Persuading without Manipulating
The art of persuasion is really the art of effective articulation—making an organized argument based on facts. You are translating---from concepts to words---what you are convinced is true in a way that’s structured, professional, accurate, and compelling. When it comes to persuasion, effective articulation is far more compelling than manipulation. So how do you articulate without manipulating?
Credibility is built on both expertise and relationship. The level of expertise your clients perceive is based on your history of exceptional knowledge, willingness to learn, and sound judgment. Your client needs to understand that you have a thorough and current understanding of the product or service you offer, and how it integrates into your client’s business and industry.
From a relationship perspective, you demonstrate credibility by being trustworthy. A key component is that you have a genuine interest in your client’s success—even at your own expense. Another key is emotional reliability; meaning that clients know you will always react rationally to the same set of circumstances in the same way.
Identify shared benefits. In addition to discussing how the transaction will benefit the client, discuss how the transaction will benefit you and your company. Have a thorough understanding of your client’s goals, circumstances, restrictions, consequences, etc. Look for genuine and significant points of commonality.
Discuss specifically how your success depends on the client’s success. The client needs to know that---in the unlikely event things go south---it’s going to affect you as much or more than the client. Let the client know that you will be with them every step of the way--especially post-purchase.
Use Relevant Analogies
A relevant analogy is a very powerful tool for articulating the abstract, making it especially effective with high tech products and services. The key is relevant to the client. A good analogy involves some forethought (off-the-cuff analogies range from ineffective to weird). For the analogy-challenged, the following link provides formulas for creating technical analogies: http://www.professionalpractice.asme.org/Communications/NonTech/Analogies_Metaphors.cfm
Keep Things Simple
Any evidence you provide should be easy to understand, logical, memorable, and portable—after you leave, the client can take it into the next office and share it with a colleague. This means go easy on the PowerPoints and large visual displays. If you take notes in a meeting, consider offering to make a copy for your customer before you leave (very impressive). This demonstrates transparency, that you were listening, and that you accurately documented your client’s circumstances and concerns. Alternatively, send a bulleted summary in an email later that day.
Persuading with facts is always positive. If the facts themselves aren’t positive, reframe them in a way that is. Don’t scare customers into buying. Your best clients do business with you because they want to, not because they have to. You want them to be happy when you visit and call—not equate you to a dark cloud.
Finally, remember that everything you say about someone else (including competitors), people tend to associate with you. Make this work in your favor.