Persuasion—it’s important to sales. It’s important to business. When we want to change something, we can’t do it without persuasion.
Persuasion is a simple word, but somehow in the context of “selling” it becomes vile–it sets people off. It brings up all the worst stereotypes of peddlers and hucksters. Customers don’t want to be persuaded, “I feel like sales people are making me buy something I don’t want or don’t need.” Sales people, reacting against these stereotypes don’t want to acknowledge the “P” word. “We don’t do that, we can’t make people buy what they don’t want, we just want to satisfy their needs and solve their problems.”
There are some important words that always accompany persuasion. They are dialog, change, choice. We forget this, but persuasion would be a meaningless, waste of time if it did not exist in the context of these three words.
If there is no dialog, if there is no exchange of ideas, no conversation, not opportunity to persuade. Without dialog, we might as well talk to a wall. Implicit in a dialog is listening, understanding, probing. Dialogs are about the exchange of information, ideas, and possibilities. They are the foundation to persuasion.
If there is no willingness to change, it is virtually impossible to persuade. Sales is really about change and change management. We are asking the customer to do something, we are asking them to buy our products and services. We are asking them to change–maybe change vendors/suppliers, maybe change the way they do something in their business, maybe address an opportunity they hadn’t thought of before. Without a willingness to change, we might as well try to push a rope uphill. Persuasion simply doesn’t work.
Persuasion does not eliminate choice. Persuasion requires choice. Choice is always in the customer’s hands. They choose to accept our offer, that of our competition, or to do nothing.
Persuasion is part of everyday life, it’s part of business, it is fundamental to sales. Persuasion is our job, but persuasion does not exist in isolation. As a sales professional, I am driven by the opportunity to persuade. It is fantastic to have people understand what our products and services can do for them, how we can create superior value, and why they should choose our solution.
I think much of the negative reaction to the concept of persuasion, both by customers and sales people relates less to persuasion, but more the techniques and approaches used to persuade. That will have to be the subject of a different post.
Have I missed anything else important to persuasion?