How do you convince a client or senior executive to spend when budgets are tight?
Maybe you’re an audit director persuading a head of business to take an expensive move to avoid the wrath of regulators; an HR executive lobbying your internal client to invest in training as they go through layoffs; or an engineer trying to convince your VP to prioritize your project over others.
Regardless of your job title or function, each of us is in a marketing role. As Daniel Pink describes in Human Trafficking, at some point we have to sell our ideas, projects, or recommendations to others. Each of us can develop the ability to influence, often without formal authority. It requires a delicate balance of relationship building, negotiations, and persuasive communication skills. Over the past 20 years of teaching these subjects, here are what I have found to be most effective.
1. Begin stakeholder analysis.
on HBR’s Guide to Persuasive PresentationsKen Haemer says, “Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘to whom it may concern.’”
Start by talking to the people you want to influence before making your case. Ask questions to understand what’s going on in their organization, what challenges they face in their industry, and what their individual goals are for their role. Asking someone to spend money can be difficult, and they may be worried about their own jobs; try to understand what they are going through before you ask them to act.
2. Be crystal clear about the benefits of your offering.
Although it is clear to us why an organization should take a particular action, it is not always clear to the decision makers. After your stakeholder analysis, crystallize what you’ve learned about the audience you need to convince.
What are the benefits for them or the organization if they make this investment? For example, if your service will save a client money, be prepared to show how much they can expect to save. If it reduces turnover, quantify by how much. Demonstrating a cost-cutting impact is especially important when budgets are tight. Arguments should be persuasive to your client and their report, not just to you.
3. Connect with a sense of timeliness or urgency.
When we teach persuasion, we teach people to answer the question, “Wnow?” when convincing others to act. the scarcity principle of influence by Robert Cialdini suggests using lost language to show why it’s important to take immediate action. What costs will your audience incur by failing to act?
For example, when you convince a client to buy your product or service, how is their doubt costing them? How can you show them that they can’t not to take advantage of your service? it demo video performed by professional speaker Traci Brown makes a compelling case for why companies should hire her.
4. Find social proof.
We are influenced by others who are in similar situations. What other organizations are already operating, and how can you demonstrate that your product or recommended project benefits them?
For example, if you want to make the case for training among layoffs, and one of your top competitors is investing in training, you can explain that your competitor will retain more of their top talent by in this offer as opposed to going. to absolute austerity measures. You can suggest TRAINING to bring teams together and foster a sense of trust and connection, even amid the uncertainty of layoffs.
5. Anticipate their objections.
One of my favorite persuasion tools is the “I know what you’re thinking” strategy. Use your knowledge of your client or industry to relate to what may be holding them back.
You can use the “Feel, felt, found” technique to say something like, “I can imagine that getting approval for a program like this is very difficult. We’ve seen other organizations struggle with this as well, and we know that by framing the program through the lens of continuity and succession planning, they get buy-in.When you show you understand what’s on their mind, you build trust.
6. Provide a clear next step.
Often, the hardest part of the persuasive process is making the question. When we teach persuasive presentations, we recommend a clear call to action that outlines next steps. How do you anticipate the client’s next steps and provide a clear path that removes potential obstacles?
Say something like, “If we decide to proceed, our next steps are as follows.” This helps the decision maker see themselves in the process and say yes more easily.
It’s All Together
For an example of these six action steps, I turned to my colleague Orit Rozenbluman experienced sales executive.
Orit practices consultative selling, when a sales professional acts more like an adviser than a salesperson: instead of pushing a specific product, they first seek to understand the pain points of their potential customers before recommending different solutions based on their customers’ needs.
In his previous role, Orit worked for a company that sold innovative technology solutions to sales professionals. He told me about a new client he was targeting within a SAP 100 technology company who was already a customer. Instead of the normal offer given by his company, Orit wanted to propose a more complicated and expensive solution. The new client had a hard time getting permission for this – it was a big expense and their sales numbers were not good.
Let’s see how Orit uses the steps we suggested above:
Stakeholder analysis: Orit begins the conversation by setting aside budgets and focusing on value, in an effort to understand the client’s underlying pain point. When he explained this to me, Orit said, “You don’t just call a customer and say, ‘Tell me about your pain.’ It takes several calls, conversations, to go deeper and deeper into the consultative sales process.
Clear benefits: With that information, Orit prepares for a new conversation discussing his client’s pain and how his company’s solution can help solve it. This makes it easier for his client to talk to wilderness manager.
Urgency: The biggest client event of the year is coming up, and the company wants to make a strong impression. Orit has positioned its solution to show the client’s customers the value they provided by the industry.
Social proof: Orit includes information on how his solution helps other marketing organizations: identifying what their problem is, what value his company provides, and the end result.
Clarify the next steps: Orit developed a plan for the entire team, including his client and his manager who controlled the budget. He too anticipating their objections by including how they work with different implementation departments, so that when they are ready, they know how to proceed.
So what was the result?
Orit said, “It didn’t happen overnight — it took three months — but the client succeeded in getting the money. Two months into the project, the client said to me, ‘Orit, it’s difficult to get money as expenses. But because we use your software in the quarter and see the ROI and the value, we no longer see it as an expense, we see it as an investment. Our dealers use it and it works. We get warmer leads, and it shortens the sales cycle because our customers are already engaged and ready to ask questions.’”
Orit’s last words in our conversation were, “If you can solve a real problem for someone, even if the budgets are tight, they will find the budget for it.”
Persuasion isn’t a speech, it’s a process — a process of learning about your audience, gaining their trust, and making a case that takes their interests into account. These skills are important in any situation, and important in times of limited resources.