How to Influence in Sales

A seller's job is to drive change. Learn how to influence both buyer thinking and action.

learn more about Mike Schultz

By Mike Schultz

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Unlike being an influencer on social media, being an influencer in sales, thankfully, does not require posting TikToks or selfies online. What it does require is the willingness and ability to drive change; that is, to intentionally influence your buyers' thinking and actions.

To influence in sales means taking the lead in the process and expertly guiding a buyer along the buying path, ultimately arriving at a decision that's in their favor, as well as your own.

It's a subtle process the buyer may not even notice until the end of the journey when they realize just how much you've contributed to an engaging, informative, insightful purchase decision.

Indeed, all sellers are influencers — or should be.

Related: 4 Essential Imperatives of Virtual Sales Success

What does sales influence look like?

"Influence is when you are not the one talking and yet your words fill the room; when you are absent and yet your presence is felt everywhere." -TemitOpe Ibrahim

Sales is about helping people move from where they are, their current state, to a new and better place, their new reality. Ultimately, it's about change. In sales, you influence people when you make the case for change and inspire them to act.

Your value proposition helps you make that case for change. What you're selling needs to resonate with the buyer, differentiate as the best possible choice from all other options, and your claims must be substantiated.

In other words, done well, you leave customers saying to themselves, "I need this," "It's the best choice" and, "I believe in this seller, offering, company and outcome."

It's not enough, though, to make the value case. You also need to inspire buyers to take action.

If you're successful, the result is:

  • The buyer's level of confidence in the purchase decision is high.
  • The buyer is more likely to be your champion with internal stakeholders.
  • The buyer is inspired to act on that confidence and move ahead with the purchase.

When you maximize your influence with buyers, you're more likely to achieve these results.

How do you build sales influence?

Follow the 11 Principles of Influence to intentionally build and maximize your sales influence.

Resonate ("I need this.")

1. Establish a gap between the buyer's current state and their new reality. The most powerful way to communicate this gap is visually with a Buyer Change Blueprint. This helps you illustrate both the rational (the ROI) case for change and the emotional motivation for action.

2. Be likable. People buy from, listen to and trust people they like.

3. Promote ownership. The more a buyer feels like they own the agenda and want to change, the more likely it is they'll move forward with the process.

4. Make the justification case to establish the rational argument for the sale. It's a part of the human condition to need to rationalize any decision.

Differentiate ("It's the best choice.")

5. Highlight your distinctions. If you truly have something innovative, breakthrough or markedly different from others, you'll have a much easier time differentiating yourself from the competition. In most cases, you, as the seller, and the value you bring, are the distinction.

6. Promote scarcity. When a buyer perceives something is scarce, they desire it more.

Substantiate ("I believe in this seller, offering, company, and outcome.")

7. Build trust and belief with the buyer in four key areas:

  • The buyer believes in and trusts you as a seller.
  • The buyer believes your products or services will perform as described.
  • The buyer believes the company is the right partner.
  • The buyer believes the outcome will be achieved in an acceptable time frame.

Activate ("I need to act.")

8. Be indifferent. Be OK with not getting this sale. Be OK with moving on to other opportunities. Having the confidence and willingness to walk away can save time, prevent you from appearing needy and may even motivate a buyer to move forward.

9. Promote urgency. People don't like to miss out, and if they feel they might, they'll often act more quickly.

10. Use steppingstones. Use small steps to move the process forward. Once people get on a path, they're much more likely to stay on it.

11. Encourage commitment. When people make their commitments verbal, written and public they're more likely to keep them.

Related: 7 Ways to Avoid the No.1 Virtual Sales Meeting Mistake

Imagine the outcome if just a few of these come together for you with a buyer:

The buyer sees a big gap. They take great personal ownership of closing that gap. They can make the case to themselves and their peers that it needs to be closed. With urgency. They see you as an obvious, differentiated best choice to help, and they trust everything you've put forth so far.

The buyer has a clear, easy path for moving forward. You've collaborated with them along the way, building even more trust and bringing them closer to committing to the change. Then, they let you know in writing they are moving forward and announce it internally.

Congratulations, you have influenced a sale!

Mike Schultz

President of RAIN Group

Mike Schultz is a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations, Insight Selling, Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely, and Not Today: The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity. He is Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group, a Top Sales Training Company that delivers award-winning results through in-person and virtual sales training, coaching, and reinforcement. He and RAIN Group have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 75 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential.

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