What is the first image that comes to your mind when you think of ‘selling’?
Now if you’re thinking along the lines of ecommerce, online shopping carts, PayPal, Amazon.com, USPs, Value Propositions, Buyer Personas, Leads, Sales funnels, and the likes thereof - then you sure are in sync with the current realities that dictate the world of marketing and selling.
But for many of us, the first image that still pops into our heads when someone mentions the word ‘selling’ or ‘sales’ is that of a – salesman; who knocks on your door with a broad smile, probably in a tie and shiny shoes…
A pushy, yet sleek, fast-talker of a sales rep, who immediately starts spewing out an onslaught of elevator pitches; someone who could rant for hours on end with convincing reasons (and will eventually persuade you) to buy his ‘amazing’ products or services; leaving you with a feeling of contentment - that you made a great choice with the purchase; and failure to do so would have made your life miserable.
Ok, maybe the ‘miserable’ part was a bit far out; but I suppose you got my point.
This image of a ‘salesperson at your door’ which is embedded in our memories comes from the world of say, until 18 years ago.
A world where the sales rep was the ‘know it all guy’ who had control over his prospects and customers through the breadth of knowledge he had about his brand’s products; whereas the prospects were quite oblivious on the info, except for the advertisements or rather ‘one sided arguments’ which ran on media in the brands’ favour.
The world has changed now. The power has shifted from the sellers to the buyers. As Dan Pink says, we have now evolved from the ‘information-asymmetry-buyer-beware’ world to an ‘Information-parity-seller-beware’ reality.
At this day and age, consumers are concerned and would instantly know if the garments you are selling in the big retail stores like Target, Kmart or Coles; are made under unsafe and forced working conditions, in countries like Bangladesh or not. They would rather prefer other apparels that are made with ethical practices and with respect to child labour laws, than clothing produced through ‘inhumane’ means.
How about the recent story on residue of Monsanto’s weed-killer Glyphosate found in popular cereal brands like Cheerios and other cookies and crackers? Would you feed these toxin laden products to your kids?
It seems these days, it is not just about a product’s great quality, design and comfort or state-of-the-art technology – consumers have become increasingly sophisticated in their preferences for goods and lifestyle choices.
Right from quality standards to factory working conditions; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to Employee wages and treatment, to carbon footprints generated in the manufacturing process – every plausible factors surrounding successful brands’ product or services is constantly being traced, scrutinized, compared and the resulting info is circulated via various media.
And not to mention Social Media, which can be quite merciless – even a little ‘slip up’ from major brands could induce a massive domino effect of negative comments, tweets, retweets and slurs in the social channels – exposing the brand and risking its public image.
If you belong to the ‘seller’ camp, it’s quite evident that you need to walk a tight rope to find success with your brand or products and to influence your target audience.
To help you unravel this ‘selling’ conundrum, let us explore some of the fundamental principles of persuasion or ‘Mantras’ laid out in the books (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and a recent addition, Pre-suasion: A revolutionary way to influence and persuade) of bestselling author, also considered as “The Godfather of Influence”- Dr.Robert Cialdini:
This is the obligatory response. When you offer something to others first; it creates this sense of indebtedness within them, triggering them to give something in return or comply with any other subsequent requests from you.
In a study, when a mint was given by the waiter, his tip increased by 3%, whereas 2 mints increased the tip by 14%. Interestingly, when the waiter gives a mint and walks away only to turn around and give another mint saying, ‘but for you nice people, here’s another’ – increased his tips by 23% (here the increase was influenced by the way it was given)
- Courtesy: Influenceatwork.com
The key to finding success with this mantra of reciprocation is to: Be the first to offer something; make sure it is personalised and create a sense of spontaneity and unexpectedness.
People are mostly attracted to things that are exclusive and hard to come by. Our brain works on assuming that if it is difficult to obtain, then it must be better than others which are abundant and readily available.
With this principle, sellers and marketers can trigger customers’ sense of urgency playing the ‘scarce’ card with words like: Limited number, Limited time, early bird specials etc. to persuade in taking action.
We generally follow the lead of people who seem to know what they’re talking/doing about. This holds true to the areas where we are not the experts.
These authoritative cues can be seen for instance in headlines, having phrases such as: “Research clearly shows…”, or “Experts ascertain that…” or “Doctors swear…” etc.
We can also exude this air of authority with job titles - showing positions of power and experience and even send some cues from the clothes or accessories we wear, that indicates authority.
The trick is to make sure that you send your signal or convey your story on what qualifies you as a credible authority on the subject, before you make the attempt at influencing others.
4. Commitment & Consistency
This is the principle based on a common human behavioral pattern – we tend to latch on to whatever we’ve already chosen, just for the sake of convenience and follow through its subsequent choices.
Initially the audiences are requested to commit to something very small and trivial; something that requires very less effort on their part and is easily agreeable. It could be anything from a statement to an easy lead magnet.
Once they commit to these smaller actions, it is easier to leverage them gradually to bigger commitments; but make sure to reward and acknowledge your customers in investing the time, to keep the commitment going.
5. Social Proof
If it is popular or are endorsed by ‘trustworthy’ people, then we tend to find those things credible and trustworthy. We do look for actions of other trusted figures to justify our own.
These social circles could be ‘Experts’, ‘Celebrities’, ‘Our peers and family circle’. Other proofs such as approval from current and past users (reviews, testimonials) etc. could easily influence us in changing or cementing our decisions.
We tend to agree more and comply with requests made by people we like. This is the reason why we trust the recommendations made by our peers or the products endorsed by our favourite sports personalities.
To keep the ‘likeability’ factor on, we need to build a good rapport with our audiences and relate more like a ‘friend’ than a ‘brand’. An empathic stance in the conversations in social media and other touch points such as blogs will bolster this relationship to prepare the audience to comply with you in future.
It is always good to start off with areas of similarity that both you and your target audiences possess, which helps build common grounds to persuade.
This seventh ‘mantra’ of persuasion was a new addition by Robert Cialdini from his new book Pre-suasion: A revolutionary way to influence and persuade .
Though it resembles more to the ‘Liking’ principle, he empasises ‘Unity’ as a shared identity. This shared identity is primarily with family, but can also take other structures such as similar background, ethnicity, geography, shared interests or even with a product one helped create.
Cialdini proved in a classroom experiment that family ties are the ultimate form of Unity. The experiment involved a survey where parent participation increased from less than 20% to 97% when an inconsequential benefit to the students was announced if parents took the survey.
Robert also claims that even ‘familial’ language is persuasive by quoting Warren Buffet’s shareholder letter where he made his missive more persuasive by saying, “I will tell you what I would say to my family today if they asked me about Berkshire’s future.”
The individuals are more likely to be influenced by the ‘Unity’ effect when they identify themselves more as member of that particular group.
To wrap it up…
In today’s world , ‘selling’ has evolved into an intricate skill that delves into the essence of Science, Arts, technology and pragmatism of human psycho-social behavior. For the sellers of the future, the success lies in harnessing the power of these disciplines to influence and persuade the masses.
If you'd like more assistance with your sales/lead generaton optimisation or would like to discuss anything covered today, we'd love to hear from you.
Call Andy Fox (me) on (03) 5249 5570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Website is element7digital.com.au