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To many people, “sales” is a dirty word. They consider it akin to manipulation, that a person is trying to pressure them into something they don’t really want or need. They think of the used car salesman whose “terrific” product turns out to be a lemon. If you base your business on that kind of sales, you’re on a very shaky foundation.
Sales is not about manipulating people to do what you want. For me, honesty and sincerity have to be at its foundation, as well as the certainty that whatever you offer has to truly serve others. I believe that sales is service, and that it’s my moral obligation to do so because I know people need my help to get to where they want to go.
Early on in my career, I ran into the concept of “ethical persuasion,” a term coined by psychologist Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, who has made it a study for more than fifteen years. To me, it is defined as the natural psychology we all use to persuade each other, whether it’s getting our kids to pick up their toys or our spouses to watch a certain TV show. Dr. Cialdini arrived at its seven key principles, and I present them here, along with ways in which they can be applied to ethically persuasive sales.
To me, this means that you sincerely believe that whatever you offer will be of great value to your clients or customers. When I talk to people about my coaching and training programs, I have no hesitation about this; I know how much they can change lives and businesses because I’ve seen it happen. I don’t try to convince people who don’t really want to change or grow personally or professionally, but when it’s clear that someone really wants the benefits, I do what I can to overcome reluctance. They can see that I’m coming from a place of sincerity.
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People interpret this in different ways. To me, it’s about really caring. I sincerely like people and truly want them to succeed — respect them and believe in them — and that influences the way I treat them. “Liking” to me is also about being authentic and open enough that potential clients have the chance to like you in return. And sure, not everyone will like your authentic self, but those aren’t the clients you want anyway.
The best articulation of this concept to me is striving to be the best at what you offer. You can’t offer the same product or service everyone else does, then simply claim to be the best. Being a true authority means that you’ve put extra time into learning skills and/or perfecting your product. When you truly are the best, you speak with confidence, and people feel that. If you’re simply pretending to be the best, they’ll sense that, too.
4. Social proof
This term, at least in the sales realm, means showing prospective customers that other people just like them have purchased and benefitted from what you offer. Most people rely heavily on reviews and testimonials when considering something. Why? In the back of their minds, they know you have a vested interest in your product or service. Think about it: Everyone thinks their little one is gorgeous and brilliant, but you might get a less biased opinion from that kid’s daycare provider.
To be effective at sales, you do what you say you’ll do every time. If you tell someone you’ll get back to her or him in 24 hours, then you do just that. If you say that what you offer will improve their life, you do everything in your power to make sure that happens. If you guarantee a full refund in the event that a person is dissatisfied, you provide it. You keep your word throughout the entire relationship, not just at the beginning when wooing them.
People love to get their hands on something that’s rare or in otherwise short supply. Not every service or product is scarce, but you can give it that quality by making it unique. There are a zillion veterinarians out there, but how many have Sunday hours, give your pet a spiffy neck scarf each visit and send them birthday cards?
Most human beings need to belong, whether to a family, a community of sports fans, a school or state or nation… or all of these! It’s powerful if you can help potential clients and customers feel that they’ll be part of a special group by purchasing what you have to offer.