By John Tabita

Be Convincing and Win More Clients

By John Tabita

A number of years ago, I applied for a sales position. It was the first time I’d done so. As part of the application process, I had to complete an online self- assessment. Somewhere around the eighth question, it became apparent that the sole purpose of this “assessment” was to assess whether I was an extrovert or not. Questions like “How many extra-curricular activities or clubs did you belong to in high school?” made it clear that the company believed extroverts make better sales people.

If only it were that simple. According to research conducted by RAIN Group, you to win or lose at sales because of your behavior, not your personality bent. Their study revealed that top sales people engage in three specific selling behaviors that set them apart:

  1. They connect
  2. They convince
  3. They collaborate

The people at RAIN describe these as “three levels” that ought to be applied as a combination, not separately or sequentially—but caution that those who stop at Level 1 do not find themselves in the winner’s circle nearly as often.

This poses a challenge to introverted web designers and programmers faced with the need to “sell your services.” While we do well connecting and collaborating, we’re not so comfortable with convincing. In fact, I’d say we’re so uncomfortable with it that we take collaborating much too far, by giving away too much free information and writing proposals for which the client didn’t ask—hoping that these will do the convincing for us.

Instead, we’re left wondering why the client went elsewhere.

There’s no doubt that to be an effective sales person, you must possess certain social skills. In order to win, you must be able to convince the prospect that:

  1. You can achieve the results he’s after
  2. The return on investment is worth it
  3. The risk is acceptable
  4. You are the best choice among the available options

According to the RAIN Group report, even seasoned sales people are resistant to using maximum persuasion, yet …

… in our research, the winners convinced, and convinced with gusto.

Are you focusing too much effort on collaborating and not enough on convincing? It’s time to “go for the gusto” and start convincing.

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  • Nice article John.

    I faced similar problem when I started offering services to customers a few years back. Although I was keen to impress, I ended up sounding too pushy or just wasn’t convincing enough. You are absolutely right, clients simply need to know that you can achieve the desired results and provide the best value for their money.

    These are the best set of advices for anyone who are facing similar difficulties. Will be coming for more :)

  • Thanks for the insight John. As a designer I find collaborating and connecting are a natural part of my working, convincing on the other hand is a whole different ball game.

    I find if you can demonstrate your offering through previous successes this often does the bulk of the convincing, all you need to do is walk the client through how you can make the same thing happen for them and let the work speak for itself.

  • As an actor for some years before I became a freelance web designer and developer, I feel qualified to comment here (let me stress I have never used my powers for evil). I agree with everything you say, John, but I ended up with a slightly different list of what a prospective client needs to be convinced of:

    • You sound like you know what you’re talking about (genuine authority is only slightly more convincing than assumed authority)
    • You’re likely to deliver (as Jon says, demonstrating previous success works wonders)
    • You’re not too expensive (you’re expensive, of course you’re expensive, but you’re not too expensive – the only thing worse is to be too cheap)
    • I like your list, Ricky. Especially the last item.

  • Tony

    In my decades-plus experience in print and web design, I have become convinced that the art of persuasion is the single most important thing that your design school should teach you. I jumped into a career in design during the dot-com bubble (y’all remember those days? When you could get a design job with a major corporation just by telling them that your Geocities site was under construction) and got a foot in the door with no formal training. Since then, I have suffered from a lack of persuasion skills (what this article calls “convincing”).

    For the longest time, I took the attitude, if they can’t see the value in my approach, then they never will. I’ve seen so much bad design in good places. I’ve learned the hard way that your ideas don’t stand on their own merits. I have figured that it is the design school that teaches designers how to persuade their clients (though I still believe that if your school isn’t teaching it, you are wasting your education.)

    Look, you can draw like you’ve got palsy, and still sell (call it Grunge). You may not be able to tell Comic Sans from Baskerville, but you could still bullshit your way through Powerpoint. Likewise, you may know the Golden Section in your sleep, and worship at the altar of Glaser & Tufte, but if you cannot schmooze like Don Draper, then it all adds up to naught.

    Persuasion is an art, and, like prestidigitation, it can be taught to the willing. Don’t be like me, and find out you need it ten years too late. Get to it!

  • Just tell that this is another of your excellent articles John. Thanks for sharing all your experience with readers.

    Greetings from Argentina.


  • Nice article John. Can I add an observation?

    I’ve spent years in the auto industry and did very well. With cars in particular (but I think it applies to all products and new customers) an element of trust has to be established. You can try to convince and collaborate all you want but it just won’t happen until you’ve connected with the client. You have to develop a ‘relationship’. Noone is going to buy something from someone they don’t trust – especially a car.

    Does this mean you go out for for beers and become best buds? No. It does mean though that you find things that you have in common (kids, family, hobbies..) that demonstrate your similarities and therefore you understand the customer’s problems…

    When the customer trusts you (and you are indeed trying to gain their genuine trust..) then they can make the ‘Yes’ decision with more confidence. They will know that you understand where they’re coming from and your convincing and collaboration will be far more effective. It is always important that the sale benefits the customer or it’ll be the last sale to that prospect….

    Relationship selling has to be genuine. We’re trying to make multiple sales over time – Not just one sale this time. When the customer is in the market again – it will be much easier to close because the trust is already established…

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