Have you ever felt like you were talking to a brick wall when trying to sell someone on a product or idea of yours? No matter what you tried, you simply couldn’t get your target to see your point of view.
Most, if not all, of us can relate to the frustration and lack of resolution that comes from this type of exchange. But what if you could learn how to consistently persuade others and get the results you need? I’m not talking about selling — I’m talking about persuading.
By thinking like a decision-maker, you can sway opinions, influence outcomes, and close deals. And it all comes down to two simple but powerful strategic methods: do your homework and gain their trust.
Let’s take a closer look at how to use these methods effectively:
1. Do Your Homework
Whether you’re working in sales, management, litigation, marketing, or almost any other professional arena, you’ll have to deal with decision-makers who hold the power to make or break your progress.
For the most part, we engage with these decision-makers armed with pitches that illustrate a deep understanding of our own products or positions. While that’s important, your decision-maker is likely to be turned off by a meeting in which you spend all your time talking about yourself and your product.
You must change your focus: Learn about the person sitting in front of you and speak to their concerns. According to research from HubSpot, 69 percent of buyers say listening to their needs is key to creating a positive experience.
So before meeting with your client (or whomever you’re looking to persuade), make sure to gather some basic information. What’s their background like? What’s their demographic profile? Do they have any special interests, such as charity groups, sports teams, or books? Think through their decision-making process and the challenges they are likely to face, based on what you know about them. Consider things like the people they have to answer to: Is there a CEO, a board of directors, shareholders, or another authority that will be scrutinizing your target’s decision? (Remember: While there may only be one person in front of you, an average of 6-7 people are involved in most purchase decisions.)
By answering some of these questions, you can get a better understanding of the real person you’re going to meet with. You can better identify their pain points, the problems they need to solve, and the things that matter to them. You can uncover potential objections in advance and prepare to address them. This allows you to see the matter from their perspective — putting you in a better position to persuade them, change their attitude and assumptions, and make a great first impression.
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Another way to make a lasting impression is to take note of generational differences in communication preferences, especially if you are meeting with someone from a different age bracket than your own.
For example, baby boomers are often self-taught when it comes to technology, so you might want to be careful with how technical you get. Gen. X-ers are not big on authority and don’t like being micromanaged; they need to feel like they’re in control. Millennials are tech-savvy researchers, so be prepared for them to fact-check everything you say. Regardless of demographic differences, everyone likes to be appreciated, and showing that appreciation will go a long way.
By doing some homework and connecting with your target, you overcome the assumption that you’re only there to make a sale. Instead, you show the decision-maker you’re there to build a relationship — a huge step in being persuasive.
2. Gain Their Trust
While doing your homework is important, all the research in the world won’t matter if your target doesn’t want to be there. If they don’t have an interest in your cause or product and are being forced to sit and listen to you, the likelihood of getting their buy-in is dramatically reduced.
People make decisions based on their own needs or biases, and you have a lot of ground to cover to make them care. If your decision-maker can relate to what you’re saying, they’re more likely to care about it. Finding a way for them to relate, then, will make your quest a little easier.
One of the best ways to make people care is to develop trust — but sadly, only 18 percent of salespeople are seen as trustworthy. So how do you build the trust that is missing?
The best way to do this is to assume the role of an advisor. Ask genuine questions and provide helpful, honest, authentic solutions to your decision-maker’s problems. Truth leads to credibility, credibility leads to trust, and trust leads to persuasion. You can’t possibly expect people to care about what you’re saying if they don’t trust you.
Do you want to sell, or do you want to persuade? Instead of making your pitch and hoping something sticks, be intentional in leading decision-makers to your desired conclusion. By putting yourself in their shoes, thinking through their challenges, and gaining their trust, you’ll be far more successful in getting decision-makers on board with your vision.
Anyone can sell, but it takes a true strategist to change outcomes through persuasion.