“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
– Abraham Lincoln
To get better at persuasion, commit to becoming a life-long learner. Doing so will not only make you better today, it will greatly elevate your professionalism and long-term success.
Who is the most persuasive person you know?
Are they a fast talking, slick salesperson? Or is it someone who really knows their stuff?
For me, the most persuasive person is the one who knows their stuff. It’s the salesperson who knows their product inside and out and can answer every question. It’s the leader who confidently outlines the strategy. It’s the elected official who can speak from the heart as well as back up their thinking with facts and data.
To help you become better at persuasion, here are new key areas of learning to focus on that have helped me over my 20 + year career in sales:
- Knowledge of your offering (Product or service)
- Marketing systems
- Selling skills
- Operational team and systems
- Cross selling
- Working with other professionals to meet complex needs
- Developing relationships and partners outside of your organization
- Tracking activity and progress
Let’s get started.
Knowledge of your offering (Product or service)
While this may seem obvious, it wasn’t always for me. To put it better, I placed marketing and sales above this for a long time.
As I’ve moved along in my life and career, the value I place on expertise has increased every year.
Whatever you’re selling, if it’s a product or a service, it’s essential to know it inside and out, or to have someone you’re working closely with who does. Whichever you decide, this is an area of learning which is completely within your control. Therefore, there’s no excuse for not having the highest level of expertise.
You can be the greatest attorney or financial advisor in the world, but if you’re sitting in your office by yourself, it doesn’t matter. A reliable system of bringing in new potential customers is essential to your success.
A lot has changed since 2001 when I started my career. The internet and social media have forever changed how we market ourselves, but it’s also important to not lose touch with the ways in which we successfully marketed pre-internet.
Depending on your offering, it’s wise to explore all available avenues for marketing and lead generation.
I’ve come to think of sales like a martial art. There are varying levels, disciplines and you can always improve.
Part of what’s helped me to be successful is embracing an organized sales process. It helps me because I’m not having to reinvent the wheel for every new prospect. Having an organized process also has the benefit of making you more referable.
Committing to being a professional sales person means constant improvement and refinement. This is an important step in maximizing your persuasion ability.
Operational teams and systems
With most organizations, there are a lot of people doing lots of things. Or, it could just be you doing your thing. Either way, there are still a lot of things to be done.
Ideally, your organization will have an SOP (standard operating procedure) for every aspect of your operation. You’ll have a system for marketing, sales, client onboarding, retention, etc.
This is an example of freedom equaling discipline. While increased structure may at first appear restrictive, over the long term you’ll find it allows you more time and flexibility than you’d have without it.
Much like marketing has changed over years, so has the available technology. When used correctly, it can make your life and business exponentially better. But it can also be a distraction.
Keeping an eye on new software and other tech is important, but I know I need to be careful to avoid “shiny object syndrome.” Tech should improve and enhance your persuasion efforts, not replace them.
My work focuses on helping people get better at money, so they can live how they want. The ultimate objective is to help the people I serve lead happier and more contented lives.
Therefore, when I’m working with clients, I’m asking questions, listening and trying to identify opportunities to make their lives better; not simply focusing on their retirement plan investments.
A lot of this depends on your industry and company, and it’s important to be aware of any and all compliance and regulations. That being said, the deeper understanding you can have of other complimentary products and services offered by your organization or your partners, the better job you’ll be doing for your clients.
Working with other professionals to meet complex needs
As you progress in your career, you will no doubt come across more complex situations which require a solution. Being able to recognize when you need additional help, support and expertise is important, as is knowing who you can call on to get it.
If you’re in sales, bigger and more complex opportunities often require experts from multiple disciplines. Very rarely is one person more capable of solving a big problem than a team of people.
If you’re in a leadership role, you’re going to encounter complicated employee issues that will require additional expertise you may not have. Knowing when to bring in others to help is the mark of a wise leader.
Scott Galloway, also known as Prof G, is fond of saying, “Greatness is found in the agency of others.” A group of smart people working on a problem will solve it a lot faster than an individual.
Becoming a professional who is comfortable working with others who may be more senior, or who possess greater or different expertise, will serve you as well as people you’re working to influence.
Developing relationships and partners outside of your organization
Meeting professionals outside of your organization can help you develop in your career. I’m sure you’re with a great organization, as I have always been throughout my career, but learning how other companies and professionals do and talk about things can be helpful.
For example, I started my career with New York Life, and would attend NAIFA (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisor) meetings where I’d get to meet people who worked at dozens of other financial services companies. It gave me the opportunity to learn different things about the industry which helped shape my perspective
When deciding what kind of organization to join, keep in mind professional associations commonly exist for three reasons; advocacy, education and networking. They advocate for their members through legislative action. They provide learning and educational opportunities for their members. They make networking opportunities available for their members.
There are broad, non-industry focused groups like chambers of commerce. There are groups designed specifically for networking like BNI. There are industry associations for literally every industry you can imagine. And there are specific mastermind groups like Vistage and EO.
Becoming an active member of a group can help you develop relationships and learn different best practices.
Tracking activity and progress
What gets measured, gets done. This is as true as it is simple.
Accountability plays a giant role in success.
Early in my career, I resisted it, which is a perfectly human thing to do. I’ve not met too many people that love being held accountable. As I got better and began to have more success, I got more enthusiastic about tracking my numbers and activity.
Similarly, while personal budgeting isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, it’s one of the most important. As you make progress financially, you get more excited about doing it. Going through your finances can become empowering because you start to know if you’re on track to meet your goals, and you know if you can afford things.
Knowing what numbers to pay attention to can help you check the health of your business, and to know where you need to improve or make adjustments.
Embracing the process of reviewing your numbers and activity can become an invaluable learning tool if you let it.
When you commit to becoming a professional, a big part of that is committing to life-long learning.
Embracing new learning will increase your persuasion abilities and ultimately help you to improve the lives of the people you serve.
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Good luck on your persuasion journey!
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