestling with you for another 45 minutes. To do that, you need to know your child well, and stop and listen to what it is they need in that moment.

You can apply this approach to anything. Today we are going to focus on sales, but if you are flexible in how you translate the idea of a SALE, then you can find new ways to approach any situation where you want to take a position as a positive influencer.

Here’s what to keep in mind when pitching a sale:

  1. Get to know them

Before you get started get to know who you are talking to and where they are at. This is about opening yourself up to their model of the world. Everyone sees the world differently, based on their past experiences, values and beliefs. No person is ever wrong about their views, even if they are extreme, as it is real to them. Understanding this is the first step to being able to become a valuable influencer. One of my favourite and best illustrations of influence through seeing other people’s model of the world is the movie Patch Adams. The true story portrayed by Robin Williams about a doctor-in-training who greatly influenced his patients and their ability to work with doctors to aid in their recovery came about simply because Patch was able to see and work inside the other person’s model of the world. 

  1. Give them some credit

One trap that is easy to fall into is patronising your client. From the outset assume they are smart, intelligent and capable. Make sure your sales pitch includes all the information they need to understand what your business is and why your business is a good match for them, without assuming you need to fill in every detail and tell them how the world came to be created. If you don’t have a great elevator pitch ready and rehearsed you should do that now, it’s a great way to get comfortable giving people a sample of what you do in a nutshell.

To get your pitch information right you need to ask questions about where they currently are and what they want to achieve. This is your first stop after a greeting and rapport building.

Giving them all the information up front will either put them to sleep if they already know what you are talking about, or send them into overwhelm if they have never experienced anything like this before. Give them space to ask questions and give you feedback, and take the time to get interested in them and their destination and conflicts in achieving their goals.

Give them plenty of time to ask questions, and also ask them questions about their experience. Someone with little knowledge can then be given more examples and details if they need them.

  1. Be clear

You need to be fully aware of what your business does, why it does it and what the direct benefits are. If you are not able to offer details and specifics about how your business can solve this person’s problem, then you need to go back and spend more time getting to know your own product or service. Being vague leads to confusion and a confused customer NEVER buys. Be crystal clear on results and how you will achieve them. You might not have a step-by-step manual on how that will go yet, but you still need to have a solid grasp on your customer’s problem and your ability to solve it through your experience or through buying your product.

  1. Listen as much as, or more than you talk

The person who talks the most doesn’t have the most power, it’s the person who is more flexible that gets to be the one who governs the situations. People who talk more don’t necessarily get their point across any better either.

Actively listen and make this a two-way event. When you listen you can understand where the gaps are in information and take steps to rectify that, instead of hammering out everything you think NEEDS to be said, most of it probably won’t be relevant.

Talk less. Listen attentively.

If you get in a situation with someone who rambles or gets off topic, a few well-placed questions will get them back on track without you needing to take over the conversation. 

  1. Have fun and relax

Unless you are in a formal setting, like a tribunal, funding enquiry or tender, keep things casual. It’s important to be polite (don’t get so comfortable that you put your feet up on the table) and just allow the conversation to flow naturally. It gives you both space to open up and be honest about what is really going on.

There is no need to assert yourself as the alpha just to get what you want. Inspiring someone to follow your lead takes compassion and honesty, so that they have a safe place to get real about their conflicts.

  1. It’s all about them

Make sure the relevance and benefits of your business to the client are front and centre. It’s all about them and their results. What they need and how you can provide a solution to get them to their desired goal. If you get that right you will automatically benefit from the sale, their great result and their referrals. So make their results your number one priority in order to see great results yourself.

  1. If there is no need, stop selling

If your product or service doesn’t fit the other person’s need then you’ve met a new friend and had a great conversation. Leave it at that.

You need to remember that your business thrives on great results. If this person is not going to achieve anything then they are not going to refer and they might even say negative things about their experience. Make sure you give them something they can use, or some kind of value to even out the sale and make it win-win.

The best thing you can do in a situation where you can’t help is refer the person on to someone who can. Make sure you attend networking events and get to know services and businesses that work cooperatively with yours so you can refer a person on to a trusted source and get them to a solution, which will in turn reflect well on you. In return your referring partner can do the same when they find someone great for your business.

  1. Keep it brief

Keep your initial call short. Have a plan for what you want to say, and if they have questions answer them. Be sure to allow equal talking and listening time. If they are really interested and want a lot of detail, move the chat to another location.

Setup a meeting that is obligation free and in an appropriate setting (i.e. not a noisy and crowded café) and have a really great conversation about what happens next. Try to keep the meeting close to the initial interest time so they remember who you are and what kind of questions they had, (i.e. the next day or that same week). If a face-to-face meeting is not possible setup a video chat online or send through some well-structured business information via email.

If you meet someone at a social event this is even more important. No one wants to talk about work when they are at a party. After 5 minutes (10 minutes max) arrange a meeting to talk about work at another time and switch the conversation back to pleasure, interests and fun.

  1. Forget to close

This is the biggest mistake I see people make. They forget to ask for the sale or ask for the contact or setup a meeting. You can have a great conversation with a really interested person and get really excited about the “sure thing”. No matter how great that conversation was, if you forget to close (or assume they will offer to do it themselves) you miss out on the sale. Remember, as the influencer they are looking to you for guidance and direction. You have what they need and you know the next step, so allow that natural relationship to continue by making sure you give them the steps they need to get there, starting with how they can connect with you or purchase your product.

  1. Be okay about not getting your way

Getting things always your own way is probably not going to work for you in the long run. A compromise can be far more effective and setup a great future relationship.

For example, if you have a conversation with your child who will not go to bed and find they are not feeling well, further investigation might uncover a slight fever. In this case you still don’t want them to stay up, it’s even more important that they go to bed. Understanding their situation allows you to address it; to get medicine, a cold cloth, explain that going to bed now will help things in the morning. It also gives you the option of putting what you were going to do on hold and sitting with your little one while they drift off to sleep. An iron fist approach might not have revealed the real problem or given you the information you needed to address it. Winning: getting your kid into bed without noticing their illness might not have actually been a win after all if it means delayed treatment or a suffering child.

Here is the easy to remember ABC’s strategy I use to get an effective sales pitch over the line every time.

Ask in conversation:

Are?                Where ARE you currently?

Be?                  Where would you like to BE?

Challenges?    What CHALLENGES are in the way?

Direction?      This is a DIRECTION you could take.

Engage?          Excellent! How would you like to pay?

For more information about how these strategies work, how you can use them effectively and how to handle objections, join us for Entrepreneur Now and get your sales into shape.

Kindest regards,

Matt Catling

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