I spend a lot of time asking my students to stop trying to persuade their prospects to buy from them. At first, they think I’m joking. They don’t understand the difference between selling and persuasion.
Selling is the activity of qualifying potential buyers that meet specific criteria. A common definition of persuasion is to prevail on a person to do something, as by advising or urging. If persuasion is telling, then selling is asking.
The Ideal Prospect
Your ideal prospects have specific attributes and will give responses to your questions that can be correlated to a greater likelihood that they will buy from you. Wal-Mart used predictive technology to identify that strawberry Pop-Tarts sell seven times faster in the southern U.S. when a hurricane is approaching. Some contractors have learned that a homeowner with a penchant for certain musical hobbies correlates to a customer more willing to spend on quality craftsmanship. HVAC salespeople know that when tenants are complaining, they have a much higher close ratio than if a piece of equipment is merely running inefficiently.
No amount of persuasion will offset the sacrifice the homeowner must be willing to make
Remodeling is inherently a painful process. There’s no amount of persuasion that will offset the sacrifice the homeowner must be willing to make for a six-figure project that will take the better part of a year. It’s the salesperson’s job to get to know the prospect and identify if the status quo (their current living situation and discomfort) will overcome the sacrifices necessary to complete the project.
Persuasive Messaging vs. Persuasiveness
There is nothing wrong with populating your website or advertisements with positive things about your company and why people should do projects with you. The mistake the persuader makes is in one-to-one conversation. In a one-way medium like an ad, the information is general and informative. In a two-way dialogue, persuasiveness can feel like badgering or the salesperson sounding superior to the homeowner. The effective salesperson’s job is to qualify by asking questions, not by educating every homeowner, one at a time.
Persuasion does come with pitfalls. Unless the persuader is a mind reader, there is an excellent chance they will promote features and benefits that the prospect doesn’t value. Ironically, the homeowner will use these benefits as justification to go with another remodeler. He or she will think something like, “We really wanted to work with a more modern company than one founded in 1938.”
Additionally, there’s little chance the persuader will notice the telltale signs that a prospect may become a bad customer. For instance, they may fail to understand a homeowner’s unrealistic expectations or a desire to do projects without permits. The list of pitfalls is long.
There are other benefits to asking/selling. When you employ an inquiry based selling approach, the “persuasion” actually occurs when the prospect is answering the questions. Instead of feeling like they are being persuaded, the customers come to their own conclusion to buy. And if you do decide to present, you’ll know exactly what to include and what to leave out.
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