How can you persuade a customer you can't afford to lose? (Part 1)

Donald Trump would probably say: Just tell em!

Donald Trump would probably say: Just tell em!

I feel a lot of people listen to what I have to say.
— Donald Trump

In the real world it's often not appropriate to just tell em! So, we need to have more sophisticated tools available.

At the end of 2016, Persuasion guru Robert Cialdini published his latest book Pre-suasion. To condense his 300 page book into two sentences he says:

  1. What you do before you persuade customers can have a major (hidden) influence on their decisions.
  2. We and our customers assume that what we are focusing on is especially important.

So, what's important about Pre-suasion?

Well, to persuade your customers you need to prime them about what is important. (We assume that you are ethical and you will get them to focus on something that is important to them, not just important to you.)

For example, let's imagine when your customers decide to purchase you want them to consider total costs and not just initial purchase costs. The reason for this is in some cases they are buying low-price competitors' products that will cost them more to maintain.

How persuade customers 1_1.JPG

So, start planning questions about maintenance costs. It's hard to just ask good questions, so plan your questions in advance. Here are some potential questions:

  • When buying, how do you consider operating costs like maintenance?
  • How do you manage to reduce long-term operating costs?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with your maintenance costs?

Questions are a good start. However, let's imagine that our customer is still not certain about the importance of considering maintenance costs. Again, Cialdini shares his expertise with the guidance: people want to see their decisions as wise. So, the principle of social proof and authority are most effective here. 

Social proof is finding examples of similar organisations and executives who have improved results by considering total costs. Share papers and evidence or better still find opportunities to introduce your executive to other executives and prime the conversation.

Authority is finding people who the customer would recognise as experts and sharing their opinions with your customer. This could be with books, papers or information on conferences. Some advanced organisations might even organise seminars by these experts for their best customers.

With the customers you can't afford to lose, you will often need to persuade them. How can you pre-suade these customers with questions, social proof and authority? For more guidance on motivating your customers to action and removing their uncertainty, try the Persuading for Results course at the University of Newcastle, Sydney.