We are at a fascinating time in history, where more and more people are looking to integrate honoring their calling, their passion, their soul’s work with making a living or having a successful business. One sign of this shift is that more and more people are teaching others how to achieve this integration of heart and business. We now have the chance to learn about Authentic Promotion, Permission Marketing, Soft Selling, or Heart Selling.
Let’s face it, to be in business, we need to persuade people to buy our services. We need to use our words and actions to move people to give us money for our work. If we don’t make some deliberate effort in that direction, it’s unlikely that we will actually have a profitable business. But in reaching out to make a sale, we face many choices about how we persuade. We are going to constantly come up against the question of where the line is between earnest persuasion and manipulation. At some point, we may all be tempted to use techniques that may not be in alignment with our message in order to make more sales. I face this all the time, and I see a lot of business owners around who are clearly struggling with the same issue. How can we be savvy, smart business owners without losing our integrity?
What I’ve seen is that many heart-based, soul-oriented business owners err on the side of doing too little too persuade. In this world, a call to action might sound like “Maybe if it’s not too much trouble, you could possibly consider using my services. And if you do want to use my services, I’ll be over here in the corner, so let me know.” And it’s not real effective for creating profit. I believe in attraction, in drawing to us the people who resonate with our message but part of that attraction is inviting people to play. Most of us need to challenge ourselves to be more powerful, more authoritative, and more persuasive in offering our services.
On the other hand, we’ve all experienced hard sells that left us feeling upset and uncomfortable. I’ve heard the concept that as long as your product or program is good, any technique you use to get more people to buy is justified. But I don’t buy it. Hard sells don’t feel good. They don’t build connection. They don’t build trust.
One client of mine went to a weekend on selling from a place of alignment, and then felt assaulted by a hard sell at the end for a longer program. She said she had to shower when she got home to get rid of the slimy feeling. A colleague of mine invested thousands of dollars in a marketing summit, only to find that part of the “curriculum” was an upsell to a more in-depth program that was positioned as available to only a small portion of the people in the room but later opened to a bigger group. She said it took a week of bodywork to get her back into balance.
So, when do we cross the line from persuasion to manipulation? Here are a couple of guidelines that emerged from a recent discussion on this topic that I hosted:
1. No surprises
One of the biggest objections people raised on the call was the surprise sell. That’s when you’ve paid for a program and suddenly you’re being sold, and sold hard on the next step or the next level. You’re a captive audience. On the other hand, most people said they didn’t mind hearing about the “next step” if they were told in advance, and the “next step” was presented as an opportunity to go deeper rather than the only thing between you and certain failure.
2. Whose urgency is it?
One of the truisms of copy writing is to create a sense of urgency – to give people a reason to buy now, and not later. What was interesting was that several people remarked that in “hard sell” approaches it comes across as the seller’s urgency not the buyer’s. What worked better was to tap into the prospective buyer’s sense of urgency, their desire not to put things off any longer. Most people respected reasonable deadlines for getting bonuses or qualifying for special prices, deadlines that allowed some room for careful thought and consideration before making what is often a sizeable purchase.
3. Are you creating more connection or less?
What really came into focus for me as a useful measure of being persuasive vs. manipulative was the degree to which my words increase my prospects’ sense of connection to themselves. The most manipulative techniques, we agreed, encouraged people to disconnect from themselves and their own wisdom. Techniques like tight deadlines that demand you decide to buy before you leave a web page, or before you leave a call. Techniques that invoke scarcity or invite competition between buyers. Ideally, we ask questions, and create time frames that encourage our prospects to think deeply, check in internally, and make an educated decision about working with us.
Part of being a successful business owner is being able to share your message with the world and express your genuine conviction about the value you offer. When you can persuade people to take action on their own behalf from a place of love, everybody wins.
Â© 2010. Isabel Parlett. All rights reserved. Isabel Parlett, The Sound Bite Shaman, helps spiritually-oriented business owners to say what they do, when what they do is deep, powerful, and hard to describe. You can get a free email mini-course on communicating with more power by clicking HERE and signing up in the upper right corner. (http://www.soundbiteshaman.com)