The good news is no one likes to be sold to, in fact, selling died in the eighties. We all want to buy a car and own a car, but no-one wants to be sold a car. We’d love to buy a home and own a home, but we don’t want to be sold a home.

Richard Branson said of Nelson Mandela that, above all, Mandela is a great salesperson. In his book Business Stripped Bare, Branson reflects that it was a very rare occurrence that he had dinner with Mandela without writing a cheque for upwards of $1 million. Branson argues that, whatever field you are in, the ability to influence and persuade people is the cornerstone of doing great things.

Be it in the business world, philanthropic space or even our personal life, learning to understand other people and ourselves on a deeper level makes us more effective people. It’s not about being salesy or pushy, quite the opposite. It’s about respecting other people and communicating with them in the way that they like to be communicated with, so that you can inspire and lead.

The good news is that anybody can learn how to be influential in business, simply by using the right strategies.

We live in an age where people are silently begging to be led. Information is everywhere, but individuals and brands providing strong leadership are harder than ever to find.

Too many business owners let the person in need of help and guidance dictate the sales conversations and run their own process. This doesn’t serve the potential customer, because it means that the business that can supply the help the prospect needs is providing very little leadership in the decision-making process.

At the beginning of each sales-based conversation it is critical that you or your sales team frame the conversation, giving the prospect the parameters of the conversation and what they can expect as an outcome. It is important to give the prospect on the other end of the telephone line or sitting across the table, absolute clarity as to:

•   The purpose of the meeting and what you’re chatting about
•   The outcome of the discussion

An introduction like this demonstrates that you’re genuinely interested in the person you’re speaking to and that the discussion is about you finding out about them, not about you selling them something.

When most business owners or sales people go into a sales environment, unfortunately they go straight into ‘tell mode’. Telling the prospect about their products, blurting out all the features, all the different benefits and probably flying through the price and the different payment options.

The problem is when we tell we sell, and no-one likes to be sold to. The biggest challenge for any salesperson or entrepreneur becomes how to sell without being ‘salesy’.

At the beginning of a conversation chances are we don’t know what the prospect needs. We don’t know their situation, their objective in talking with us or the problem they’re trying to solve, and therefore we’re not yet in a position to tell them anything. Doing so simply makes us another salesperson who tried to sell them a product or service.

If, instead, you ask the right questions, take a genuine interest in the person, and take the time to understand where they are at, you will be the exception to the rule.

So, what are the right questions?

•   Ask them questions to identify where they are now in relation to their problem and the solution they seek
•   Ask them questions to identity what their desired outcome is
•   Ask them questions that will help them identify what has been stopping them from getting this outcome
•   Outline how you can help them get what they want, using the language they have used throughout the conversation

If a prospect has taken the time to talk with you and explain their objectives and challenges, they are doing so because they want you to present a suitable solution. This is where you need to be the thought leader and, like a doctor writing a prescription, explain to the person what they need to do and why. This solution, of course, may involve getting started with you and doing business together or, if you decide that you are not the best solution for them, it may simply involve pointing them in the right direction.

If you do believe you can help the prospect overcome their challenges and achieve their objectives, then you need to present your solution in a way that is completely tailored for them.

Forget about all the features of your product or service, and the things you think is important. What do they think is important? That’s what you need to focus on.


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