How to Use the Science of Influence to Close a Sale

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In other words, you’re in the business of influencing.

Think of it like magnetic induction.

Unless you skipped physics classes — or slept through them — you probably know that magnetic induction is the production of a voltage across an electrical conductor in a changing magnetic field.

Your job is to induce an emotion within a person so they take action.

You can use your words.

You can use props.

You can tell a story.

You can give an elevator pitch.

But whatever you do, you can tap into the social science of influencing others as mentioned by the author Robert Cialdinni in his book, Influence.

  • Reciprocity = People are more likely to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.
  • Scarcity = People want more of those things they can have less of. That’s why offers like, “2 pieces left in stock,” get emphasized on ecommerce websites.
  • Authority = People are more willing to follow the recommendations of someone to whom they attribute relevant authority or expertise.
  • Liking = People are more willing to buy from people they like.

Once you understand all that, you might want to modify your pitch so it has one or more of these elements. For example, you would build a relationship with a potential buyer and give value to them first — for free — before even attempting to make a sale. However, whatever you say in your pitch must be honest and ethical. For example, you shouldn’t say, “You won’t find something like this in the market,” in an attempt to show that your product is scarce unless the scarcity of the product is true. Nowadays, the customer has more power than they did in the past — thanks to Dr. Google. They also can ruin your reputation faster thanks to social media.

One more thing to remember is that you can influence someone positively or negatively. I’ve had such an experience within one of the members in my sales team whose negative influence impacted the rest of the team. Even though she performed well, she created negative stereotypes about certain demographic segments, and influenced the rest of the team to avoid them. This impacted the team negatively as other sales members wouldn’t approach specific customer segments. However, upon leaving the team, sales went up overall and among the segments she was avoiding.

So whenever you’re getting ready to go out into the market and sell, prepare a sales pitch and try to integrate elements of influence like reciprocity, scarcity, likeability and authority.

Co-written with Amina Islam

 

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Why You Shouldn’t Fall Off The Bandwagon of Lead Generation

Why You Shouldn’t Fall Off The Bandwagon of Lead Generation

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Being at the helm of your own company has many challenges. One of the main ones is balancing client acquisition with work execution. With only twenty four hours available to you every day, it’s always tempting to lean towards the task you find easier or more enjoyable.

For me, that’s usually work execution.

Which means that I struggle when it comes to staying religiously disciplined while generating leads and acquiring new clients.

What usually happens is this: at the beginning of every quarter, I start off with enthusiasm, but then I slow down the process of generating new leads, as I turn my focus towards work execution.

However, this would eventually catch up with me due to the turbulent nature of the market I work in.

What should drive your sales process is actively generating leads rather than relying solely on referrals and upselling to current clients. Also, keep in mind that industry statistics show that 63% of consumers requesting info on your company today will not purchase for at least 3 months, so you need to always stay ahead of the game.

Referrals are usually a good thing as they’re a sign of clients who were satisfied enough to pick up the phone and recommend you to their peers.

But you can’t always count on them.

Also, clients will primarily refer new clients who are at their level of the financial spectrum, which could make you plateau if your aim is to continuously acquire bigger projects.

Focusing on expanding business off of our current client base is another easy thing we tend to do as business owners but it can be very risky.

I learned this lesson the hard way when during the second quarter of 2016, a new marketing director joined one of my top clients. The new head was skilled at pitching for extra budget and within 3 months, the marketing activities we were executing lead to a spike of 40 % in revenues.

However, during the first quarter of 2017, a new regional management team took over, drastically cut the budget, sending our revenues into a nosedive. This sent us scampering and suddenly, we had to ramp up our lead generation machine.

It did not have to happen that way.

The mistake we made there was relying on that account to generate revenues when we could have diversified by acquiring more clients.

Define Lead Generation Goals Rather Than Revenue Related Goals

It is common for salespeople to define revenue-related goals. So when you close enough deals to hit that revenue (even if it’s just from a single client), lead generation takes a backseat.

However, what you need to do is set goals related to lead generation activities:

  • Number of leads reached out to (on Linkedin, through cold calling or referrals)
  • Number of referrals followed up on
  • Lead conversion

How I learnt to set those goals is to use my own team’s historical data to determine the number of leads we need to periodically generate to guarantee growth. For example, in one of our most productive quarters to date, we had 21 leads, followed up on 16 of them, and converting 25 % to business that lead to our surpassing our revenue targets by 49%.

Armed with this information, generating 20 leads every quarter has now been set as a goal so we can plan ahead.

What if you don’t have capacity?

Maybe you shy away from generating leads because you’re worried about converting so many of them into clients that you find it difficult to deliver due to stretched resources. The truth is, you don’t really know your capacity for execution until you’re operating at your limits. One of the quotes by Grant Cardone, the author of 10x rule, “Never lower your target; increase your actions.”

Unless you’re working on a reimbursement system, where you have to put your own resources to run projects before you get paid, new clients can also help you expand your capacity as they come equipped with resources that could help you free up some of your time — e.g. training a new sales team. You’ll never know until you have those conversations with your leads.

Overall, remember that if you’re focusing on growth, you’ll always need to keep your lead generation running in the background

 

 

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Frame Your Product As a Painkiller Not a Vitamin

Frame Your Product As a Painkiller Not a Vitamin

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Pain is a powerful motivator.

It drives people to do anything in their power to stop it.

Now.

It’s very good to understand this while framing your product for sale because in some cases you need your potential customer to view it as a painkiller rather than a vitamin. It comes as no surprise that due to the complex and challenging nature of the market, customers’ expectations are rising. It’s getting harder to do business nowadays, and rise above the noise to convince customers to part with their hard-earned cash.

So when you frame your product like a vitamin that is nice to have and might get your customers benefits in the long term, you are more likely to face more rejections because they don’t find the delayed gratification enough reason for immediate purchase. However, when your product addresses short-term pains, then your probability of closing more sales increases.

For some products, the classification between painkillers and vitamins is easy. For example, productivity tools, and content aggregators tend to fall under the vitamin category, while products that help you satisfy a regulatory requirement or win sales.

However, if you’re unsure, how do you even know if the product you’re trying to sell is a painkiller or a vitamin?

  • Measure the length of your sales cycle — people and businesses with real pain push for short sales cycles
  • Take note of how your customer acquisition metrics. When you get more customers through referrals and inbound leads rather than outbound leads, chances are high you’re in the painkiller business.

But just because you see your product as a vitamin doesn’t mean that the customer shares that perspective. If you talk to enough customers and listen to them, you might realize there’s a pain your product is relieving you might not even be aware of. And listening to your customers doesn’t need to happen in person, but could be done by gathering stories around your product through customer service channels, and on social media.

Another thing to understand while selling is how context always matters when it comes to making a purchase. Sometimes how one product is perceived would depend solely on your customer, their needs and problems. Some might view your product as a vitamin while others might view it as a painkiller. To understand the context, you’ll need to do in-depth interviews with your current customers to understand a few basic things. For B2C customers, you would need clarity on what was happening for them to purchase your product? How does it tie in with any personal goals they might have? For B2B customers, how was the business performing, what was happening around them to make them reach out to your product?

This makes it necessary to have a clear understanding of who your user is, or defining your user profile, which is why there needs to be continuous alignment between sales and marketing departments. Some of the activities the two departments would need to align on are:

  • Persona Profile Development: Persona profile is a detailed description of your target customer, capturing everything from demographic information to hobbies, values, fears, goals, and challenges.
  • Brand Positioning and Messaging: Understanding how your brand is perceived internally and externally is crucial for your organization. Sales teams can help marketing teams identify gaps in brand consistency, and together they can address a plan to improve them.

But what if your product is a vitamin that can’t be framed into a painkiller in any way? There are some sales strategies you could use:

  • Talk money: At the end of the day, if you can make a case about how your product increases revenue or reduces cost, clients will be more willing to be sold on it.
  • Build Credibility: This is done through testimonials, case studies with real clients, focusing on the impact of your product. Because the timeline between the purchase and the value might be more extended for vitamins, the more real-life examples of the ‘ultimate’ value — even if delayed — would need to be communicated, for the clients to be able to make a decision now.

Last but not least, remember that sales is a numbers game. No sales call goes to waste. Even rejections can be seen as good market research as even if you do not close a deal with a lead, you still gain enough by listening to them to understand their perception of your product.

Co-written with Amina Islam

 

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How To Proactively Grow Your Business

How To Proactively Grow Your Business

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As an entrepreneur, do you find yourself continuously blaming the state of the economy when your business plateaus or shrinks? Do you blame the high taxes, the customers, the competition?

As humans, we have a tendency to cast the blame everywhere except towards ourselves.

But to grow your business sustainably, it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive. To understand the difference, let’s first discuss the concept of Circles of Concern and Influence that author Stephen Covey introduced in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Everything that might affect you and your business lies within your Circle of Concern, while everything that you can actually control lies within your Circle of Influence.

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Covey writes, “Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging, and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase. Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts on the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control.”

So what are some ways you can do to proactively grow your business in a sustainable manner?

Focus on one unique value proposition, know your customers and become obsessed with them

Unfortunately, it’s common to visit a small business’s office and see them working on three or four separate products and/or services. While that might be acceptable at the experimentation stage of your business to determine the market-product fit, if you’ve been in operations for over 3 years, you need to focus on one value proposition. Besides building a positive brand name associated with one area, developing a core competency also ensures you’re not spreading yourself too thin and scattering your resources.

Having one unique value proposition also helps you understand your customers better, and cater for their needs. This would enable you to respond faster to their changing needs, and stay ahead of the competition.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is known for saying, “Start with the customer and work backward.” A manifestation of this obsession with the customer is how at every meeting, Amazon is known to reserve an empty seat for the customer so it’s impossible for them to forget.

Build Long-term Trust

At the heart of any business are people; employees, clients, and stakeholders. And any people-centric entity requires trust; trust that promises will be honored, that goods and services will be delivered as promised, that customer’s needs and expectations will be met.

Trust is one of the hardest things to build, and the easiest to break.

As a business, trust is the most important brand asset you can manage but the challenge is, you can’t buy it using money. It must be earned by building a customer-focused brand narrative, as well as positive social and service interactions with your customers.

Unfortunately, because of the tough market conditions, it’s very easy for entrepreneurs to do everything in their power to acquire new customers; even resorting to delivering poor quality products and/or services or overpromising on things they can’t deliver at all.

How many customers have found themselves signing contracts with providers they wouldn’t recommend even to their worst enemies because of how bad the post-signature customer experience is?

Because they do not want to lose business, some might find it unfathomable to tell a potential customer that they do not have the capability to deliver as per their specification or send them to their competition, the idea being, “Let them sign it, and then we’ll cross that bridge when we reach it.”

However, we no longer live in a world where if one customer is dissatisfied, that information will stay within the realm of their family and friends. Instead, we live in a world dominated by online reviews where one bad experience gets blasted everywhere.

As a business, you may not just lose one customer, but the entire market.

Operating with honesty means telling the customer the truth about your product or service even if it might hurt your bottom line. The rule here is simple; deliver on your promises and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. That way, you make sure you’re operating on a long-term strategy rather than a short-term one.

Educate Yourself

A lot of people find themselves at the helm of entrepreneurship without a lot of knowledge, and while it is effective to learn by doing, and learn from one’s mistakes, who said those mistakes must be yours. There are several programs out there targeted towards entrepreneurs that can give you proven strategies to build your business. An example is ISBI’s AEP program.

To learn more about the program, comment below.

WRITTEN BY

Sales and Marketing leader based in Nairobi, working across East Africa. Currently focused on enabling tech startups scale in Kenya and the region

 

 

 

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