Persuasive communication

Max Cred Factor #8: Outside-In Thinking

Although this is the ninth article of the max cred series, it probably should have been first. This one is less about technique than most of the others and more about a general approach to being credible in the estimation of others.

Motives are a huge factor in credibility. There are degrees of self-interest that can affect how much credibility others give you or your message.

  1. When you advise the other person to do something that will help them and clearly cost you, you have maximum credibility. If you tell they don’t need the more expensive option, or even on occasion that your competitor’s offer is better for them, it’s about as credible as you can get.
  2. Next is being disinterested. You advise the other person to do something that is good for them, but their decision carries no advantage or cost to you.
  3. When you stand to gain from their agreement, but it’s transparent. This is the most common case in a sales situation, where both parties know there’s a win-win.
  4. When you will gain from their agreement but you keep your ulterior motives from the other party.

Most cases in selling will fall into the third category. There is nothing wrong with having your own motives in a persuasion attempt; it’s a fact of life and it’s the foundation of our capitalist system. Most people know that when you’re trying to sell them something, there’s something in it for you if they agree. But even so, there are ways to handle the situation more or less effectively and professionally.

The most important point is to preserve your own personal integrity and professional behavior. Keep your focus on the client’s best interests and everything else is trivial.

If you lose the occasional sale by following this rule, remember Mark Twain’s advice: “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Besides, the occasional sale you will lose will be more than compensated for by the long term trusting relationships you will build.

But even if you sincerely put the other person’s best interests first, your credibility still rests on perception, and it’s possible to send messages that may be misinterpreted. You can send the wrong message by making the conversation mostly about yourself, your company or your solution. You can send the wrong message by “solving” the client’s problem immediately without spending some time probing the causes or exploring various alternatives. You can send the wrong message by leading with the “gold-plated” solution that is more than they need.

In any persuasion conversation, it’s wise to heed the words of Charlie Greene: “Don’t think less of yourself, but think about yourself less”, which I believe neatly sums up my own idea of outside-in thinking.

So remember, to preserve your personal credibility, always do the right thing, but also do it in the right way.

Other articles in this series:

Max Cred: How to Build and Preserve Personal Credibility

Max Cred Factor #1: Credentials

Max Cred Factor #2: Lighthouse Content

Max Cred Factor #3: Clarity

Max Cred Factor #4: Confidence

Max Cred Factor #5: The Strategic Approach

Max Cred Factor #6: How to Ruin Your Credibility

Max Cred Factor #7: Professional Look and Feel

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