Almost any time we ask someone to consider an alternate point of view, we are selling. Whether that be our kids, spouses, work mates, bosses or clients, at one time or another, we want them to see things our way.
If I then told you that you were acting like a salesman, you might be offended. So we give it other names – influencing, persuasion, getting buy-in or my personal favourite, ‘stakeholder management’.
But it’s all just selling. And if you are not selling yourself, your ideas and your value, you are probably missing out. As Daniel Pink says – “To sell is to be human”.
So while the idea of sales being in some way sleazy is not right, it’s easy to see where the poor reputation has come from.
My career has exposed me to more selling 'techniques' than most people.
Just some of the old school sales stuff that I hope you never have to experience. The theory is that humans are hardwired to avoid pain. So if you can make people feel crappy enough, guilty enough or silly enough, they’ll buy what you are selling. Hmmm.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is work from Robert B. Cialdini who is recognised as one of the most informed writers on influence. Cialdini scoured research literature on persuasion and influence to identify six fundamental principles of influence.
Then there are those that believe to be a great influencer is to be charismatic, outgoing, assertive, a great presenter, a smooth closer or just plain "salesy".
So who's right?
Trying to understand why people do the things they do has been a large part of my life. It has certainly sharpened my awareness of what is actually important. A few observations:
1. When someone trusts you, you don’t need sales techniques?
We’ve all experienced it. When you’ve been given advice and without hesitation, you say “yes”. That’s trust! When people have trust in each other, there is no need for ‘techniques’ or to leverage negative emotions, like greed or fear.
Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, but oddly enough, too many of us don’t think about it until it’s been broken.
There are all sorts of ‘techniques’ to build trust as well, which I find curious. Why? Credibility (the quality of being trustworthy) is a state, not a tactic. You can’t fake credibility.
There’s mountains of information on the topic, but for me, the key to trust in any relationship gets back to your Intent.
Do you notice how you are more likely to be influenced by those without an agenda?
So ask yourself, do you really want what’s best for your client? Do you really listen and empathise? Or are you just peddling your stuff? Do you work with clients to achieve their goals, not yours? Do you espouse a particular value with your team, but then reward another? Or worse, do another?
2. Have you bought what you are trying to sell?
There’s only one thing more contagious than enthusiasm and that is the complete lack of it!
Enthusiasm is not accomplished by personality or presentation style, it is literally a transfer of conviction from one person to another.
Do you believe in yourself and the value you add? The service and advice you provide and it’s delivery? How you are able to live up to your personal values in the pursuit of achieving work goals?
Clients, customers, prospects, team mates, your spouse and your kids tune in to your belief system with ease, which can be such a tool powerful to motivate and inspire.
But if your conviction is low, people will pick that up too - in a heartbeat! And if you don’t believe in what you are saying and doing, why would they?
Want to check your belief system? Here is a quick self-assessment questionnaire.
3. If you want something, you need to ask for it
Kids do it all day long. “Mum, can I have this, go there, do this, do that, please, please, please?” They can be relentless. And it works for them!
It sounds simple, but the act of asking is actually very difficult for many of us.
The fear of rejection and potential embarrassment ensures our requests remain safely in our mind.
However, mustering the courage to ask is essential. The more specific you can be in your request, the better.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Don’t say: “Hi, I would like to take you out sometime.”
Say: “Hi, I’m having dinner with friends Saturday night at 8pm, I’d love you to come with me?”
Don’t say: “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Say: “Do you have all the information you need to make a decision?”
Don’t say: “I need you help around the house”
Say: “Don’t leave clothes on the bathroom floor, rubbish bins go out on Tuesday’s, you do the washing up Friday nights”
So just ask. Ask with confidence. Ask as if you expect to get it. Imagine the possibilities!