Don’t rely on facts alone

In an article on Influencing, I read this: “With rational persuasion, you persuade others with solid facts, clear explanations, and logical arguments.”

It reminded me of my early days in selling classified advertising. It was at a time when that branch of advertising was still rather primitive, even though job advertising in particular was high volume, high revenue. The ad agencies that specialized in classified advertising were unsophisticated and their media buyers were not much more than clerical processors.

There was a considerable gap between the selling of display advertising and what occurred with ads for jobs, property, gardening equipment and whatever else cluttered up the back pages of newspapers. Even the vocabulary was different. The ‘classified’ people spoke of ‘selling space’.

Unusually for that time, I decided to use the readership profile of my newspaper, as derived from the National Readership Survey (NRS). No one else was doing that. I sold readers, not space, and had all the facts, figures and statistics to back my carefully structured argument.

I got sales, but only because the media buyers were afraid of looking foolish in the face of the figures I presented. I made sales, but not friends. Media buyers were intimidated by my “solid facts, clear explanations, and logical arguments”, and were reluctant to develop relationships with me.

Selling is the process of persuasion, which means, in simple terms, getting others to want your offering. Generally, people buy because they want something, not just because they need it. And that’s an emotional decision, not a rational one. They also buy because they like you.

If facts were enough to make a sale, no one would need a sales person. It would be sufficient to send the facts in an email. Clearly that is not so. Information is important to bolster an argument, but it is not the argument itself.

Persuasion works by focusing on both the benefit to the other person of accepting your proposition, and on the disbenefit of not doing so. Most of all it works by showing the other person how they could safely make the decision to change their thinking and/or accept your proposition.

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