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Techniques for Persuasion and the Art of Sales

Posted by on October 9th, 2013

Techniques for Persuasion and the Art of Sales
Last week I looked at the The Four Steps of Persuasion. These four steps are a framework for creating a compelling and persuasive argument for why your idea or product is the right solution to the problem.

Whilst following these four steps will allow you to create a compelling campaign, often there is still a need for more tangible selling techniques.

In this article I’m going to talk you through a couple of the best techniques for persuasion and how you can use them to increase your sales.

I’m a big believer of not only creating better products than the competition, but also on the critical requirement of being the best at marketing and selling those products too.

Start small

When a customer first begins interacting with your website, she is probably not going to buy from you straight away. Unless a customer is already familiar with your company and your product, you are going to have a really tough time trying to close the sale on the first engagement.

A better objective for this first engagement is to simply collect an email address. There are many different ways of doing this, but you can’t really go wrong if you just ask in exchange for something of value. Don’t do the whole “free ebook” think because everyone and their dog has tried that over the years. Instead offer something of real value that will warm that cold customer around to wanting your product.

Believe it or not, there is actually psychology behind the old get an email instead of a sale technique. Once someone has complied with a small request, they are more likely to agree to a bigger request.

Despite it’s scammy name, the Foot-in-the-door technique is a great way of converting cold potential customers who land on your website into warm prospects who passionately believe in your product.

I really love this technique for building a sales funnel because it is a fantastic way of scaling a personal relationship with potential customers before they ever make a transaction with you. Not only is it pretty much set-and-forget, but engaged and qualified customers will have a much higher lifetime value for your company because their support costs will be lower and they will stick around for longer.

Start big

What is the exact opposite of starting small? Starting big! An interesting sales technique that I see get used a lot is when you pitch the initial high-end product, when really you have every intention of closing at the mid-range product.

For example, say you are selling your SaaS product into a medium sized company. You charge by the seat and you offer customisations for particular installations.

When you pitch the high-end product, the one that you would normally pitch to much large companies, you are likely going to get knocked back because the medium sized company can’t cut that kind of cheque.

You then make your second pitch at the mid-level price range. For example, you might offer the product out of the box with no customisations or additional support. This second package is much more likely to be accepted because it will cost significantly less than the first package that was pitched.

This technique only really seems to work for enterprise packages. I would imagine if you offered a product that was totally out of the price range of the average consumer you wouldn’t even get the chance to pitch the package that you actually think they will buy.

Scale down instead of scale up

A common technique in sales is the upsell. Upselling is where you get the customer to spend more when you are closing the sale. For example, you could bump them up to a higher package or add additional extras that they might need.

Whilst upselling is a totally legitimate sales technique for increasing the transaction value per customer, it often feels scammy. Personally, I hate to feel like I’ve been sold something. When a sales person upsells me at the close, I always feel like I’ve been duped.

An interesting alternative to upselling is where you scale the sale the down, instead of up.

For example, say you were buying a new car. You sit down with the saleswomen to close the deal. After you have agreed the price, she starts to run through the optional extras. This is the classic upsell. Now what would happen if you completely flipped this situation on its head? Again you sit down to close the deal, but instead of the saleswomen starting at the bottom and upselling, she starts at the top and offers to knock some of the extras off to lower the price.

In which situation do you think the buyer ends up spending the most money?

People don’t like to lose what they already have got and so they are far more likely to want the optional extras if they feel like they already have them. When you get the base price set in your head, it’s only natural to be conservative with adding the optional extras that will increase the amount you have to spend. If you have already got the price locked at a higher valuation, you are less likely to remove all of the extras to reduce the price.

So instead of upselling, include the additional extras and offer to knock the price down. Not only will the average customer spend more, but they also won’t feel like they have been scammed into buying your upsell.

Highlight points of agreement

The first three techniques only really work when you pick one tactic and stick with it. The following techniques can all be applied for every sale.

When you are trying to make a sale, you should try to aim to create an affinity between you and the customer. Usually this is going to be pretty easy if you are solving a painful problem because you can just show empathy for the customer’s situation. Show that you appreciate the difficulties the customer is facing, but you have a solution that will solve the problem and make the customer’s life easier.

When you show that you are fighting the same fight, you create a bond and a sense of trust. We naturally want to align ourselves with people who share our world view and so you should make a point of highlighting things that you can both agree on.

Present both sides of the story

One of the great things about selling online is it forces a greater sense of transparency. I think a lot of scammy sales people are able to get away with dishonest tactics in offline sales because the customer is usually not in position of control.

However, in online sales, the customer is always in the position of control because she can either hit the back button, or she can quickly Google your company name and find every scrap of information about your products or your dodgy dealings.

This presents an opportunity to be super transparent.

For example, a good way of being transparent is to be honest about your drawbacks. When you are completely honest, you don’t have a potential customer looking to see what the catch is with your deal.

The huge majority of companies are not going to be using this technique because they are scared of losing sales. Instead, be a contrarian and establish a level of trust with your customer that none of your competition are willing to match.

For example, if your product is only really suited for a particular type of customer, you should say that on your landing page so non-suitable customers don’t buy your product and end up with a bad experience. This not only saves you the headache of offering refunds or having a higher than normal churn rate, but it will also put the people who actually are suitable for your product minds at ease.

Always Be Closing

And finally, you should always have a clear and strong call to action to close the sale. I’ve lost count of the number of sales landing pages I’ve seen where the company tries to obfuscate the sales button for some reason.

Nobody likes pushy sales people, but if you follow the techniques I’ve outlined above, you won’t come across as pushy at all. However, if you make it difficult for the customer to just buy your product, you are likely going to lose a segment who don’t have the patience to navigate your process.

Conclusion

I honestly hate scammy sales, but I do think selling is something that you just have to learn. I think a lot of people avoid ever learning how to sell because they have had bad experiences with slimy sales people who are only out to try to get your money.

However the cold hard truth is, you need to be able to sell if you want your product to be a success. You shouldn’t rely on other people or being able to hire a dedicated sales person at some point in the future.

As the product owner, it is imperative that you learn how to sell your own product. Trying to sell your product will give you a wealth of information about your product and possibly reasons why you haven’t found product/market fit. If you can’t sell your product to your target customers, it means you should keep refining it until they are banging down your door.

It is also important to learn how to sell your product, what materials you will need and what the process will be like so that you can hire sales people in the future and put them straight to work.

Doing as much of this as you can will put you in a much better position to create and scale a successful company.

Philip Brown

Hey, I'm Philip Brown, a designer and developer from Durham, England. I create websites and web based applications from the ground up. In 2011 I founded a company called Yellow Flag. If you want to find out more about me, you can follow me on Twitter or Google Plus.