Salespeople are in the business of influencing people to do something which they would not have done otherwise. Even though purchasing a product or service might be in the prospect's best interest (and it should be if the rep is doing their job correctly), it still takes some pushing to get them to realize it.
At the end of the day, salespeople must influence in a way which is beneficial to the client with no hidden agenda. Here are five honest and effective tactics reps can use to increase the likelihood that prospects will buy.
1) Give to receive.
If we are given something, we feel compelled to return the favor. Once a street vendor strapped a wristband on me without me even being able to resist, saying it was "for peace." Then she asked for a small donation, showing me a list of others who had donated. I couldn't help but give her 10 dollars.
I thought this was just a random occurence at the time, but now I know better. Salespeople could learn a thing or two from this lady. First, she did me a favor by giving me a wristband for free and being kind about it. Second, she provided me with social proof in the form of a donation list. With these two actions, she was able to extract a gift from me which exceeded the worth of the wristband I received.
The principle of giving to receive can be counterintuitive at times -- especially when it comes to discounts or samples of your product -- but it has been proven to work. It is surprising how many people actually accept unsolicited invitations on social media just because someone took the time to write them a thoughtful request.
2) Be consistent.
Someone who is consistent is perceived to be reliable, which is a pro to buyers. Strong brands make use of this principle by labeling new products with their standard label. Customers are less likely to scrutinize the product as thoroughly as they would if it didn't feature the familiar artwork.
The takeaway for sales? Deliver a top-notch experience for your prospects each and every time.
3) Establish authority in a relevant area.
We obey authority more readily than we think, and this sometimes has harrowing implications. In the Milgram experiment, famous in psychology circles, an authority figure asked participants to deliver an electric shock to an unseen victim (the victim did not actually receive any shocks) by pressing a button. Many of the participants obliged each time they were asked -- even as the voltage increased and the victim began to cry out.
While I wouldn't recommend wielding power to achieve diabolical results, keep in mind that people will listen to those they perceive to be authority figures. Buff up on your business and industry knowledge, and enter sales engagements as a peer, not as a subservient order taker.
4) Be likeable.
This point seems trivial, but it is still often overlooked. Establish a friendly relationship by revealing shared interests, or complimenting the client. People don't like to disappoint their friends, so if you can get in the friend zone, the prospect is more likely to go along with your ideas.
5) Offer social proof.
Canned laughter is a great example of social proof. Even though many directors and actors object to them, laughter tracks are still used in some comedy shows as they provide encouragement for people watching at home to laugh as well. Similarly, if you can prove that others are using your product or service and experiencing results, you will increase the likelihood that new prospects will buy. After all, they don't want to be left behind.
The more uncertain buyers feel about an engagement, the more they will rely on social proof, authority opinions, and friends. If salespeople can strive to influence buyers across these planes, they better the odds that a favorable outcome for both buyer and seller will occur.
Editor's note: A version of this post first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse, and is republished here with permission.
Originally published Jan 15, 2015 10:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017