Pet Peeves of Persuasion (a.k.a. The Non-Persuasive Salesman) How Many of These Common Mistakes Are You Guilty of???
(C-Level Global’s CEO, David Rose, is widely regarded as an expert on the subject of sales techniques. He has spoken internationally on the subject and his upcoming book, The Univers of Rejection (UOR), based on over a decade of research, examines overcoming rejection in a way that will transform sales success. In this month’s blog, we focus on an excerpt from the book in which David identifies his 10 pet peeves regarding the art of persuasion.}
Selling is part skill, part art, and part science. It requires a skillset which includes, among other important attributes, preparation, knowledge, timing, the ability to listen, and… the ability to persuade. Everyone would like to be the proverbial guy who could ‘sell ice to Eskimos’. We can’t all be that guy, but almost anyone can become more effective at selling and better at persuading. Today I’d like to focus on 10 of my personal pet peeves as I examine common mistakes I’ve witnessed countless times. Far too often, a salesperson sabotages their own opportunity to be persuasive (and effective and ultimately successful). Recognizing there’s a problem is the first step in addressing it. See if you recognize any of these in either your own persuasion skills or those of your sales team.
Pet Peeve #1 – Do Your Research: In a B2B setting, you are not selling to or persuading a company, you are persuading a specific person or group of people inside that company. More specifically, that someone must have the authority to make a decision on the specific subject matter you’re offering. When a business leader makes a cavalier statement like “we are going to get rich by selling to the top 100 companies in this industry”, they’re speaking in superlatives rather than at a practical, implementable level. What have you accomplished if you persuaded someone who isn’t connected to the buying decision? Unless you know the name, title, location and scope of work a specific individual handles in a company, you cannot know for sure if they are the decision-maker you should be targeting and engaging.
Pet Peeve #2 – Is it Mom, Dad or Both?: Know who makes the decision when persuading people in B2C situations. When you have to determine which partner is the decision maker in a household, make sure you’re right. Some types of decisions are up to the husband while others are up to the wife. Both parties jointly make some decisions, but usually one person has more influence in the joint decision, and it is important to understand which partner that is. While this is similar to the issues confronted in my first pet peeve, in a B2C scenario, the critical role of chief decision maker is often far less clear. Their teenage son or daughter has probably learned which parent to approach depending on the subject. They probably have also learned which persuasive techniques work best on both Mom and Dad.
Pet Peeve #3 – Control the Volume: It can be exciting when you meet a new client or prospect. You want to make a good impression. You want to show your knowledge of and belief in your product. At some level, all of those could be great positives. However, being overly enthusiastic or overconfident can actually damage your ability to be persuasive and cause your presentation to actually lose effectiveness. Don’t rush in with a hard sell or an overly aggressive approach. Focus on the client’s needs. Be confident and positive, but not overly so. Choose your spots to be enthusiastic. Not everything needs to be shouted. Realize how powerful a whisper can be. To quote from famous modern architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s design philosophy, “Less is More”.
Pet Peeve #4 – Look at Me When I’m Talking to You: The opposite side of the confidence coin is another of David’s pet peeves. A lack of confidence, manifested by low energy, failure to make eye contact, speaking in a monotone and similar negative behaviors, is a sure killer of persuasiveness. Make sure you’re a product expert. Learn whatever you can about your audience and their issues. Rehearse portions of your presentation so you can speak confidently. Work on exhibiting positive body language. Tell yourself how confident you are and how much you believe in your offering. Your confidence and belief will be evident to your client or prospect. As for both pet peeves 3 and 4, you need to know when to push and when to ease off. The extreme ends of the confidence spectrum, both ends… are not friends of persuasion.
Pet Peeve #5 – What Are You Doing?: Are you in a situation where you need to persuade someone about your subject matter? Are you, instead, in a spot where you need to influence someone’s decision? Is it still a different scenario you find yourself in where you’re really negotiating? Persuading, influencing and negotiating are all different activities, and while they are all part of being effective at selling, they all require different techniques and should be utilized at different times and in different scenarios. Understanding when you should be persuading, negotiating or influencing is critical to gaining a favorable outcome. Listen, look for clues, watch for changes in body language or subject matter. Don’t still be trying to persuade someone when that phase is over and you should instead be negotiating. Know when to stop talking and when to shift gears. Learn to think ahead without losing focus on the current dialogue, and be ready to shift to the next phase when you recognize it’s appropriate to do so.
Pet Peeve #6 – What’s My Name?: If you’ve done your research, you should already know the name(s) of the decision-maker(s). Also try to learn the names of others who may play key roles in the process. These could be up, down or lateral to the decision-maker in a company’s org chart. Remember, everyone loves to hear their own name. Many people also like being referred to by their title, e.g.; a doctor or someone recently promoted. But just like most persuasive tools, overuse should be avoided. Also, don’t create a nickname or shorten a name without understanding sensitivities or being invited to do so. Not all men named ‘Richard’ are called Dick, Rick, Ricky or Richie.
Pet Peeve #7 – Watch Your Language!!!: Negotiating your way around potential objections is a key element in the art of persuasion. Avoid using negative language. Rather than disagree with a statement, it can often be more effective to acknowledge some portion of the statement that offers common ground and then push forward with an alternative to the rest of the statement you find problematic. It demonstrates that you’re assigning value to what the other person is saying. Assigning importance to your audience’s thoughts is a must. Be positive. Don’t be hesitant. Be complimentary, but not overly so. Avoid confrontational statements. How you say something is as important as the actual information being imparted. If improperly delivered, even the greatest message will fall upon deaf ears.
Pet Peeve #8 – Whaddaya Want?: Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish in a particular conversation, meeting or presentation. This can often be a function of how long a particular sales cycle is and how much time you’ve already invested in engaging with a client or prospect. Are you introducing your product to a potential client? Are you hoping to earn a second meeting? Is there a gatekeeper you need to get past to be able to gain an audience with the real decision-maker? Those might be scenarios where your goal for a meeting is relatively modest. You’re likely just attempting to advance to the next step in such a scenario. Are you instead trying to close the deal? Your desired outcome for that meeting would be vastly different. My point here is that you need to have a clear objective in mind for each client engagement. It’s always possible that a meeting spins off in an unexpected direction, and your homework about your client and your product knowledge will protect you in such instances. But here’s the question you need to make sure you’re able to answer before you begin: will you be able to understand when you’ve gotten the right answer and accomplished your objective for this particular dialogue?
Pet Peeve #9 – Do You Hear the Words Comin’ Outta My Mouth?: OK…, that’s a line uttered by Chris Tucker’s character to Jackie Chan’s character while fighting through a language barrier in the movie Rush Hour, but it’s on point when it comes to listening effectively. Experts in the art of persuasion are great listeners. They hear not just the words, but they listen actively, picking up subtle clues from the way a phrase is worded and by reading the body language and tone of the message they are hearing. Conversely, a poor listener will miss opportunities to focus on key concerns voiced by the audience and will be unable to push the dialogue in the proper direction to persuasively argue in favor of their position. Listening well is every bit as important as speaking well!
Pet Peeve #10 – Go Ahead and Ask: Let’s start by shooting down the notion that the client knows you’re there to sell them something, and therefore it is unnecessary to attempt to close the deal or ask for the business. Too often, key steps in business, whether it’s in a sales environment or another key area like career advancement, are lost because of a failure to ask or a failure to make your interests known to your audience. Persuasion is all about bringing your audience’s interests into alignment with your own. It makes no sense to carry the ball all the way down the field and then stop at the one-yard line. You’ve already done all the heavy persuasive lifting. Finish the task and get that contract signed or the promotion you deserve. Ask your decision-maker to do just that!
Conclusion: Missteps involving any of David’s pet peeves can mean the difference between earning a YES or being dealt a NO. Avoiding any of them isn’t rocket science. They all, however, require you to develop and employ an array of persuasive skills. Just like a solid understanding of how to overcome the different types of rejection you face will allow you to successfully convert many NO’s into YES’s, understanding the subtleties of persuasion and making sure you avoid committing any of David’s pet peeves will have you convincing more people about whatever it is you’re wanting to accomplish.
Author and C-Level Global CEO David Rose is available to speak or consult with your corporate team or industry group on a variety of topics, including the Art of Persuasion, Overcoming Rejection and Effective Selling. To discuss speaking, training or consulting opportunities or to schedule an engagement, contact David at DRose@clevelglobal.com. C-Level Global is an international management consulting firm specializing in helping senior executives achieve extraordinary results for themselves and their organizations.