Customer Experience News & Trends

How to persuade customers without pushing them

While there are various short-term tactics to get customers to do what you want, the path to “real influence” has no shortcuts. 

Pitfalls to avoid

Urging customers to adopt a different way of thinking to sell to them, speaking more than listening, and becoming defensive, argumentative and stubborn in the face of opposition are pitfalls to avoid.

When customers disagree

When customers disagree with you, try to swallow the impulse to turn deaf and defensive. Listen even harder and leave yourself open to the chance that they might tell you something you haven’t considered. Instead of interacting through the lens of what you want, try to see the customer’s perspective.

Barriers to influence

Influence is not the practice of getting customers to do what you want. Winning customers’ grudging compliance or pushing them into buying something inevitably causes resentment. Customers don’t care about your goals or needs, so don’t try to get them to move by telling them your perspectives.

Overreacting to objections

When you encounter objections, try to avoid going into a reactionary mode. Instead listen, then ask a question. Try to make it open-ended and investigative.

  • “Could you explain a little bit more?”
  • “Explore with me?”
  • “Share with me?”

The right information

Try not to solve a problem until you have the right information. It’s not a good idea to assume you know the answer and then go and find information to support your guess.

Articulate value

A big trap is talking about your products or services strictly in terms of features — that is what the product or service is. By focusing on features, you may miss opportunities to articulate value.

Value articulation comes from being able to discuss your product or service from the customer’s perspective rather than yours. Try to bridge the gap between what your product or service is and what it actually does for the customer.

Listen past your blind spot

Never assume you have all the answers. Listen openly to customers with a willingness to change your mind. Pay attention to customers, observing gestures, movements, expressions and tones to get the full picture of what they’re trying to communicate to you. Repress any urge to defend your position or to interrupt to insert your own point of view. Ask questions to be sure you comprehend fully. Be open to influence, and you will gain influence.

Meet their goals

Seeing circumstances from customers’ point of view builds situational awareness that will enable you to offer thoughts and ideas that will help them meet their goals. This level of empathy can win their trust. It may help you develop “solution awareness” so you can help customers achieve their goals because you have learned what they need.

Generate value

To develop long-term customer relationships, always look for the little extra you can contribute to the customer. After you close a sale, think long term. Try to make sure customers see you as the first choice. Look for new opportunities to communicate why it’s prudent for customers to continue to do business with you.

Adapted from: Real Influence, by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen. Mark Goulston is a consultant, columnist, coach and FBI hostage negotiator. He wrote Just Listen and co-founded Heartfelt Leadership. Executive coach John Ullmen lectures on leadership at UCLA. He worked in intelligence for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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