Have you ever tried to close a sale, only to hear the disappointing news that the prospect chose to go elsewhere? You know your product and services are better than your competition. You know your organization is more stable and capable of a smooth implementation. But you can’t figure out what happened or why they didn’t take your offer.
It’s because you lacked influence. Here are the steps you should take to remedy that.
1. Become an influencer.
Some people believe that influence isn’t necessary in today’s business world, that it’s an outdated notion. Many sales professionals rely on the differentiation of their products, pricing or marketplace positioning to do the heavy lifting in their sales pitches. It doesn’t work. HubSpot recently reported that 42% of sales professionals believe that prospecting is the hardest part of their job. With influence, prospecting becomes easier.
Influence is more crucial today than ever before. It’s required for any organization to meet successfully – and beat – their sales expectations. It gives you a competitive advantage and comes from how others experience you day to day. Your consistent behavior establishes trust and credibility. When others perceive you as trustworthy, confident and authentic, they are likely to follow your recommendations. A recent study by Salesforce discovered that 79% of business buyers believe it’s critical to work with a salesperson they can trust.
If a prospective customer perceives your interactions as less than favorable, they’ll likely doubt what you have to say. If they see you as lacking confidence in your product or service, they probably won’t buy from you, no matter what anyone else says. If they doubt your trustworthiness because you fail to make eye contact, it’s doubtful they’ll accept your suggestions.
Perception is reality. Influence doesn’t come from your intentions but from how people experience you. Trust, credibility and authenticity move people to act. Those characteristics come from consistent behavior in every interaction. How you communicate either enhances your influence or takes away from it. If you want to earn more credibility and trust to close more sales, start with your communication skills.
2. Be self-aware.
We typically perceive ourselves differently than others do. When it comes to our communication skills, we don’t know what we don’t know. You’re probably unaware of how your prospects see and hear you. Self-awareness helps you understand what you need to change.
To gain awareness, seek feedback from someone you trust. A leader, co-worker, client or peer can shed light on areas of opportunity. Feedback will provide you a course of action.
3. Be consistent.
To earn trust, we must be consistent in two areas. First, your message and delivery must be in sync. Second, your communication must be consistent Monday to Monday, every day and in every interaction. When prospects learn what they can expect from you in every interaction, trust grows.
Record yourself practicing your sales pitch. Evaluate whether your words match your behavior. Consider your body language, and tune into your choice of words. Ensure how you deliver your message so it matches what you say.
4. Build your reputation.
Your reputation is what others can expect from you. It’s the one thing that precedes you and affects your influence before you ever say a single word. Your reputation comes from how others perceive your character. They are quick to share it, setting a baseline expectation for others who have yet to meet you. How they define you determines how much others will trust you.
Ask. This is another way feedback helps. Inquire with customers you’ve previously worked with. Better yet, have a conversation with a former prospect whose business you lost. Seek to understand their motivation and understand where you can improve.
5. Be flexible.
The ability to adapt your message to meet your listeners’ needs is crucial to your influence. Influence grows when you stop formulating your thoughts long enough to listen to what others have to say. When you hear your listeners’ needs, you can adapt your message in a way that benefits them. Trust builds as they see you place their needs ahead of your desire for a sale.
Listen with intent. Do less talking and more listening. Tune into what your prospects have to say, what their concerns are and what they are seeking. This helps you understand how to fine-tune your message to better meet their needs.
When a connection is established on an emotional level, impact is made. It gives our message momentum and allows us to make an impact even when we aren’t physically there. This emotional connection matters because it moves the relationship from a transactional place to one of trust and credibility.
Impact comes from a genuine connection with others when we honor them by listening and prioritizing their needs. When we make our prospects’ needs more important than our sale, we create a connection that makes a lasting, trustworthy impact.
Start by acknowledging your own limits, and have the courage to evaluate your current behavior. Once you realize the importance of influence in your sales process, you can work to improve yours. Anyone can be influential if they are willing to do the work.