If you’ve decided you want more business this year, one of the best ways to achieve that goal is to speak more persuasively in your conversations with prospects. Persuasive talk can sometimes appear to be pushy, manipulative or amateurish, but it needn’t be. In fact, it probably constitutes the single most ethical and professional way to change minds and behaviors, especially when you truly believe you’re providing value. The key to success lies in taking an audience-centered approach. Try these strategies the next time you speak with prospects.
Focus on what you want to accomplish rather than what you want to say. Imagine being on a flight, when the pilot makes the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, from the flight deck, this is your pilot speaking. We’ve reached our cruising altitude, so I’m going to turn off the seatbelt sign if you need to move about the cabin. Our in-flight time today is… well, unknown, since we really don’t have a destination. We do have an ample supply of fuel; so we’ll fly around until we deplete most of it, and then look for a safe place to land. Now sit back and enjoy your flight
.” No doubt such an announcement would cause discomfort for most. Yet, many presenters put their audience in the same position. Their ample supply of fuel is an abundance of data and having no destination means they’ll simply cover talking points until they run out of time or information. They’re so focused on reading a standard slide deck and repeating what they’ve been told is important that they lose sight of why they’re presenting. Persuasion is the process of moving someone to a desired course of action. Only when you can identify that desired course of action can you move beyond presenting as anything more than an end in itself.
What specific action do you want from the audience at the conclusion of your presentation? Have a tangible and measureable outcome in mind.
Remove the roadblocks to persuasion instead of piling on facts. The most formidable obstacle on the road to persuasion is simple disinterest. Until audience members can clearly see why your presentation has value for them personally, they’ll remain unlikely to move towards your desired outcome. Show them early in the presentation what benefits you’ll deliver when they engage your services. Even after you’ve successfully piqued their interest, recognize that their beliefs may not correspond with the facts, their attitudes may be counterproductive to change and their priorities may require realignment. Each of these psychological factors affects how open to persuasion you’ll find a particular audience. Failing to recognize these factors and implement successful strategies for change is just like ignoring a “Road Closed Ahead” sign as you drive. The consequences include unnecessary delays, a longer sales cycle and leads that turn into dead ends.
Frame your outcomes in compelling language instead of mundane descriptions. As you frame outcomes for prospects, keep in mind that your language choice creates perspectives. Those perspectives can manifest themselves either as entirely routine or compellingly unique. Unique perspectives cause prospects to see the value in your services and distinguish you from the competition. In the before and after comparisons that follow, consider how more thoughtful language choice provides a more attractive vision.
: “This training program tells you about doing better in the sales process. It costs $12,000.
: “Our training program shows you exactly how to master the sales process to improve your results. Your investment in increasing your sales is $12,000.
: “Our firm’s consultants said they would thoroughly analyze your retention issues.”
: “Our firm’s consultants have committed themselves to solving your retention problem.”
: “We got additional work because our client was satisfied.”
: “We earned additional work by proving to our client that we consistently get results.”
Effective language results from strategic thinking rather than stylistic thinking. Concentrate less on what you’re trying to say and more on what the prospect is likely to hear.
Each of these three strategies for being more persuasive requires a shift from the “me” and the “message” aspects of the presentation to the audience aspect. When you commit to implementing them, you’ll realize greater success and increased business.
©2010 Peak Communication Performance. Excerpted from Rainmaking Presentations: How To Grow Your Business by Leveraging Your Expertise, available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. Download the first chapter at www.RainMakingPresentations.com. Affluent’s Presentation Expert, Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D., shows professionals how to design, develop and deliver presentations that win business. When you book him to show your organization how to create more persuasive messages, you’ll discover the missing structure in your plan for increased sales. Contact him at Sommerville@RainMakingPresentations.com.