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Convincing Someone to Change, Act and Buy

Following my last 2 articles, you have connected with someone, you have shared with them a powerful idea with powerful imagery of a new and better way. Now you need to convince them to act. We see examples of this everywhere. Marketing experts talk about having a ‘call to action’ in your advertising; sales experts talk about ‘closing’. Whatever the terminology, the ultimate objective is to get someone to take the action you desire.

In order to understand how to get someone to act, you first need to understand what will prevent them from doing so.

We have all heard that “most people are afraid of change”. This is certainly true. The overriding reason why is that people are afraid of the unknown. Change creates a new reality and, if you cannot clearly see the benefits of this new reality, then you will understandably be fearful and sceptical. To be honest, even seeing the benefits is not enough. The fact that you are asking them to take a step out of their reality means they need to step into something that they cannot see, cannot understand and therefore cannot connect with. For a lot of people they would rather stay with something that they know, even when they know there is a better way, than go into the unknown that could be much better.

I have worked with engineers who are heavily involved in the innovation process. Often, they are frustrated as to why their leaders are resistant to a great idea. What they fail to realise is that all their precise, logical reasons are not addressing the real reason…fear of the unknown and fear of getting it wrong. These are emotional drivers and no amount of logic will overcome this.

Seek to Understand, not to be Understood

In order to convince someone to act and make a change, you need to draw out the emotions behind their hesitation. The best way to do this is to discuss the emotional feeling that person will have when they are using your product or service. For example, one of my clients is a successful health coach. She was frustrated at the hesitancy people had when deciding to work with her. She knew that she could drastically improve their health and energy and turn their life around. When we dug deeper, we found that she was using logical reasons for why a prospect needed to start working with her. However, they often knew the logical reasons. They knew that their lifestyle was causing them harm and they needed to make the change. They knew the price was not high, relative to the pain of not making a change. What my client needed to do was get them to think about the emotional benefits. She needed to tap into how their health, or lack of it, affected the things they truly cared about. Once she used my techniques, she was able to understand that one of her clients deeply loved his daughter. It upset him that he was unable to play with her to the level of energy she wanted. My client was able to ask the right questions to understand this, ask the right questions to understand the impact this was having on him and then to align her expertise with his emotional desires.

Being an amazing father was one of his top values. We often neglect to consider the values of those we are speaking to and instead go for the logical. But values are crucial as they drive how we live our lives. When we are living in a way that is incongruent to our values, we become dissatisfied, unhappy, unfulfilled, maybe even depressed. See how emotions are so entwined with values? When you understand a person’s emotional drivers, you can have a more powerful discussion about what they value. Align your offering to satisfy those values, and you have a far better chance of becoming someone they see as important to their lives.

In any sales, marketing or influencing scenario, there is one rule that you should always remember:

People only buy when they feel understood, not when they understand you.

I mentioned this in a previous article on connecting with your target audience. As hard as this will sound to you, people don’t care about your product or business. They only care about themselves and will view your product/service through the lens of what you will do to serve them.

Keith Cunningham says that to be successful, you must focus on falling in love with your customers, not your idea, product or business. The best entrepreneurs, salespeople and marketers are those who obsess about who their customers are and getting to truly understand them and the life they live.

Value, Fear, Transfer of Ownership

Creating a powerful image of the better reality you will provide is very important. People will pay for something if they clearly see it is worthwhile. The threshold of worthwhile will vary based on the amount of money involved. The higher the amount, the more powerful this beneficial new reality needs to be. There is one important misconception to address. People don’t pay for something because they see the value equal to the cost. You don’t pay £9.99 for a book because you think that book will give you £9.99-worth of benefits. You pay £9.99 because you believe that the book will give you more than £9.99 in benefit. This is a critical point to wrap your head around. It is the crux of the term Return on Investment (ROI). Rarely does someone view a good ROI as equal to the amount of money spent or invested. It is usually a multiple of at least 2, but most people won’t consider something that does not provide at least 10 times the value.

When it comes to money, people will spend it according to their values. For example, someone may pay £500 for a pair of sunglasses because the emotional state they get from having it is worth more than £500. But someone may not have the same values. For them, paying £500 for a watch may be good value. Same category of product, but very different responses based on values.

You therefore need to be clear about what the emotional, and translated financial, value your product or service will give someone. Convincing someone to act requires that you have convinced them your offering provides value that far exceeds the price of your service or product. Just like having a call to action, if you are influencing someone, you must direct them to act. In a person-to-person sales/influencing discussion, the simplest way is to ask the person if they wish to act. You would think that this is obvious to do. But this is often the part that falls short in the influencing process, even for a seasoned sales professional. The reason? Again, it is fear. Fear of rejection or fear of seeming too pushy. If we don’t ask, then we won’t receive a rejection. People, wrongfully, believe that this is a better alternative. However, the other alternative is more painful. If we don’t ask, then we cannot establish if this person is willing to take the final step. This will result in a ‘floating’ situation where no one really knows where they stand. Ultimately this means no sale and no income for you. No income for you means….(insert your emotion).

Your prospect/potential customer also experiences another type of fear; fear of making a decision. This could be for a few reasons such as being uncomfortable with giving someone ‘bad’ news, or it could be because they don’t know how to make a decision. Studies have shown that the most common reason is people fear making the wrong decision. There is even a term for this coined by Princeton University Philosopher, Walter Kaufmann, in his book Without Guilt and Justice: decidophobia.

If someone fears making a decision, you need to understand why. Rather than jumping to the decision question, you could ease the person into making it easy for them to decide. One method is to use what is called a ‘transfer of ownership’. The retail industry does this very well. In some retail stores, staff are trained to suggest additional products for you to try on in the changing room. For example, if you have selected a skirt to try on, staff will often suggest a top or shirt to match. They won’t state that they want you to buy this additional item, rather they will say something like ‘why not try on this shirt so you can see if the skirt will match the clothes you already have?’ Over 40% of the time, the customer buys the additional product.

I have a client who is an independent consultant for the healthcare industry. She has now found that using transfer of ownership questions induces the prospect to picture and describe which projects they would like her to start with. She even asks them why they prioritised that particular project. This is very powerful as she has brought them into the ‘application mode’. They are describing the importance of the project to their objectives. They are also discussing how valuable her help will be to this valuable projects. They are creating a reality in their minds where this person can be of value; in essence they are trying on the skirt and the shirt.

Dr Dan Dispenza is one of the foremost experts when it comes to understanding how your brain reacts to change and how to induce positive change management. Essentially, he states that your brain does not know the difference between reality and strong imagination. We produce stress hormones just by thinking about the possibility of a potential stressful situation. It hasn’t even happened, and it probably won’t, but by just thinking about a stressful situation your brain produces the stress hormones. The result is your body reacts and you then act accordingly. So, if your prospect sees making a decision as stressful, they will naturally avoid it; we are evolved to do so in the fastest way possible.

By getting people to ‘live’ the emotion, to describe it and try on your product, their brains are creating a different reality, one that is less stressful, and their body will move to live it. Create a positive emotional environment, and your prospect will feel the positive future and more likely move towards it.

In your next sales discussion, or next marketing campaign, try to think of ways you can induce the prospect to describe, or thing about, how they would use your services. Get them to describe/think about the steps in as much detail as possible so that their brain and body actually live the experience. If they could have picked more than one project, ask them why they selected that one? How will they benefit from starting with that particular project and how would that positively impact the next one? How would they use the upsell product you are recommending? What value do they see and, very important, how would they feel? Doing this brings the prospect into a relaxed frame of mind where they are describing the reasons for making a positive decision. They are less likely to feel that they are making a bad decision, and you will have a higher chance of helping them act and buy from you.

Note: I haven’t discussed the dynamics of the more complex sale where you will have several stakeholders. This is a topic for a future article.

As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts. Please share how any of my recommendations have helped you. I would also love to hear about any topics you are interested in.

About Moeed Amin:
I help entrepreneurs and independent professionals grow their income. Most business leaders are excellent at their craft, but to become a successful business you need to become excellent at sales and marketing. Unfortunately, there is too much confusion out there on how to excel at the commercials. My experience, and research centres, bring you cutting-edge insights and training to help give you an edge and grow your sales. To learn more, get in touch by visiting




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Moeed Amin

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Persuasion and sales expert using cognitive neuroscience & psychology and sales best practices.

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