Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that a sales person really understood your needs?
I once made a large purchase with no regrets. In fact, the sales person made me feel great about handing over lots of my hard-earned money.
What was the key to this sales person’s success? Why do I want to work with him again?
I walked away feeling that I had been understood. He was able to get inside of my head, figure out my needs, and deliver a set of complex services that satisfied me.
Whether you are selling a product, a service, or ideas in the form of influence and persuasion, the key is to think inside of the other person’s head.
In order to influence, first you must be influenced. That is, you must understand how the other person thinks.
If I want to sell you a car, I don’t start by highlighting what I appreciate about the car. I start by finding out what makes you fall in love with a car. Then I match your desires with the features and benefits offered by the car.
I start by being influenced by your preferences. Then I provide a solution that fits. You barely notice that I’m trying to influence you. I’m selling soft because I’m focusing on you. I’m getting you to buy rather than making you feel like you’re being sold.
Good sales people seem to understand this principle of customer-centered selling. Regrettably, many professionals seem to lose sight of this.
Maybe we are too caught up with our own sense of self-importance. Maybe we think what we have to deliver is very important, regardless of what our customers and employers think. We don’t speak their language because we don’t understand their needs and are so caught up in our narrow concerns.
We forget that influence is the key to leadership. And influence is a form of selling. If we want to go beyond low level financial technicians, bean counters, and number crunchers, we must lead. We must influence.
We must sell.
Not through arm-twisting and manipulation. We must sell through effective persuasion. We must sell through thinking inside the heads of those we serve.
To be an integral member of a management team, a leader must see beyond the narrow, short-term, functional concerns of her department. She must embrace the big picture to think beyond her department and lead beyond her role.
The number one way to influence others is to see the world through their eyes, to speak their language, to think inside of their head.
Or as Stephen Covey advocates in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, seek first to understand, then to be understood.