We all desire a short learning curve for our new sales reps.
I mean, let’s be honest-- there’s no denying that a fully onboarded sales rep can mean dramatic increases to your bottom line.
A sales rep’s ability to close deals directly impacts momentum for your business. So, sales managers rely on extensive resources to help new hires close, but sometimes things just don’t quite click immediately, and your new hires aren’t able to close.
It’s not just you…
Closing is hard, and onboarding new hires can be extremely unproductive. Salesforce research has shown that only 40% of companies with formal onboarding programs believe they are effective, and there could be a simple reason why.
The report shows that onboarding initiatives were least effective in helping new hires achieve proficiency in reengaging stalled deals, selling new products, upselling, closing prospects, and closing deals.
“Onboarding works best at delivering content knowledge, like company or product information, for example, but falls short when it comes to developing core selling skills.”
So what exactly does this mean for sales managers?
It means we should also be focusing on the development of core selling skills when training new sales reps. In many cases, they are lacking the essential building blocks that would typically enable them to close deals. For example, one of the most essential building blocks of sales for new reps is the power of influence.
That’s why sales reps should learn how to utilize the psychology of influence throughout prospect touch points, and understand how these simple building blocks will help you close more deals, faster.
Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of a book called “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” outlines 6 “weapons of influence” -- reciprocity, commitment (and consistency), social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.
These principles can be used to strengthen any sales persons abilities and intuition, and they will help you close more deals, faster.
1. Trigger reciprocity
Reciprocity refers to the way humans respond to a positive action with another rewarding action. In most cases, a reward is the response to the initial action. It’s natural for us to respond with friendly actions-- ultimately, if you do something nice for your prospect, they will be more compelled to return the favor.
In SaaS, free trials benefit from the power of reciprocity. If the trial can provide enough value up front by solving a prospect's problem, then they will be more likely to trust your solution for their pain points in the future.
That sense of wanting to return the favor is often factored in when it’s time for prospects to make a larger buying decision. Make sure to start this early in your engagement. If you continually provide value throughout your sales cycle, when prospects reach those later stages of their buying process, their sense of wanting to 'return the favor' may help in validating their decision.
If you’re known as a provider of valuable information throughout your interactions, it gives the prospect the opportunity to help justify to themselves (or their superiors) that you are the right choice.
2. Sprinkle in commitments to provide consistency
Relationships and dating are often used as metaphors in the sales industry. You don’t normally ask someone to marry you before you date them. It takes a series of smaller commitments to build a strong relationship. Cialdini claims that has to do with our deep desire to be consistent. We’re more likely to chose something after we’ve shown interest and have seen commitment.
“Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment” - Robert Cialdini
By using micro commitments along the sales process, you are ensuring that your prospect is engaged. These commitments could be as simple as showing up for a scheduled meeting, or assigning a resource to help with a free trial.
Without understanding the power of commitments, sales reps may make the incorrect assumption that the prospect is engaged, or actively accept everything that is being discussed. We've all been there. But actions speak louder than words. It's a sales reps job to ensure they are pursuing the prospects involvement throughout the sales process. By getting prospects to admit or agree with something, it will trigger that sense of commitment.
By laying out micro-commitments throughout your sales calls and emails, you’ll be able to quickly differentiate those serious prospects from those who are not.
3. Piggyback on social proof
Marketing uses social proof to obtain leads and drive interaction everywhere. Social buttons on blog posts, headlines on pages trying to convert you to sign up, and numbers of followers are all examples of social proof.
But it isn't just a marketing tactic. Knowing how social proof actually works can come be particularly handy during your sales process.
When humans are faced with making decisions, it’s natural for us to look to conform with others to determine the correct behavior. We are naturally unsure about decisions, so we look to others who have already made the decision for us. This behavior stems from the instinctive nature that we’re assuming the individual (or group of individuals) knows more than we do.
Your prospects will be judging you, and they will use their perceptions of what others are doing to help them draw conclusions. It’s a signal to them that this is a safe bet, and it helps validate their decision to go with you.
One of the most popular ways to convey a sense of social proof is to provide testimonials, or case studies from other businesses who have found success with your solutions. For startups, those early customers you bring on board are the social proof 'foundation' on which your other prospects will be judging you.
So get those early customers onboard, successful, and you'll see how great they can be as social proof throughout the prospect lifecycle, using them to answer prospect questions along the way.
4. Be like-able, people are more likely buy something from you
It’s quite simple in concept, but the more likable you are, the more likely you’re to build a relationship with the prospect. What makes us like another individual? A strong bond--For example, sometimes we share something in common.
The prospect is reaching out to you because they have a pain point, so take the time to listen and fully understand their situation. You’ll be perceived as more understanding, and you’ll also be able to hear what kind of objections you’re up against. Without a clear understanding of the prospects situation, its difficult to provide value during the sales cycle (#1 above) and you'll come across as rude or indifferent to the prospects actual pain points.
In sales cycles, making a friendly connection can even be on a human level, so make sure to spend a bit of time reaching your prospect's contacts to find a common thread (through LinkedIn, Twitter, etc), and you’ll be able to bond on a human level if the situation allows. This makes you more like-able, and you’re going to have a stronger engagement with your contacts if you find a common thread. It is important to find your connection, but be sure not to linger too long on it during calls or demos, as your prospect has limited time that you need to be conscious and respectful of.
5. Being perceived as an authority turns your pitch into a prescription
If you’re presenting your solution as an authority on the topic, you’re prospects are more likely to have a favorable impression. They want to know how your solution will help solve their specific pain points, so using your expert testimonials, case studies, or marketing materials will help will position you as a powerful, expert voice amongst the other noisy providers.
Marketing has the power to create the initial impression and set the brand with the prospect, but in many cases, it is the sales rep that can establish authority for your solution with the prospect. When qualifying prospects, sales reps are in the position to ask questions, and a great sales rep will use this knowledge to help coordinate and deliver the right 'prescription' for the prospects pain points, putting them in the best position to close the sale.
Once you are viewed as an authoritative source in a sales cycle, you’re word is much more valuable to the prospect. Until they believe that you and your company are authorities on their pain points, you are likely to be viewed more like a 'sales guy' and less like an expert who can solve their problems.
6. Scarcity and urgency can push people over the edge
This can be explained a lot of different ways. Simply put-- if there is a perception that something is in short supply, the prospect’s desire for your service will increase. Exclusivity is a weapon that we’ve all been exposed to across TV, radio, billboards, and other advertisements.
The idea of a limited time sale, or a giveaway while supplies last are all tactics that marketers have often tied into this principle.
As a sales rep, its a fine line to walk between too much and too little pressure. However, understanding these tactics will give you another tool to leverage when necessary to help close more deals. You want to ensure there is the right type of urgency throughout the sales cycle. Often times, by setting 'micro-commitments' (#2 above) and getting buy-in from the prospect throughout the sales cycle, you'll be able to apply positive pressure to keep the prospect focused on the next step in the process, helping to increase that sense of urgency to get a deal done.
Stacking your influence
After combining these principles together, you’ll increase your chances of closing more deals. Sales and marketing teams should have a deep understanding of these principles and use them to their advantage.
Trendy tricks and techniques might be helpful, but the core principles of persuasion are going to take you further with prospects if you can harness them within your sales process.