Do you ever hear a kid say, “When I grow up, I want to be a politician?” Probably not. They’re also skipping over the sales profession, too. Coincidence? Perhaps not. It’s those negative perceptions that both jobs have. But, somehow politicians find a way to get people to vote for them. Salespeople can find ways to close business and help their customers buy when they use the same skills of persuasion. Here’s how you can apply the skills that politicians use so effectively and close more business.
Let me go first. Politicians often find that they have to change voters’ beliefs about certain issues. In sales, you might have to do the same. Perhaps your customer had a bad experience with your company and now has a negative perception of your company or product. It’s your job to change that perception. One strategy is known as inoculation. Think of this strategy like a person getting an inoculation against a disease. If you know that the prospect is opposed to your message, you must address their concerns before they can raise the objection. If you believe your customer will think your product’s price is too high, you say before they address it, “I know you may be thinking $50/gallon is a high price to pay. Let me tell you why it’s worth it.” If you can refute their arguments before they ask about them, your prospect will be more likely to be persuaded.
You all look the same. Telling the difference between political candidates is often difficult. Sometimes their audience also has strong views against them, too. Use a refutation strategy in this situation. In sales, many products are commodities and prospects find it difficult to distinguish differences between products. If someone makes decisions based on evidence and statistics, you must provide rational reasons and evidence why your product is best. Telling stories, using humor and establishing your own personal credibility is especially appropriate when the prospect is unable to differentiate between your products and those of your competitors. Stories work well because they can tap into the listener’s emotions, build credibility and make an argument for you. Evidence that’s especially persuasive is expert testimony or testimonial letters from knowledgeable customers. It’s helpful because turning to an expert is a mental shortcut that guides persuasion.
They’re buying you. Above all, your credibility is key to being persuasive. Either your personal credibility or the credibility of your product is very important. To add to your credibility you can use what researchers call reluctant testimony. It shows your honesty. Reluctant testimony is when you say something that’s against your own interests. One example would be if you were commission based and said to a prospect, “I don’t make much on this product, but it is the best one for you.” Another way to use reluctant testimony is if you have favorable comments from a competitor. You could say, “You may not trust what I say given that I’m selling the product. Even our competitors acknowledge our product’s quality.”
Having someone credible introduce you or endorse you is another way to enhance your credibility. The whole referral system and testimonial letters are based on this aspect of persuasion. What’s even better is to clearly identify your prospect’s needs and clearly and honestly attempt to meet those needs. That’s a great way to establish long term credibility.
What if you don’t? Your ability to close will be in jeopardy. You can start with the persuasion strategies without identifying a prospect’s needs. You can wear a suit and tie to look more credible, too. But, ultimately, your job is to figure out what your customers want. Unless you do, it will be much harder to be persuasive and close the deal.
Persuasion in sales is similar to persuasion in politics. Both audiences tend to have strong pre-existing views so changing their minds is difficult. At least you have the option to change your mind. Politicians who do that are condemned as flip-floppers and that loses votes. At least you can still make the sale.