One of the skills that most, MBA grads or would-be managers require the most is persuasion skills. A sales representative or marketing person is nothing without persuasion skills. One of my professors used to say that a marketing guy must be well-equipped with skills to sell raincoats in a desert. Interesting it sounds but it is certainly difficult to get anyone to do what you really want by making them feel that they really want it.
First and foremost, you need to understand that influencing others isn’t luck or magic, it is science! Researches and management books always proclaim that there are a certain number of ways that make people agree to your messages or pitch. As a marketer, you must be well equipped with consumer behavior i.e. you must be able to understand what affects your target’s behavior.
See, no one can give you a clear explanation that why customers take a particular decision. But if you really, really understand the factors that influence their decisions, you can use them in your favor and that is real persuasion skill. Now since you have knowledge on behaviors remember that in your long term interest never push a product or service to a customer with poor quality or extremely high prices, else you will end up losing your dependability and trust in the long term.
The first mantra that I am going to share with you is ‘A Tooth for a Tooth’. Most of you would-be managers would have guessed by now that a target customer feels more affected and related to a marketer who gives them something or does something for them at no cost. Here, you have to understand that in order to receive you have to give first, let it be samples, gifts, information etc. The key here is to provide a positive experience before hand and then reaping its benefits.
Giving a free trial pack or demonstration gives the prospective customer a feel or experience which they would like to reciprocate. Such prospects become more open to hear your pitch, donate for your cause or tip someone. Also remember, you do not have to go overboard to gift a positive experience.
After you have mastered the reciprocation game, the next step is ‘Communal Consent’. Remember prospective buyers may doubt your information. Hence, just like little kids look for approvals from their parents; prospective customers hunt for approvals from friends, family, relatives, peers, competition and others for their purchase decision.
The number one reason nowadays android applications, products on various shopping sites; restaurants on food sites etc have reviews and ratings beside them is that prospects want to know what existing customers have experienced as well as how they feel about it. This strategy is actually a cost less one but remember the target audience always looks for people similar to them. I used to work for an online ad space selling firm and one of my prospects only bought my service because I gave him a plethora of existing customer’s name that were using the service, were in the same industry or were well known!
The third mantra is ‘Honoring Promises and Remaining Steady’. Would you purchase from a sales representative who commits something and backs out at the actual time of sale? No. A marketer must honor something after agreeing to it verbally or on paper given by him. Prospective customers really look for this steadiness or say consistency in marketer’s commitments.
Moreover customers do not like to leave good deals for which attitudes, values and actions have previously been set, said or discussed. They want to honor what has been decided previously. If you really want someone to say ‘yes’ to you, just make them committed to an action in your favor. Remember elder people value this consistency more!
The fourth mantra is ‘Aristocracy’. People really like to follow what experts or people of high social class do. They like to mimic attractive clothing, valuable and precious jewelry or good quality automobile for the credibility they provide. When someone imposes authority, customers generally tend to blindly follow or accept it.
Remember when prospects are insecure or hesitant they look for reference points outside to guide their choices. Authority figures leave a high level of influence in the form of testimonials, certificates, etc. This is the prime reason why a Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan endorses hair oil, suit fabric, etc and people actually buy them.
The next mantra is to ‘Invoke Affinity’; i.e. understanding that prospects say yes to things or people whom they either know or have a liking for. Remember customers place high value of genuine compliments because everyone is needy for praise that boosts their self confidence and esteem.
Customers might like physically attractive or people just like them or their friends approaching them for sales. Understand and know the challenges, problems and preferences of prospects. Remember that Walter Hudson will only be impressed and interested in you if you understand the problems he faces with his weight and give him a solution easing one of his challenges.
Lastly the mantra of ‘Scarcity and Dearth’, leads to creation of demand because the lesser something is available, the more it is in demand else Picasso’s paintings wouldn’t be sold at extremely outrageous prices. Also, offers such as special edition or limited period add to demand temporarily leading to immediate sales at high prices.
Show the prospective customer that you are sensitive to their possible losses than their would-be gains. Therefore it is wise for a marketer to emphasize less on product, its style, benefits and utility but on the opportunity being wasted. Use phrases and words like don’t miss the opportunity. Also, highlight the uniqueness wherever it exists!
Your skill to persuade in the extremely competitive environment, depend on your genuine efforts to show customers that you care and value them; proving social acceptance of your product or service; sticking to your commitment and steadiness; implicating aristocracy; increasing likeliness and showing that the offering you have to make is unique as well as limited in availability!
Contributed By : Chayan Jain (Class of 2011-2013, IBS Hyderabad).