Whether you’re in a direct sales role, in a support role or a technical role, you will be expected to convince someone to do something at some stage in your career. That may be a decision or a purchase or a choice of some description but we all need convincing skills. Look at the dictionary definition of the verb “Convince” – Convince – to make (someone) agree, understand, or realize the truth or validity of something.
I’ve looked at this from a number of perspectives over the years and what I’ve seen is that in order influence someone or convince someone you have to be credible. The best way to be credible is to be honest in your convictions.
If you know your product and understand your business, then you will be more relaxed in front the person you are trying to influence. When we think of trying to influence or convince someone we can all cite examples of the door to door salesman or used car salesman trying to get you to purchase something that you don’t need or will not be of any real use to you. These guys are normally found out very quickly after the sale. They leave a bitter taste in your mouth and therefore a lasting distrust of salesmen.
OK so I’m not having a go at salesmen in general but think of the drive that the salesman has – commission. There’s nothing wrong with an incentive to perform but it can drive the wrong behaviour in the wrong person.
On many occasions I watched salesmen and women sell equipment, software, solutions and projects to clients and the clients were convinced they needed them. From the organization’s perspective the sales person had done his or her job, deal done – commission in the bag. Much of my work involved either delivering the project or solution and dealing with technical issues after the sale.
After the Sale
The after sales situation was often quite different. Typically following one of these sales there were some problems – the software or project was not fit for purpose. Once we got to the root of the client’s needs the actual requirement was something quite different from the solution they were sold. We then had to renegotiate to encourage them to purchase the right project or solutions and the sales pitch starts again.
As I became more experienced in the field of customer management, something quite profound occurred to me.
1. When I followed the lead of the sales team to just get the sale (i.e. Commission Driven), I found it very difficult to convince the customer to buy from us and trust us.
2. When I did what I believed was right for the client, when I had their best needs at the forefront of my objectives – the sale was easy.
This happened on more too many occasions to be coincidence. When I looked closer at the different approaches and listened to customer feedback, I could see the real reason. The customer was convinced because I was convinced. I was convinced that I was doing the right thing and I had complete confidence in what I was selling or what decision that I was advising them to make.
Previously I had overlooked that a lack of sincerity would not be spotted and would be challenged by our clients. When I asked one client for feedback on why he selected our company for the project we had just been awarded, he stated that it wasn’t price, nor the company reputation. He stated that it was because he was convinced that I believed that what we were offering was the best solution for the client. He chose us because he trusted why we were offering this solution. He believed that we were honest in our intentions and he trusted us. He could see in my demeanour and presentations that I was sincere.
Refer back to the dictionary definition above for “Convince”, does it have more resonance now?
In this particular case the original proposal material was adapted from a previous endeavour with another client and the solution was similar. At first I had spent so much time trying to make it fit, trying to adopt someone else’s creation to make it fit what we needed at the time I was blind to the above epiphany. I started from a blank document and produced a proposal that was a direct response to the needs of the client – not just a fabricated sales pitch that had the corners broken off it to make is suit the current customer needs. I completed the proposal swiftly and the resulting document was a very simple, clear description of what we would deliver, how we would deliver and ultimately why it was needed.
Since then I have always taken great time to get to know the client. Get to know why they need issues resolved and make clear to them the direct and indirect benefits of any solution that I have been responsible for delivering.
No matter how big the organizations or how great the reputation, when it comes to big decisions, if they are honest, people do business with people. They do business with people they trust.
Once you are confident in yourself, confident in the solution that you are offering, and why you are offering the solution, the client will sense this confidence and will trust you. When they trust you and come to rely on you, you are destined for a prosperous customer supplier relationship.
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