(Hint: You've been taught—and taught by—the most persuasive techniques since you were a baby.)
The Real Difference Between The North and The South
In the North they start their stories with "Once upon a time."
In the South we start our stories with "Now y'all ain't gonna believe this."
Zig Ziglar would say this about gossip:
I can't tell you anything else about them. I've already told you more than I know."
Now you might be thinking the best persuasion technique is to open big, and you would be on the right path.
If you can open big you set yourself up for success because you've gotten the attention of your prospects, which is dang hard to do these days.
For example, just last night I made a quick tutorial for the sales team of a corporate client on how to use LinkedIn more effectively.
In the email and screen-share I told them how I made my quota selling to Sprint back in 2003-2004 by using a contact database similar to LinkedIn (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the iPhone wasn't invented.)
This was a database for service academy graduates and I discovered that the President of the division of Sprint that was my target was a West Point graduate. So I sent him an email with the subject line of
Would you ever consider helping a lowly Air Force grad?"
I included a couple of sentences about what I did and how we were literally working with all of his major competitors—Verizon, AT&T, etc.—and that same day he replied and introduced his VP on the email.
Within the hour that VP called me and asked how he could help.
I was given a license to hunt. And boy did I.
That one email message set me up to exceed my quota that year, which was a tough year in the technology space.
But it was the structure of the email—not just the fact I sent any email—that made the difference.
- "How can I be more persuasive?"
- "How can I get prospects to return my calls?"
- "How can I overcome objections?"
- "How can I close more sales?"
- "How can I negotiate better to maintain my margins?"
The Book With A Lot Of Persuasive Techniques
To all of the questions above I always include as part of my answer, "Study the Bible." (Not exactly the answer they thought they'd get. But, hey, if you knew the answer you wouldn't need my help, would ya?)
Two-thousand years ago a guy with no formal education, no internet, no PR firm—he didn't even have Instagram!—got everyone talking about him and his message.
(Heck, we're still reading and quoting 4,000 year-old stories from the Old Testament. Are people even talking about you 400 minutes after your presentation?)
What were the persuasive techniques Jesus used?
Jesus told parables, i.e. stories people could understand
Far too often in America we just want to
- cut to the chase,
- get to the point,
- get to the bottom line.
We're all about efficiency and productivity.
It's all STEM and no arts and humanities.
We don't stop to smell the roses...because we don't even take the time to plant the roses, let alone water, fertilize, and cultivate them!
And that's a mistake.
In the world of sales—and we're all in sales—we buy from people we know, like, and trust.
Sidebar on "know, like, and trust."
Too many of you focus way too much on the know and like part because it's fun and non-threatening. And easy.
But that just makes you a professional visitor.
Focus on building trust. The knowing and liking will follow, but they're not necessary for you to build a thriving sales career. Try building a business without trust.
When you tell stories you are giving your prospects time to get to know you by communicating and connecting with them at the deepest part of their psyches. You're literally putting your prospects into a trance as you share relevant, interesting stories that get their minds off of their worries and pains and gets them to focus on solutions—your solutions.
In that trance they drop their defenses, suspend disbelief, and really listen. This helps them get to know you and like you since you're, I'm assuming, a likable person with the best intentions in mind for your prospects.
This dropping of defenses, listening, and connecting is how the most important aspect of sales—Trust—is created.
If you have a solution that benefits your prospect, a quick sale at high dollar will follow the trust every time.
But understand that the stories must have a point, which is why your stories need to be more like parables, i.e., the sower sowing seeds in Matthew 13.
We Must Meet Them Where They Are
In sales it's our job to adjust how we sell to match how our prospects buy. (Understanding how to sell by personality type will help you a ton.)
In other words, we must meet them where they are.
If your prospects are hard-charging, task-oriented types then start with that then turn the conversation around once they feel like they are in charge.
If they are friendly, conversational, relationship-oriented types then ask them about the game, the weather, their office, the type of car they drive, etc. But be sure to keep track of time and get things back on track so business can be conducted.
When you talk quickly, use a lot of industry jargon and acronyms, and focus on just facts and features with relationship buyers you lose them.
When you meander around the subject and are slow to get down to business you lose the goal-oriented buyers.
Your prospects need you because they do not know what to do. They know they have an issue but they do not know the ramifications and implications of their predicament. If they did...they would've already purchased something to address their needs.
Jesus says as much in Matthew 13.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’"
And guess what?
You'll tell the same stories repeatedly so be careful not to get bored. That's the difference between rookies and professionals.
Rookies practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong.
Deliver the story with the same energy and passion the 100th time you tell it as you did the first time. That's how you'll know you're a professional.
Jesus gave freely of himself.
In Gary Vaynerchuk's Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, he does a great job of describing how you give, give, give before you ask for anything in return.
I'm doing that here with this post and the countless other posts, free reports and lead magnets, 400+ episodes of The Sales Podcast, as well as hundreds of free videos I've shared to my YouTube Channel.
Sure, Gary Vaynerchuk can and does charge thousands of dollars per hour if you were to be able to retain him for private consulting, but he puts out more free advice than anyone I know, just like Jesus did.
Never did he ask for donations or money for his services. He just gave freely of himself and his time.
Are you viewing (and treating) your prospects as "marks" with dollar signs in your eyes and on their foreheads or are you taking the time to get to know them, their needs, their fears, their wants, and their desires and then taking more time to engage them with advice, tips, and other resources that helps them choose if they want to help themselves or hire you to help them?
In sales and in life it is truly better to give than to receive.
Selling is a calling.
Serving is its purpose.
Questioning is the process.
And in the end, a sale may be the solution.
To improve your persuasive skills, which is a must in today's world, start giving.
Jesus focused on others.
While many people came to know, like, and trust Jesus, many more powerful people were threatened by him and had him killed.
But Jesus had something to say that needed to be heard.
He understood that a magnet repels to the same degree with which it attracts. But he spoke anyway.
Finally, he—and you—are bright candles in a world of confusion and darkness, and candles aren't put under a basket.
So get on your high horse and shout your message from the rooftop.
The world needs to hear what you're saying but they may not know they want or need to hear it. So you owe it to them and to yourself to get good at telling stories.
It was never about him (and it's not about you!)
In Mark we see Jesus heal a blind man in front of a large crowd and all were astonished. Rather than hang around and receive congratulations and back-slaps, Jesus
ordered them not to tell anyone."
(But they didn't listen.)
Throughout the Gospels we Jesus give this instruction because he didn't want people to get the wrong impression about his purpose, his mission, or his message.
He didn't come seeking power or wealth, at least not the worldly kind.
He was comfortable in his own skin and gave of himself completely to us all, the less fortunate, the ignorant, the blind, the sheep in need of a shepherd.
Rather than hold on to a title or position or expensive robes or entourages, he let go, and we're all in a better place because of it.
Are you holding on too tightly?
Jesus had a plan
Jesus knew his purpose and his mission.
He knew when to lay low and when to get busy.
His words were measured.
His actions were decisive.
He was firm and resolute in his path.
Are you approaching your prospects and your life with no plan and an attitude of scarcity?
Do you follow a sales agenda with every engagement or do you wing it?
One of the greatest copywriters and salesmen of all time was Gary Halbert, the source behind The Boron Letters.
Listen to my interview with Gary Halbert's son, Bond Halbert, here.
You can see the show notes and additional links from Bond's interview in episode #77 of The Sales Podcast here.
If you need more help growing your sales, check out the following resources scattered around this site and a few others I operate, such as:
Now go sell something.