Persuasion that prospects love

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(MoneyWatch) I don't know about you, but I am only working halftime: 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm busy, you're busy, and our prospects are busy. Now as a sales person, you want them to make a decision. But the prospects moan, "Who has the time to make a choice?"

To help prospects choose you, give them a persuasive mental shortcut. Trust me, they will love you for it. You can gain trust with prospects through a proven persuasive secret called "social proof."

The principle of social proof is one shortcut we use to determine what is correct. Humans naturally want to find out what other people think is correct. As a rule, we reason we will make fewer mistakes by acting in accord with social evidence than contrary to it.

Marketers know this to be true. This is why television sitcoms have canned laugh tracks and commercials use man-in-the street testimonial interviews. Or why we want restaurant reviews from websites like Yelp or hotel reviews from websites like Trip Advisor.

Another case in point: You know those cards in the hotel bathrooms that ask you to recycle your towels to help conserve water and energy? Almost all have an environmental message. But one hotel tried a social proof message instead. The card stated: "The majority of our guests reuse their towel to conserve energy and water." That little change dramatically increased the level of towel recycling.

The reason social proof is so persuasive is because we are all running on information overload. The ever-accelerating pace and informational crush of modern life will make automated decision making more and more prevalent.

How should you persuade prospects with social proof? The answer is testimonials with measurable results, and here are five ways to do it:

Interview past clients to obtain testimonial quotes you can use. Sometimes it is best to get an outside expert like a public relations professional or freelance writer to help you with this. You want to drill down to get measurable results. These include raw numbers (increased sales by $100,000), percentages (improved retention rates to 70 percent, which is triple the industry average) or time (accomplished more in six months than in previous three years).

May I please? Get permission to use the person's whole name, title and company name. Just saying, "Sally from Kalamazoo" or Bob from "Cucamonga" just doesn't build trust.

If you don't ask, you don't receive. Ask for testimonial letters on client letterhead that you can reprint and use in proposal packages being given to clients. The more you have to choose from, the better.

Tell me a story. Ask clients who are willing to be your advocate to record their testimonial stories. One way to do this easily is to hop on a free telephone bridge line and record the call (with their written permission, of course). This can then be used as an audio file on your website or turned into a low-cost audio CD that you can give potential prospects.

Be a namedropper. Pepper your selling tools, news releases, website blogs, speeches, seminars and presentations with accounts of individuals who have benefited from your service. Always make the person seem likable, describe the problem in brief and give a measurable result you helped achieve. One of our clients said he helped grow businesses. This became so much stronger when he was able to say he helped grow business by as much as 500 percent.

So give your prospects social proof shortcuts. If they are as busy as you are, they will love you for it.

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