It’s Not What You Sell; It’s How You Sell: Changing The Way You Influence Customers

How do you transform your customer’s sales experience, so it is different and more desirable than your competitors, and adds value to your brand? First, you have to change the way your sales force influences and sells to them. Then, change the way your sellers communicate how your company can deliver faster, better and cheaper solutions than competitors.

Most people are unaware there are two different ways to influence a customer to buy. You can use a form of direct persuasion, using your facts, figures and evidence to convince a customer of why they should buy from you, or you can use a form of self-persuasion to help a customer convince themselves by uncovering and discovering their own reasons.

For more than a hundred years, sellers have used, and for the most part, still do, variations of direct persuasion. In recent years, the harder aspects of direct persuasion have been softened and couched in the language of consultative selling, but in essence, the core sales technique used by over 90 percent of sales forces remains direct persuasion.

The problem is direct persuasion no longer works. Customers armed with Google-driven technologies have all the information and choices they need to make buying decisions on their own without ever talking to a seller.

As a result, they are becoming increasingly resistant to all forms of direct persuasion. We hate being told what to do; and when we have the tools and power to pushback, our skepticism and mistrust grow.

A 2011 survey carried out by the Corporate Executive Board on 1,400 B2B customers found buyers on average were 57 percent through their purchasing process before they contact suppliers. As a result, B2B sellers are losing their ability to shape the customers’ buying criteria.

If that’s the bad news, the good news is the sellers who use self-persuasion don’t encounter the resistance, skepticism, or pushback traditional tell-and-sell salespeople encounter.


We don’t argue with our own reasons.

Instead, our reasons become motivators that induce us to say yes.

Self-persuasion plays a similar role to oil in a car engine; it eliminates friction. In a sale, self-persuasion lubricates the relationship and builds deeper trust. In the process, it motivates customers to say yes quicker and commit for longer.

Social psychologists have been comparing the impact of direct and self-persuasion for over 50 years.

The social psychologist Elliot Aronson, who is listed among the 100 most eminent psychologists of the Twentieth Century, summarized a lifetime of work in a 1999 paper called The Power of Self-Persuasion. Aronson’s work included 100 experiments on aspects of self-persuasion.

Aronson’s conclusion:

“Self-persuasion is almost always a more powerful form of persuasion (deeper, longer-lasting) than being persuaded by another person.”

Change the Way You Communicate How Your Firm Creates, Delivers, and Captures Value

Here are five tools and techniques which will convince clients you are there to help them and to help them come up with their own reasons for wanting to buy from you.

1. Build An Empathy Bridge With Your Client By Proving You Are There To Help.

When customers meet a seller for the first time, they ask two questions:

  • Is the seller here to help me or push their own agenda?
  • If I do buy, can I count on the seller to deliver on their promises?

If a buyer believes that a seller is there to help, they will trust them. If the buyer suspects the seller is primarily there to serve their own interests, they will question the seller’s intent, push back, and discount whatever is said.

A seller who can’t deliver on what they promise is not worth talking to.

2. Show How You Can Deliver More For Less.

As soon as practically possible use a simple sketch to show your prospect how your firm can provide a smarter way of delivering a faster, better, and cheaper solution. The is the answer to the question all customers ask: what makes your firm different and more desirable than your competitors? Remember it is not enough to be different, you have to be more desirable in what the customer’s value and will pay extra for.

3. Run A Group Hassle Scoring And Prioritization Session That Includes All The Key Decision Makers Or Influencers.

Big sales involve five or more decision makers or influencers. A group hassle finding, scoring and prioritization session helps decision makers as a group identify and prioritize their critical pain points and reach consensus on a plan of attack. Over 50% of big sales never proceed beyond the “Request for Proposal” stage. One of the major reasons why is that decision makers cannot achieve consensus on what is the best way forward.

4. Use Question Storming To Generate Aha! Sparking Questions That Produce Breakthrough Ideas.

Most companies use ineffective brainstorming to come up with innovative ideas. But brainstorming doesn’t work. Question Storming is much more effective at producing breakthrough solutions.

Question Stormers identify:

  • ‘Why’ questions, which challenge assumptions
  • ‘What If’ questions, that spark Aha! Sparking insights
  • ‘How Might We’ questions, that identify positive solutions

5. Show How Changes To The Customer’s Business Model Can Generate Significant, Even Game-Changing, Differences.

A customer’s business model shows how they create, deliver, and capture value. Customers are always captivated when they discover:

  • How they can transform their customer value proposition so they can become more competitive
  • How they can extract more value from their resources
  • How they can streamline their processes so they can scale and deliver their value proposition more efficiently
  • How they can change the profit formula so they can increase their profits and cash flow or reduce their costs.

These five tools and techniques can be mapped, branded, visualized as a proprietary model, and presented to clients as the way your firm helps them generate faster, better and cheaper solutions.

Firms spend millions on adding sparkle and branding their customer experience. It’s time they placed equivalent resources into differentiating and branding the way they sell. The time to change is perfect since most firms have yet to discover the power of self-persuasion and its astonishing ability to eliminate buyer resistance. Given selling is the way you communicate how you create, deliver and capture value it could be the best investment you ever make.