“The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: ‘I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.’ So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, until at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.”
So often, the immediate image of a salesperson is the used-car salesman straight out of Roald Dahl’s Matilda — checkered too-small jacket, snidely mustache, waiting to rip you off. While there are still swindlers out there, the modern salesperson looks like any other human, and, instead of selling bells and whistles, they are adept at persuasive selling.
The old salesperson is the Wind; the new sales rep is the Sun. The moral of Aesop’s fable is: “Kindness affects more than severity.” Today we are going to talk about how to use this lesson to sell persuasively.
Choose your friends wisely
This is also known as good prospecting. Before even drafting and sending a proposal, make sure you have a chance. While proposal templates and software make everything easier, you’re still wasting your time if you’re sending a proposal to a company you have no chance working with. Instead of sending out blind proposals to companies that will only either delete your email or ask you to drop your price below your threshold, spend your time researching. First, Google News Search the company and see if they seem to be expanding or if they’ve made the news for worse reasons. Read their website for blogs or press releases stating their goals moving forward. Then make your first point of contact, making sure to mention those goals.
Instead of cold calling, try to find some of the potential decision makers on LinkedIn. Your first point of contact is qualified by the LinkedIn network and actually makes it a more personal method of first outreach. Try something like “Our X company is interested in possibly collaborating with your company because we are looking for the right new client. Please check out our professional experiences and portfolios, and we will be happy email you a proposal of our services. Thank you.” If they accept your connection, don’t be afraid to mail them back questions, like “Who is everyone I should send it to?” (which answers: “Who are the decision makers?”) or “What is one thing you think would improve the X part of your business?”
The whole point is to see if they are in the market before wasting your time working for nil.
Use honey to catch clients
The old adage you catch more flies with honey than vinegar rings true today. Sweeten your clients up, not by sucking up, but by actively listening to them. Persuasive selling is, more often than not, Socratic Selling. Of course, start by asking them how their day was and telling them how delighted you are to work with them, but then ask them how they’d envision the ideal outcome of the product. Ask them what their ideal consultant would do for them. What is the timeframe they expect results in?
And smear on that enthusiasm! Persuasive selling is first and foremost based on showing how passionate you are about your product or service. Don’t gloat, just be happy and self-assured that your business can ease their pains.
Don’t bore them either! Persuasive selling involves considering the right length and that all messages are succinct and client-geared — this is true from the proposal writing process up through your presentation. You show the client respect by showing respect for their time.
Know your shizz
Persuasive selling is balancing the psychological part of sales and the facts of who you are and what you have to offer. You can’t write nor present a proposal without knowing every intricacy of your brand. Everyone spends so much time working to get a business opportunity, but then they spend little time on what to do when they get one and how to deliver it. That just either blows the sale then and there or makes for a poor result that blows your long-term relationship.
Persuasive selling is not over-selling. If you know your company and what your company can do, you should be very succinct in your responses to client objections. It’s about establishing your team’s technical credibility. Don’t oversell your company’s features, but, after sweetly listening to your client, pair them as benefits to client needs.
Credibility also sells. Use social proof by way of referrals and name-dropping of previous clients to show you are a credible candidate. Know your industry and drop the names that would be relevant to your client and the project. And don’t be afraid to let images, videos and visual examples of your work speak for themselves.
When to carry that big stick
Teddy Roosevelt recommended we speak softly, but carry a big stick. In this case, be forever kind and respectful to your clients, but don’t go too far. Follow your morals — if they are asking you to do something questionable, like pay part of it off the books, be bold but polite in saying, “I’m sorry, but we don’t do business that way.” And, as always — unless you really, really need it — don’t let them brow-beat you into lowering your price below your value. Tell them again that you are sorry, but your time and service has a certain value and you simply cannot go below that, but you hope the door is still open to working together in the future.
In this situation, your “stick” is your ability to walk away. The feudal habit of bartering for everything has become a habit again over the last seven years of the economic crisis. Likewise, we’ve gotten ourselves into the habit of over-compromising because we are worrying when our next sale will be. Don’t be afraid to walk away — they might let you or it might be the signal to them to cut the crap and sign on the dotted line.
Be yourself and do your company justice and you will be well on your way to persuasive selling. What are your wise sales words?