There must be something in the water that is causing salespeople to suggest in writing their new desire to avoid persuading or convincing their clients to do something. Let's call this phenomenon "the super conscious salesperson." This newfound morality sounds nice, but it undermines a salesperson's obligation to provide the counsel, advice, and recommendations that would ensure the client succeeds in improving their business results. What is worse is that it is impossible to avoid persuading or convincing clients when they contacted a salesperson because they want help to improve their results.
This idea is reminiscent of the faux thought leaders who pronounced that salespeople need to follow their prospective client's lead, waiting for the client to tell the salesperson what they will do next. It smacks of the same horrible idea as the advice to avoid asking the client to buy and waiting for them to ask.
Let's explore how this might work in real-life scenarios. The salesperson picks up the phone to call their dream client to ask them for a meeting. This salesperson uses an approach that trades value in exchange for the client's time. Let's call this persuasion, meaning the salesperson is already violating the rule against trying to persuade the client. The client is incredulous about the promised value of the meeting and objects. The salesperson promises the meeting is worth the client's time, and in doing so, has tried to convince the client to meet.
Somehow, the salesperson persuaded or convinced the client to take a meeting. This brute of a salesperson asks the client about their problem and their pain, taking careful note of everything they shared, knowing that their solution is absolutely right for the client. The salesperson explains that the client's problem would be easily remedied by their product or service. You will have to determine whether the salesperson's intentions are persuasion or an attempt to convince the client to believe in the proposed "solution."
How about a more modern sales discovery call, one where you are teaching the client something about themselves through questions like, "What are your current strategic initiatives and how are you measuring your results?" The intention is to bring an awareness to something you believe the client doesn’t realize, as a way to help them recognize they need to do something different. The question is designed to persuade or convince someone to consider something that wasn't getting the attention you believe it deserves.
There is no possible way to present your solution and your proposal and pricing without working to have the client buy from you instead of a competitor. What could you say that wouldn't be delivered to create a preference for the client to buy what you sell from you and your company.
Why You Persuade and Convince
Imagine you are in a meeting with your dream client. During the conversation, the client states that they are going to put off an important initiative until the following year. Your experience tells you your client is going to fail this year without making the necessary change. Because you feel that it would be wrong to try to change the client's mind, you say nothing, and your client loses money, time, and customers because you were reticent to persuade them to take action before they are harmed.
A different client has a difficult challenge, one that impacts the entire enterprise. The decision they make will require the input and commitment of different contacts from each of the company's many departments. Your main contact shares with you that they intend to avoid bringing in a number of departments, believing they can ram the initiative through before anyone can stop them. Your experience suggests the client is going to have a mutiny before they can get started, or they’ll face something even worse on the other side of the decision, as those departments don't make the changes expected of them.
Do you try to persuade the client that here is a better way to get what they want without making half of the company miserable? Or do you withhold your counsel and advice?
A Clearer View of Persuasion
There is a difference between persuading and convincing, and being attached to winning. This is the subtle stuff that is difficult for people to grasp. Many are so attached to winning that their advice and recommendations feel self-oriented. Others try to argue or debate with their client, another difference that changes how the client perceives the salesperson and their approach.
The other, and arguably, more important factor is your intentions. If your intentions are self-oriented, then the persuasion or convincing is about winning the deal, making your work easier, and collecting a commission check. However, if your intention is to ensure your client makes the changes they need to improve their position, it would be negligent to allow them to fail because you don't believe you should try to convince them otherwise.
Sometimes people say things and other people adopt them as their own. For example, you may have heard someone say, "You should never pitch your client." That dictum ignores the context of the pitch, which matters a great deal. When you explore the implications of a blanket statement in a number of scenarios and contexts, you can see that it often makes sense to do the axiom’s opposite.
I want you to create greater value in the sales conversation, no matter what the context. To show you what I mean, consider this: In a transactional sale, the approach I write about will cause you to create anti-value. A transactional sale doesn't need the same type of conversation as a more complex opportunity. Don’t forget how much context matters.