I recently read Influence: The Power of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini, a book packed with information about the psychology behind the art of persuasion — insights, that if known and understood, could immediately be used to improve your sales closing ratios. Cialdini shares six techniques that can be used to more successfully persuade people to do what you want them to do, and many of these techniques can be applied to the selling process. You’re probably already using some of these techniques unconsciously, so increasing your understanding of why they work and how to use them more effectively can only be a good thing.

Give & Take

One lead-gen technique is based on what Cialdini calls reciprocation — if we give someone something, they feel compelled to repay us in some way.

You can see this technique at work on many websites. Did you ever visit a site that offered a free checklist, download, or report that you wanted? It’s free, right, so you click the link to request it. In return, the request form asks you for information about yourself. With this information, the company offering the “free gift” now has information that can be used to draw you further into the sales cycle.

One remodeling company owner who works with interior designers uses this technique to successfully set in-person appointments with top designer prospects. He sends a small gift of coffee and a coffee cup with a creative note, then follows up a day later with an appointment request. His success is through the roof!

How could you use this technique within your company?

Think Big, Then Smaller

Another tip I think is fascinating is called the rejection-then-retreat technique. Let’s say you want me to agree to a request. One way to increase the chance that I will agree is to first make a larger request — one that I’ll likely refuse. Then, after I’ve refused, you would make the smaller request — the one you were interested in all along.

If I react as most people do, I’d see the smaller request as a concession and would feel obligated to give you a concession of my own. My only choice in giving you my concession would be to agree to your smaller request.

A key here is that the second choice doesn’t have to be small. It just has to be smaller than the first request.

If you have two design options to present to a prospective client, always present the more expensive one first. Your clients will perceive the drop in investment for the lower-priced option as much greater, and they’ll be that much more inclined to agree to your request that they work with you on the smaller project.

Cialdini’s book will have you updating your sales process with techniques that could be just the edge you need.

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage.

More REMODELING articles about selling:

I Am a Salesperson: Greg Antonioli’s blog on sales

Working It: Sales is mostly about finding out what buyers really want

Sales Alchemy: Finding new points of contact to turn prospects into clients