One of the biggest lessons I have learned from over 20 years in business to business sales is that in order to achieve spectacular success that is sustainable over a period of time (not a ‘flash in the pan’), you have to develop a genuine and authentic level of influence. Whether it was selling products and services to a large corporate customer, or leading an engaged and driven sales team, success always came as a direct consequence my ability to influence.
As a sales leader, it was often easier (or so I thought!) to influence others through positional power, however I learned that the impact of this influence was only short lived. What I found was that the most successful sales people and indeed sales leaders, had the ability to influence others to the point where they were able to have others make decisions and make them feel it was their decisions to make. I always found this to be a fascinating skill that enabled sales people and leaders to enjoy spectacular, long lasting success, as well as build and maintain very strong and authentic relationships. What I didn’t realise was that they were utilising the Laws of Influence and once I took them on board and implemented them, I also discovered that my level of success and relationships elevated to an entirely new level.
What they were implementing were the 6 Laws of Influence, as articulated by Robert Cialdini in his outstanding book ‘Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion’. This book is brilliant – a must read for all those in sales, marketing and leadership. I now refer to this book as the ‘bible’ of influence, it is that powerful. In the book, Cialdini explains the 6 laws and how they can be used to influence others and to achieve spectacular and sustainable success.
Here is my perspective on the laws and I have placed them order that I have discovered has the biggest impact :
- Law of Reciprocity – The 1st law, the Law of Reciprocity is a fundamental law and very profound, especially in sales. This law decrees that when someone does something nice for you, you have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return. In its simplest form, when meeting with a customer, when the customer asks you how you are, you must reciprocate and ask them how they are. If you do not, you have broken the law of reciprocity and your chances of influencing the customer will be severely reduced, if not removed. I have been amazed at how a simple omission of using this law has lead to poor results, and most often, no result, in a business scenario, all because the law of reciprocity was not utilised. Make the Law of Reciprocity your number 1 law.
- Law of Authority – the 2nd law is the Law of Authority. Having implemented the 1st law, it is now critical to establish credibility and authority in front of the customer – and when I say authority, I do not mean taking the superior position or being ‘boss like’. It is about establishing your credentials so that, in the customer’s eyes, you appear to be the authority on the subject – you are the expert and someone worth listening to. Do this well and you can then move to law #3.
- Law of Likability – In my leadership workshops, I explain this law in 2 ways. Firstly, you want to position yourself so that your customer likes you and can see themselves doing business with you. The best way I have found to do this is through asking curious, purposeful and relevant questions. The 2nd component is that ideally we want the customer to be thinking to themselves, ‘he/she is a lot like me – we are so much alike, we have things in common. I want to do business with them’. Implement the Law of Likability and you will move closer to influencing your customer.
- Law of Social Proof – As we move closer to influencing the customer to make a decision, a more powerful way to influence is through providing examples where other customers and organisations have implemented your solution and achieved success. The power of case studies (social proof) is significantly higher that trying to convince a customer through describing your product/services’ features and benefits. There is more credibility in other organisations having successfully used your service.
- Law of Commitment and Consistency – In the early days of my sales career, the philosophy to be successful in sales was ‘get the customer to say yes’ as often as possible, because many little ‘yeses’ would ultimately lead to the big ‘yes’ and the closure of the sale. What I know now is that this was the Law of Commitment and Consistency in action. The more often we can have the customer saying yes during a sales call or sales cycle, they are building consistency, so that when it is time to ask for a commitment to close the deal, the customer will feel obliged to commit to it. One critical caveat here though – this must be done ecologically. It is not about convincing someone to take something on against their will or taking something that will not benefit them.
- Law of Scarcity – having implemented the previous 5 laws well, it is now time to close the loop and implement the Law of Scarcity. The Law of Scarcity decrees that there is only a limited supply, so that it involves an urge to take action, so as to avoid missing out. Often this law is used in relation to time (for e.g. this pricing expires in 30 days), or it could be based on the number of available products (for e.g. we only have a shipment of 100,000 widgets). When either of these (or both) is used, it will often incentivise the customer to take prompt action.
If you are looking to achieve spectacular success – and more importantly, committed to achieving it, then study these 6 laws and implement them religiously and consistently. You will notice that not only will your results significantly improve, so will your relationships, and you will find yourself in ‘success flow’. Then, simply rinse and repeat.
To your continued sales leadership success.
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Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.