Persuasion techniques in sales focus on one key goal — convincing a lead to adopt a new attitude and change their mind toward an idea.
And this isn’t something that involves slick, underhanded sales manipulation.
It’s just tapping into some basic psychological principles that have been scientifically proven to get results.
Here are 27 persuasion techniques sales professionals can use to build instant rapport with leads and set the stage for massive conversions.
Persuasion Techniques 101: Make it All About the Customer
One of the main areas where sales reps go wrong is making the focus about their company rather than the customer.
“The subject of the conversation is me, me, me: my company, my product’s benefits, and my product’s features and functions,” explains Steve W. Martin of the Harvard Business Review.
“When Heavy Hitter salespeople meet with customers, they talk about them, them, them: their problems, their values, and their plans and desires.”
So, this is the type of mindset that reps should have going into their interactions with leads.
Capitalize on Information-Gap Theory
Through in-depth research, American educator and economist, George Lowenstein, discovered that piquing a person’s curiosity is a potent way to grab their attention and motivate them to want to learn more.
He summarized this concept as “information-gap theory,” and it’s one of the best persuasion techniques reps can use to create a dialogue.
It simply boils down to raising a lead’s curiosity, which is something that can be done in a few different ways:
- Asking a provocative question (What’s getting in the way of you buying from us?)
- Offering an eye-catching stat (Our client, X, increased their revenue by 300%.)
- Providing some, but not all of the information (Our software solves one of the biggest problems among today’s SaaS companies)
Offer Social Proof
This is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion, and is hands down one of the best ways to get leads over “the buying hump.”
And it’s dead simple.
Have several types of social proof on standby, such as testimonials, ratings, recommendations, or case studies to prove that your product is in fact the bee’s knees.
Another of Cialdini’s principles is the principle of liking.
If a sales rep can get a lead to legitimately like them on a personal level that transcends business, their odds of converting sky rocket.
According to a study involving MBA students, one of the easiest ways to become more likable is simply exchanging personal information to establish some initial rapport.
More specifically, it discovered that 90% of students that did this experienced successful outcomes that were worth 18% more than not exchanging personal information.
Create Goodwill Through Reciprocity
There’s also reciprocity, which takes an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” approach.
“Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.”
For example, here’s a free guide that teaches businesses about the importance of speed to lead time, which is a nice way to get a relationship started.
Turn Objections Into Selling Points
Objections are inevitable and can run the gamut.
But when you break it all down, they usually involve one of the following, says Brian Gonzalez of HubSpot.
Another of the persuasion techniques for catapulting reps is learning to disarm objections and actually turn them into strengths — something that can be done by first agreeing with an objection and then explaining how your product overcomes the associated pain points.
Sarah Houlihan of Salesforce explains that there are five main ways to go about this.
It’s all about seamlessly acknowledging a lead’s concerns and addressing them with total transparency.
Use the Ransberger Pivot
The Ransberger Pivot is another of the persuasion techniques that’s specifically designed to overcome objections.
It works by changing the framework from being argumentative about an issue to establishing that a rep is on the same side, where they’re operating as friends, not enemies.
So, if a prospect is concerned about implementing your software, thinking that onboarding is going to be a pain, a rep would want to acknowledge that and discuss how they can help streamline the onboarding process.
Put the Customer in the Driver’s Seat
At the end of the day, deciding whether to buy or not is in the hands of the customer.
It’s their call.
Using hyper-aggressive techniques where a sales rep acts like they know what’s best and tries to tell a customer what to do usually ends up backfiring.
So, it’s important that reps reassure leads that they’re in the driver’s seat and don’t try to force anything on them.
This is known as the “But You Are Free Technique,” and a study involving over 22,000 people found that it doubles the chances of a person saying “yes.”
Use the “Foot-in-the-Door” Technique
Research has found that first asking a small request, and then following it with a larger request significantly increases the odds of persuading someone.
Within the context of sales, getting a lead to say “yes” with a small request makes it more likely that they’ll later agree to a larger request, like buying.
This is known as the foot-in-the-door technique, which Udacity provides an overview on in this video.
Use “Your,” “Yours,” and “Your”
Experts have found that using second person pronouns like these, rather than self-centric pronouns like “I,” “Me,” and “Mine” have a positive impact on persuasion.
Use the Person’s Name
Better yet, use the person’s name.
A psychological study by Howard, Gengler, and Jain found, “After an initial introduction, it seems to be a common experience for people to ‘feel good’ when someone remembers their name at a later point in time.”
This is considered one of the top complimentary persuasion techniques and can be instrumental in reps building quick rapport with a lead.
Use the Word “Because”
A study by Harvard found, “Adding ‘because’ to a statement increased agreement by 34%.”
Don’t Overwhelm Leads with Too Many Choices
In a TED Talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz explained “the paradox of choice,” where people become overwhelmed with too many choices, which creates a paralyzing effect.
And this is a phenomenon that all sales reps need to be aware of.
Offering too many choices can create unnecessary anxiety and squander quality leads, which is why reps should keep it simple with just a few choices.
Use the Right Amount of Eye Contact During Face-to-Face Interactions
Okay, this obviously won’t apply to phone conversations and email, but whenever a rep is speaking face-to-face, either through a physical meeting or video conferencing call, they’ll want to use the right amount of eye contact.
According to Carol Kinsey Goman of Forbes, this should be 30 to 60% of the time during a conversation, with more when a rep is listening and less when they’re speaking.
This helps create a subconscious connection that’s instrumental for building trust.
Use Hand Gestures
Another of the key persuasion techniques for face-to-face meetings is using hand gestures.
Cognitive scientist Richard O. Young found that this aids a listener’s comprehension, which makes it easier for leads to remember key messages.
Mirroring, also known as mimicry, is where a person copies the behaviors and non-verbal cues of the person they’re interacting with.
And it’s proven to be one of the more effective persuasion techniques.
“Researchers studied mimicry, and found that those who had been mimicked were much more likely to act favorably toward the person who had copied them.”
It makes people feel more comfortable and understood.
So, it’s important to be on the lookout for things like the following:
- Body language during face-to-face interactions
- Voice tone
- The speed of speech
- Hand gestures
Use Reflective Listening
Piggybacking off of mirroring is reflective listening, where a rep paraphrases and repeats what a lead just said.
A study found that using this technique helps encourage the other party to disclose more emotion and lays the groundwork for tighter relationships.
Use a Variety of Expressions to Show They’re Listening
Another big part of getting a sales professional in sync with a lead is to show they’re listening — something that can be done by peppering in expressions like these throughout a conversation:
- Mmm hmm
- It sounds like…
Nod Frequently During Face-to-Face Interactions
And whenever a rep is speaking face-to-face with a lead, they’ll want to show when they’re in agreement by nodding.
This is another simple, yet highly effective way to build rapport.
Harness the Power of Three
Susannah Jacobs of The New York Times talks about one of the more fascinating persuasion techniques called “the power of three.”
According to studies, “three claims will persuade, but four (or more) will trigger skepticism, and reverse an initially positive impression.”
So, when explaining why your product is awesome, stick with three claims and stop there.
Inject Some Humor
Another way to create a deeper connection and humanize the conversation is with some well-placed humor.
After all, if a rep can make a lead legitimately laugh, they’re ahead of the game.
Make the Lead Feel Special
Nobody wants to be treated like they’re “just another lead.”
But if a rep says something like, “I wanted to reach out to you specifically…,” they’re far more likely to be on board.
Never Ask, “Is This a Good Time to Talk?”
One way I see sales reps shoot themselves in the foot is by asking this question.
This gives a lead an easy out and can ruin many would-be deals.
Instead, a rep is better off saying something like, “I know you’re probably busy, but this will only take a few minutes.”
Or, better yet, schedule meetings in advance at a time that’s ideal for a lead.
Persuasion Techniques – Encourage Participation
If a sales rep can get a lead in on the action, this dramatically boosts engagement and makes it easier to recall information.
That’s why I suggest encouraging participation during sales calls, specifically using demos to help leads see your product up close and personal.
Base the Discussion on the Lead’s Motivations
One of my favorite quotes from Andrew Carnegie is, “Customers like to feel that they are buying — not being sold.”
Understanding what motivates a lead and basing the conversation around that is huge for making them feel empowered and is always better than barraging them with pushy sales tactics.
For example, many sales teams are looking to accelerate their speed to lead time and qualify more leads into meetings.
So, that’s one of the primary areas we like to focus on.
Share a Real-Life Customer Story
Often a lead gets the gist of what you’re offering, but they may not necessarily understand the exact impact it can have on their business.
But if a rep shares a real-life customer story that shows the before and after, that should help connect the dots.
I’m personally a fan of using video where a customer explains how they were able to use a tool or service to better their business.
This list wouldn’t be complete without one more of Robert Cialdini’s persuasion principles.
As I mentioned earlier, some of the most common sales objections include, “I’ll get back to you at a better time,” and “Call me back next quarter.”
But using urgency by setting deadlines or offering a bonus incentive for buying right away can help motivate leads to take instant action.
Persuasion Techniques FAQs
What are some of the more notable persuasion techniques in sales?
Reciprocity, liking, social proof, and urgency.
What are some easy ways to build rapport?
- Use “you,” “your,” and “yours”
- Use a lead’s name
- Exchange personal information
- Throw in some humor. Just don’t force it.
What are some common mistakes sales reps make with their persuasion techniques?
- Making it all about their company rather than the lead
- Asking if it’s a good time to talk
- Not having rapid responses for sales objections
- Overwhelming a lead with too many choices
Mastering the Art of Persuasion
Often the difference between being a so-so sales rep and a complete beast is simply having command of some key persuasion techniques.
Focusing on the strategies listed here should help reps create a winning formula that’s utterly irresistible and compels more leads to take action.