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16 Principles of Influence in Sales

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Jul 6, 2011
by Mike Schultz

When I was 6 I wanted a basketball for my birthday. I didnt ask my dad

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for it myself. I sent in the big gun: my sister Allyson.

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I gave her the 411 on what I wanted and why, and we proceeded with a
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white board session where we mapped out all of the possible ways to

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get the decision makers to rule in our favor. (OK, as talented an 8 year
old as Allyson was, maybe no white board. But we did talk about it, and
she was a mean sidewalk chalk girl.)
Shortly thereafter, we green lighted operation Cedric Maxwell.

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A few hours later, the


34qualified decision maker (a.k.a. Dad) came to see

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me. As he tells me the story, he asked me why I sent my sister in to

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lobby for me.

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My answer, "Shes the better convincer."

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I wish I could say something like, "Since that day I began a life journey to unearth, study, and master the

2 but, as I recall, I was distracted that afternoon with the magical world of Shrinky Dinks.
principles of influence,"
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I did, however, learn that


0 Im not a natural influencer or persuader. Some people, like dear ole sis, are. Not me.
When my career path landed me in business leadership and sales, I started to notice a number of other naturally
talented "convincers"1around me, but they were outnumbered quite a bit by folks more like me; I might have
known what I wanted, and known I wanted to influence people and events, but I was no better than average at it.
Not being a natural at it, I did start researching and studying. Fast forward a few decades and insert a career

21

pursuit of figuring out what top sales people do, and we (co-author of Rainmak ing Conversations John Doerr and
me) discovered that the best sales people consistently employ 16 specific principles of influence.
The 16 Principles of Influence are listed somewhat in the order that they flow in sales. Note that we dont cover
how to succeed in each one here. For our purposes here, we seek to outline for you what they are. Then you can
ask yourself, "Do I need to be better in this principle?" and look into it more deeply.
Principle 1. Attention: Top sellers capture the attention of busy prospects. They are memorable in
prospecting and in sales conversations. They break through the noise. They highlight their differentiation. You
cant influence someone if theyre focused on something else.
Principle 2. Curiosity: Once you have someones attention, the easiest thing to do is to lose it. Your goal is
to pique and hold the prospects curiosity. Curiosity is a powerful concept. People know what they have, but
they want to know what they are missing. Give them the sense they might be missing something and theyll
naturally want to know more.
Principle 3. Desire: Desire is the gap between where someone is and where he wants to be. The more you
can stoke someones desire to change his reality, the more youll be able to influence him. When buyers start
to see whats in it for them, they start to become emotionally involved in wanting whatever it is.
Principle 4. Envy: Desire is powerful. Envy is desire with a turbo boost. If your prospect wants something they
dont have, their desires will drive them. If they want something that other people have, their unhappiness will
eat away at them until they get it.

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Principle 5. Emotional journey: People forget what you tell them, but they remember how they feel. Top
sales people, leaders, and professionals take prospects on an emotional journey, often through stories that
evoke emotional responses. This emotional journey helps prospects to feel the pain of where they are, and feel

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what the happiness and fulfillment will be like in their better future.

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Principle 6. Belief: Youll have maximum ability to influence people when prospects believe that things could
be better, should be better, and can actually get better if they buy from you. The more convinced they are that

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your solution will succeed, the more willing they will be to move forward.
Principle 7. Justification: People buy with their hearts and justify with their heads. Even if you are able to

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capture the hearts of your buyers (through the emotional journey you take them on), if you cant make the ROI
case for working with you, you wont make the sale.
Principle 8. Trust: The principle of trust works closely with the principle of belief. Belief is faith that something

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will work, trust is faith in you. Trust is the foundation of the sale. No trust, no sale. (And, with trust, dont just
try to gain it. Deserve it.)

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Principle 9. Stepping Stones: Once people get on a path, theyre much more likely to stay on that path.
People are driven to be consistent. So if you can get them to try or buy something from you once, even if its

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small, theyre much more likely to buy again. Think of buying as a leap of faith. If youre always trying to sell
something big then that leap can be too much of a jump for many buyers to take. You can shorten the leap of
faith with stepping stones, getting people to start working with you in small doses and with less risky

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propositions.
Principle 10. Ownership: Until an individual takes ownership over decisions, actions, and results, your ability
to influence him or her is limited. Your job is to make it the buyers agenda to move forward, not your own.
Principle 11. Involvement: When you have a hand in creating something, youre more likely to be a
passionate advocate for its success. Buying is the same way. Involve your buyers in in the selling process,
and theyll be much more attached to seeing the solution come to life.
Principle 12. Desire for Inclusion: People dont want to be left out. They want to feel included. If the best
companies are purchasing a certain technology, they want to be in on it. If a new management method is
sweeping the nation, people dont want to feel left out. The more you can help buyers feel included, the more
theyll want to move forward.

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Principle 13. Scarcity: People value rarity and dont want to miss out on an opportunity. Rainmakers highlight
differentiation, and make sure that buyers know when they may miss out on an opportunity.
Principle 14. Likeability: People buy from people they like. They interact with people they like. Likeability

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creates and enhances opportunity for conversations at all stages. And, as we know, conversations are at the

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heart of sales success.


Principle 15. Indifference: Indifference is emotional detachment to the outcome of making the sale.
Indifference is often best understood in light of its opposite: neediness. The more you seem like you need the
sale, the less likely a buyer will view you as a peer, and the more difficult it will be to sell.
Principle 16. Commitment: Rainmakers are great at getting buyers to agree to next steps. Written and
public commitments are stronger than verbal and private commitments. The best sellers ask for commitment at
the right time, get signatures, and get buyers to communicate commitments publicly.
These are the 16 Principles of Influence in Sales. Study them. Master them. Do so and develop your ability to
influence people, events, and basketball purchases.
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[Editor's Note: This article was co-written with John Doerr.]

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Tags: sales strategy communication sales process sales tips influence

Understanding the Sales Force


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ABOUT MIKE SCHULTZ

Mike Schultz is President of RAIN Group, a sales training,


assessment and sales performance improvement
company that helps leading organizations improve sales
results. Mike is w orld-renow ned as a consultant and
expert in sales performance improvement, and co-author

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Discussion

Com m unity

Bh o p ki n s

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2 years ago

I like it this is great infomation.


1

Reply

i d e a b l o ke

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2 years ago

Thanks for the post, Mike. I like #8. Trust. I think it's truly the foundation every
successful influencer has earned. I know all the other points are just as important, but somehow
Trust just seems to pop out at me as it enables a relationship to move forward. Here's a post
that I would like to get your feedback on, http://bit.ly/pwoH9p
Let me know what you think.
Cheers.
0

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To d d McC o rm i ck

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2 years ago

Great post, Mike.


Its particularly critical for sales orgs to address #13 (Rarity), given
emerging market trends around increasing commoditization and remote
selling. Today, whats rare is what used to be most important -- an actual relationship with your
customers.
Thats why industry
leaders use video conferencing tools to engage buyers in face-to-face
conversations and
rapidly establish collaborative partnerships. They invest in efficiency
AND relationships and then enjoy account acquisition, repeat business,
and a high-functioning referral machine.
0

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Vi cto ri a Ip ri

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2 years ago

Mike, you're wrong...this article is very persuasive and influential! Great job.
0

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Mi ke Sch u l tz

> Victoria Ipri

2 years ago

Thanks, Victoria. I appreciate the kind words.


0

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Mi ke Sch u l tz

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> Victoria Ipri

2 years ago

Thanks
0

Jo h n Pe te rs o n

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2 years ago

When Bryce my 2nd oldest grandson was around 10 or eleven, we were in K-Mart and
He was looking at the Power Rangers, he picked out 3 different ones and without asking if he
could have one, He ask me which one should he get.
0

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Ma rce l e n e

2 years ago

Thanks, Mike. Appreciated the 16 principles/tips.


0

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Mi ke Sch u l tz

> Marcelene

2 years ago

Glad you enjoyed them, Marcelene.


0

C o m m e n t fe e d

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