The founder of the Private Equity firm I used to work for hugely favoured backing CEOs who had, at some point in their career, worked in sales. Why? Because he recognised being able to persuade people of an idea being a winning one is critical to entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurs who are comfortable with selling have a head-start; they better understand persuasion techniques and how to use them. So if you are an entrepreneur and you don’t have sales in your arsenal (and especially if the idea of selling makes you wince) then you should do something about it.
Start here with this amusing quote from How to Win Friends and Influence People, the very famous book on persuasion by Dale Carnegie, “Question: why do people like dogs? Answer: because dogs are always happy to see them.” Follow this advice! Feign happiness if you have to, just don’t be grumpy in a meeting where you need to persuade people!
I’m glad you are now happy, but no doubt you are still uncertain as to how to be persuasive, so here are some thoughts for you:
Consider starting by emphasizing what the person (investor or potential client or customer) would miss out on by not embracing your idea. Academic research has identified we are wired to feel the pain of a loss more acutely than the pleasure of a gain, so let them know what they are missing. I recently read there is evidence this is a more persuasive starting point than stressing the benefits of your new idea, so it is definitely worth a try.
Can you have the audience experience the benefits of your idea? We all know about telling them the benefits, but according to a psychological concept called “the endowment effect” we tend to value something more once it is in our possession. This is the motivation behind giving things away for free – especially the time-limited free subscriptions to media services – as it is harder to give something up once it’s been yours and you’ve enjoyed it.
Finally, tell them how others are already delighted with your product or service. People tend to make decisions based on the behaviour of those around them, after all, many businesses, including the likes of TripAdvisor and RatedPeople – to name just two – were founded on this insight. So secure some easy wins, get influencers on board, bandy around some names (they must be genuine – lying is stupidly risky) and be confident.
Your audience is very likely to go and check you out, so you must convey the same messages in the rest of your marketing materials. All your hard work can be easily negated by simple and basic mistakes. Let’s suggest you’ve successfully conveyed scale in your meeting, but you’ll straightaway ruin this if you have your own voice on the main office answering machine or use your email address for general enquiries, for instance. Your website must belie that you are a tiny firm – there really isn’t any alternative – and it must persuade by using the vision, words and images consistent with your sales pitch.
All too often we are dismissive because we feel sales just isn’t in our DNA, but this doesn’t fly if you want to be a successful entrepreneur – you must learn how to be persuasive. Meet this challenge head-on and yes, some people are naturally better at this, but good salespeople work at their craft, so you can too.