The people who make the biggest impact in the world have honed their ability to move people to action and these 11 persuasive phrases can help with that.
“Hi, I’m Tom. Your job is to make 100 calls a day. I’ll be happy to help you but don’t waste my time if you aren’t making your calls. Here’s a script to generate interest and there’s a stack of old leads on your desks. Come get me if you get a bite.”
I walked out of the conference room the morning I started my first sales job feeling like Tom, the 21-year-old sales guru, just ran me over with his Escalade.
This feeling of being completely out of my depth only intensified when I walked into the sales pit. It was barely 9 o’clock and the room was on fire.
When my new co-workers weren’t yelling into their phones, they were talking to anyone who would listen about the deals they were working up. Imagine the worst sales movie possible. Cigarette packs littered every desk.
I grew up extremely shy with a severe stutter. The only reason I took the job in the first place was I thought feeling like a fool in the short-run would boost my confidence in the long-term.
I immediately questioned my decision. My mind raced with excuses of why I should quit.
Thankfully, my direct manager took me under his wing. He too wasn’t extroverted. He told me that the best listeners win. He encouraged me to lean into my observation skills, stay organized, and not to get too hung up if I didn’t have all the answers.
Lastly, he gave me a few key questions and phrases, that even I, a shy, scared kid could manage to muster.
Some of the questions and phrases below I learned during my first sales job. The rest are ones I’ve acquired over the last two decades as an entrepreneur and coach in the communication sector.
They work. Best of all, they’re simple.
1. Is that a dog barking in the background? What’s its name?
This may be a strange place to start, but how often do salespeople follow-up with you by asking about your pets? Or better yet, addressing your partner or children by name?
How does that make you feel?
My first manager drilled this lesson into my head on a daily basis: “Are they married?” “What’s their spouse’s name?” “What about dogs? I love dogs. Tell me they have a dog.”
This may seem like a small thing. But it’s not.
Sales isn’t only about making money.
It’s about being the person they think of when their wants and needs fall in line with what you have to offer.
Don’t worry about being so smooth people can’t ignore you. Observe. Listen. Your pitch will get tighter the more you practice.
Our careers are long; be the person who cares the most. If you treat people fairly and show a genuine interest in them people will think highly of you.
Building personal connections with others will always be the best way to create professional opportunities.
2. What motivated you to speak with us today?
There’s a good reason this question shows up in countless sales books: it works. It allows people to voice their thoughts, problems, frustrations, dreams, and desires.
After you ask this question, however, stay quiet and let people talk. Don’t interrupt them. Don’t put words in their mouth. If an uncomfortable silence arises, ride it out. Give people space to get to the heart of their “Why.”
Your job, while they’re talking, is to listen and take detailed notes.
A salesperson’s notebook is their best friend. It’s their million-dollar paycheck.
Write down their pain points and why their current circumstances motivated them to take action.
The best salespeople view their job as problem-solvers. Their ability to do this, however, comes down to how good of an information collector they are.
If you can position yourself as someone who has a knack for getting to the heart of people’s problems and thinking of creative ways to solve them, your reputation as someone people want to work with will grow.
Few things are more persuasive than other people singing your praises.
3. Why is this meeting a priority for you now?
This question will get prospects talking about their headaches while opening the door to have them describe what their life would be like if their problems were solved. Not only, but it will also give you an idea of how quickly they want to move.
How long have you had this problem?
Why is it a priority now?
While listening and taking notes, pay special attention to what their non-verbal communication is telling you: Does their voice sound stressed or hurried? Is it evident from their posture their problem is weighing them down? Are they fidgety? When they talk about not having this problem how does their body language, facial gestures, and tone change?
When it comes to good design, legendary designer Charles Eames said, “The details aren’t the details, the details are the thing.”
The same holds true in sales. Collect as much information as you can. Then focus on doing what you can to make their lives easier.
4. What would make this a successful meeting for you?
Neil Rackham, the author of SPIN-Selling, said that successful selling depends on good planning more than any other factor.
Prior to each meeting, ask yourself what exactly you’re looking to accomplish. This will help you to better strategize and keep organized.
When meeting with clients, ask them the same question to get crystal clear regarding what success looks like to them.
Ensuring your agendas line-up will save both of you valuable time. Not only that, but it’ll also give you insight regarding what their decision-process looks like and how they like to do business.
When planning, keep in mind that most customers view each meeting as an opportunity to learn more actionable information that speaks directly to their situation, role, and organization.
When it comes to sales, you have to treat each person as an individual.
The sooner you can get clear regarding their expectations, the more prepared you’ll be to speak directly to their wants and needs.
5. Can you tell me about the best buying experience you’ve had?
Playing off the previous question, this question allows you to learn exactly how your prospect, as an individual, likes to be treated.
Give them time to answer the question. If they struggle, dig into specifics regarding their expectations: How do they like to communicate? Do they prefer daily, bi-weekly, or weekly updates? Is email fine for small things? Or would they prefer scheduled calls to go over all pertinent information?
Uncovering this information out will again help you keep organized while giving you a better understanding of what type of commitment each person is expecting.
Not only that, but it’s refreshing. It says to people, “I want to make this as seamless and easy for you as possible.”
Building a reputation as someone people enjoy working with will pay large dividends over the span of your career.
6. Where Are You Today? — And Where Do you Want To Be Regarding X?
According to legendary salesmen, Dan Lok, this question will tell you everything you need to know about your prospect’s needs.
When asking this question, according to Dan, it works best with a white-board so you can map out your prospect’s journey in real-time. If you don’t have access to a white-board, break out a piece of paper and draw their storyline with them.
This exercise will allow you to gain clarity regarding exactly where they are today while encouraging them to talk about what a pain-free future looks like.
Not only that but having them see your face right next to their big dreams can be extremely persuasive.
The goal of good salespeople is to act as the bridge that connects people’s problems to their solutions. Some salespeople talk about how good their product or service is, or even the strength of their company’s reputation.
According to Dan, however, it is much more persuasive to get crystal clear regarding where someone is and learning exactly where they want to be.
7. From our conversation, these things mean the most to you…
After gathering up all the necessary intel, take the time to make sure the wants and needs you have interpreted are indeed the correct wants and needs of your prospect.
Write them down so you can both see them. After you read them off, again, stop talking and let them either agree with you or correct you.
Value is only created when you clearly understand what is valuable to each person you speak with.
I used this exercise multiple times a day in my first sales job. It saved me from a decent amount of headaches and even more time.
Not only that, but it leads to an easy warm close: “The next time we speak if we can accomplish A, B and C, will you move forward?”
Most people pride themselves on their word. If they agree to move forward, and you bring them the solution they are looking for, you can gently remind them of their commitment if they begin to turn cold.
8. From 1 to 10, how happy are you with the proposal?
You’ve probably heard this one before, but stick with me, there’s a twist. If they come back at you with a 6, instead of asking what you need to do to make it a 10, ask them why the number wasn’t lower.
According to Daniel Pink, author of “To Sell Is Human,” this simple flip gets people talking about the positive aspects of your proposal which can be extremely persuasive — “Well, I like you.” “It will save me time and money.” “You asked about my kids by name.”
Our job when selling isn’t only to identify people’s pain points. It’s also to get people talking about their joy points.
According to Mr. Pink, having people open up about what they like also leads people to speak more candidly when it comes time to talk about what’s holding them back — “From what you’ve told me you’re happy with these aspects of the proposal. I’d love to learn more about what we are missing.”
9. From 1 to 10, how happy are you with the proposal? But you can’t say 7!”
When it comes to 1 to 10 questions, 7 is death. It’s non-committal. It’s an easy way of saying “Let me think about it,” which most realistic salespeople know is a nice way of saying “No.”
Few things kill more deals than indecision.
The goal of most good salespeople isn’t to get to yes, but rather eliminate the nos quickly.
If you ask someone this question and they say a number above 7, it’s a sign they are either ready for you to tie up any loose ends or deliver one last push.
If someone says a number below 7, steal a line from Mr. Pink; get them talking about the positive aspects of the proposal. Continue, then, by asking them what you’re missing so you can get to the heart of what is holding them back.
10. What else do you need to hear from me before agreeing to move forward?
This question is much softer than the words, “What’s stopping you from moving forward?” but it will net the same result.
According to experienced salesmen Barry Davret, this question or a slight variation — “What’s missing from our proposal that you’d like to see?” — will help you tie up any loose ends without pressuring your prospect.
Maybe your prospect says everything looks good. If they do, go straight into what the closing process looks like (see final point below). There’s a possibility, however, they’ll either make a few suggestions or say they need some time to think it over.
If this happens, give them some space. Before sending them on their way, however, get one last gauge on their commitment.
My personal favorite way to approach this is by asking a variation of this question: “Assuming we can add in the new features and clean up the last of the issues, will there be anything else holding you back from getting started?”
You can also offer to send them some testimonials of past clients. Or, if the situation allows, offer to connect them with your previous or current clients.
Having other people sell for you can be extremely persuasive.
11. Here’s what most people do next…
During my first job, after making sure my proposal met my client’s needs, my manager encouraged me to say the words, “Here’s what most people do next…” towards the end of every conversation and it worked like a charm.
People get stressed out about asking for the close. But it doesn’t have to be so nerve-wracking.
Quality sales come to those who take their clients on a smooth walk. To the client, the words “Here’s what most people do next……” sounds like the next logical step when it comes to agreeing to do business together.
Not only that, but it provides safety in numbers. It’s social-proof. It’s a nice way of saying, “You’re not alone. Other people have made this decision and it worked out well for them.”
Lastly, these words are extremely effective because if the person you are speaking with hesitates and you pay attention to their non-verbal communication, again, it opens the door to have an honest conversation about the real reason why they aren’t moving forward.
“While you are doing additional research, here’s what most people do next……”
“While we are making amendments to the proposal, here’s what most people do next…..”
“I’m looking forward to working together on this. Here’s what most people do next……”
I was petrified to take that sales job after I graduated from college. However, today, 18 years later, not a day has gone by where I haven’t thought about how valuable that experience was.
Making an impact in the world is not only about being self-motivated.
You must also learn how to successfully motivate others to take action.
Collect the questions that unveil the “Why” of each person you speak with.
Take note of the persuasive phrases you hear.
Tweak them if necessary so they sound more authentic to you as an individual.
Regardless of your profession, every day we are all selling something. The sooner you can learn to do it well the faster you’ll move in your career.