In his seminal masterpiece, Influence – the Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini offers six key principles of influence. Among the Big Six: the principle of authority.
Put simply, we are greatly influenced (in ways we do not always understand) by our impressions of authority. This not about sales tactics; this is about human nature.
Consider the captain of the sports team. Or your local congressperson. Or your physician. We have a natural tendency to respect authority, and thus to follow the advice of the authoritarian leaders in our lives.
So how do we exercise authority in the sales realm? Here are three ideas. Use these as a checklist in your own presentation.
1. Know your stuff
I know, you’ve heard it before. Know your product, know your competition, know your market, etc.
All that is true (and it will always be true). But I want to look at an advanced form of knowledge – that which you know about your buyer profile.
Selling to Baby Boomers? It would behoove you to understand their goals in the last one-third of their lifetime. Have a lot of Filipinos in your buyer base? 30 minutes on understanding the fascinating and often-troubling history of the nation will give you incredible insight. Engineers? It’s probably worth your time to study basic but important tech trends.
The key is to gain knowledge even when you don’t know how you will use it. And trust me – you will most certainly use it.
2. Look the part
The pharmacist wears a white lab coat. Why? Is that really necessary? Well, yes…if she wants to earn the respect of a customer. (Would you trust a pharmacist in jeans and a tank top?)
How you dress, how you stand, what you hold – all speak to perceived authority. Studies show that simply holding a clipboard can make a huge difference in how you are perceived.
There is a very simple test here. Look in the mirror and ask the question, “Would I influence myself?” That inquiry might cause you stand taller, to exercise better facial posture, and perhaps even to buy a new shirt.
3. Speak with clarity
I’m not talking about diction, but rather about resoluteness. in an attempt of showing kindness and caring, too many salespeople speak in a wishy-washy manner. It’s nice and all, but it certainly isn’t authoritative.
Consider talking with your financial planner. How high would your trust be if he said, “You know, there are a lot of ways to handle this and I certainly don’t want to force anything on you, so I’ll just lay out your options and you can decide.” Uh….no. I want someone who knows me so well that the options are clear and delivered with conviction.
The fact is that your customer wants to see your authority. They are looking for you to believe in yourself.
If they see that you can lead, they follow. If not, they walk.