Founding and building a business – or setting out as a freelancer - means starting from nothing. No brand. No customers. No infrastructure. No boss to back you up.
You’re the little guy (or girl), taking on loads of big guys (or girls) - all of whom have budgets way more impressive than yours.
Yes, your ideas are important. And your qualifications and knowledge are important. But one skill is going to serve you above all others – learning how to get what you want.
We all know those people who come out of every conversation or negotiation on top. They always seem to bring others around to their point of view, yet miraculously manage not to upset anybody in the process.
Ever wished you could be one of those people? Then you’ll be pleased to hear that the magical art of persuasion isn’t necessarily something you’re born with, but actually something that anybody can develop and nurture. You just need to learn a few tricks of the trade…
Unsurprisingly, the words we use can have a huge influence on how we come across and how convincingly our arguments are perceived.
For maximum impact, always present your ideas and ambitions using confident, positive language, so saying “I will” and “I want”, as opposed to “I have to” or “I need to”.
Another strategy is to use “we” rather than “you” or “I” when you’re trying to persuade others, as it immediately makes the other person feel included in your plans.
Also try using “Let’s do x” rather than “would you like to do x?”, as it makes it much easier for others to agree with your suggestion.
When you’re trying to persuade someone to do something, it can be easy to fixate on the cost, or how it’s going to benefit you, when the best approach is to flip that around.
So, before you meet or chat with a potential customer or partner, get clear in your head all the ways your proposal or service will benefit them, and focus all your efforts on those.
The more confident you are about the value you have to offer, the more convincing you’ll be.
Waffling makes you seem nervous, less confident and leads to lack of clarity.
Instead, prepare your argument or pitch in advance, practice it in front of the mirror and, barring a bit of small talk, dive straight in.
The other person will appreciate your focus and leave the conversation in no doubt of what you’re offering.
How you hold yourself has a huge impact on how you’re perceived, so be aware of what you’re doing with your face and body during business interactions.
Some of us have more animated facial expressions than others, but if yours are on the overactive side, try to keep this in check, as you could inadvertently communicate something you don’t want to.
Instead keep your face open, with a natural smile, while maintaining eye contact as much as possible. Your body stance should also be open and relaxed, with shoulders back, arms uncrossed and, whatever you do, don’t fidget!
Similarly, try not to gesticulate too much as this can be a sign of nerves. Calm gestures with open palms do help to communicate honesty and it can also help to mimic the body language of the other person – obviously keeping it subtle!
A sociological concept called the "Norm of Reciprocity" states that if you do something for somebody else, they are much more likely to do the same for you.
So, as well as spending time thinking about how to get what you want, make sure you dedicate some brain space to how you can help others reach their own goals. That way, you’re storing up lots of favours that are sure to come in handy in the future!
Getting what you want isn’t easy. Chances are you’ll come up against disagreements, difficult questions and plenty of people responding with a flat "No".
But the more comfortable you become with that, the more chance you actually have of success, as your confidence will increase, and you’ll start to see that first interaction as just one step on the journey towards your objectives. And if you find you’re consistently struggling to win people over, one technique to try is the ‘yes ladder’, which involves getting people to agree to something small initially, before slowly working up to your bigger request. That way you build trust and avoid scaring them away with a big ask upfront.
These tricks aren’t about conning people, but about presenting your ideas, proposals and ultimately your business in the most positive and convincing way possible. So don’t sell yourself or your business short, and see the difference they can make to your next sales pitch!
Food for thought
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