By Gary Coon

If you are going to achieve any level of success in selling, it’s important to understand the difference between being convincing and being persuasive. When you convince somebody of something, you need only offer enough evidence to support your proposition. When you persuade, action is taken on your proposition. For instance, you may convince me that skydiving is the safest sport in the world, but you’ll never persuade me to jump out of a perfectly flyable aircraft. Catch the difference? To convince, you only need accurate information and relevant facts. To persuade, you need to get them to feel the way you want them to feel. I am going to assume you already know how to be convincing; what I’m about to discuss is how to be persuasive; and in sales, persuasive is where the money is.

There are as many different personalities as there are people and it’s likely that you will run into a few who don’t find your individual uniqueness readily appealing. Conversely, you can’t realistically expect to like everyone with whom you do business either. The art of making the sale despite differences in personalities is a large part of what being persuasive is all about.

To be persuasive, you must acquire certain acting skills that will enable you to relate to your customers and put them at ease. Mastering these skills will help you blend in. Take a tip from a chameleon. Even a brain-wanting lizard knows you can’t fit in everywhere. So if you want to survive, you adapt: you camouflage yourself. For the salesman, this means remodeling your personality to reflect the clients – in other words, you become the client.

The rationale behind this strategy is that people are attracted to, and most easily persuaded by, others who they believe to be much like themselves. Think for a moment. Who are your closest friends? If you are like most of us, your friends are people who think much the way you do, share many of your feelings, and care about a lot of the things you care about. The more you have in common with others, the greater the odds that you’ll become friends. And once you become friends with your prospects, they become easier to persuade.

Much of the information that will help you become more persuasive is readily at hand and easily gleaned. For instance, take note of your prospects environment and personal belongings. If you are selling in-home water treatment equipment, this begins by assessing the neighborhood. Is it middle class, upper class, wealthy, or unbelievably rich? What sort of house do they live in? Is it the largest house on the block, the smallest, or does it represent the norm? Do they have a basic front yard, or is it fully landscaped? What kind of cars do they drive? Are they late model vehicles? Do they have out-of-state license plates and if so, where are they from? If the garage door is open, you can usually spot toys or bicycles, which means they have children. Do they have exercise equipment or sporting goods such as boats, fishing gear, hunting paraphernalia or even jogging shoes?

When you enter the home, is the place a mess, or does it feel like you just walked into an issue of Architectural Digest? What kind of furnishings do they have? Are paintings or sculpture prominently displayed? (I’ve closed a lot of deals because I recognized a Van Gogh or a Dali print hanging on a wall.) What kind of gadgets do they own: home entertainment center with big screen TV, wine cooler, gourmet kitchen, etc? What kind of books or magazines do they read? Are there ashtrays in the house, do you see vitamins on the shelf? And finally, how are they dressed: designer style apparel, department store clothing, or bargain basement casual? There is a wealth of information in plain sight that will tell you much about who they are, and what they care about. And if you can display a kindred interest in their tastes, ambitions and pursuits, you are well on your way to winning the door prize. Moreover, this information can be critical should you find yourself dealing with objections at the end of your presentation.

As you spend time sharing in conversation, take note of speech patterns and word choices. How fast do they speak? It is possible to speak too quickly for some and not quickly enough for others. So, to alleviate the hazard of either boring someone to death or leaving them behind in your verbal dust, try speaking to them in the same cadence they are speaking to you. Also, use a similar level of language sophistication as your clients. If they communicate like professionals, speak to them in your best professionalese. And don’t be afraid to toss the grammar book out the window should the occasion merit it. Good grammar ’ain’t gonna‘ impress anyone who possesses little knowledge of syntax. And you surely don’t want to run the risk of making someone feel stupid or having their eyes glaze over because your presentation is bloated with technical jargon, i.e. inner circle lingo. Every word you utter that is not clearly understood by your prospects is a potential torpedo in your keel.

Another consideration is body language. Does their body language suggest they are shy or confident? Are they given to exaggerated hand gestures and facial expressions? How fast are they breathing? How quickly do they respond to questions? How about their posture; do they slouch or do they display good posture? (By the way, never slouch even if your client is slouching. No one is impressed by it; besides, they may be doing so for a reason. They may have a bad back, or they may not realize they are slouching. So don’t slouch!)

It’s good practice to consider all of these things as you garner persuasive capital by establishing a good rapport with your customer. Also keep in mind that the more you mirror your prospects, the more difficult it becomes for them to say no; it’s like saying no to themselves. And never lose sight of the fact that in a sales presentation, appearances are everything! Truth be told, most of your competitors can conjure up the same remedies to treat water that you do. All other things being equal, people buy from people they like, and they are more inclined to like those with whom they feel a kinship. And you, fellow water professionals, ’kin‘ take that to the bank. Good luck, good selling and, above all, have a great day.

About the author
Gary Coon, a 16-year veteran of the water conditioning industry, has successfully trained hundreds of water treatment sales professionals. His seminars, ‘What They Mean by What They Say’ and ‘The Theater of Selling Water’ offer instruction in closing methodologies and presentation techniques. Learn more by visiting



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