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Top Persuasion Techniques for Geeks

Geeks might be masters of code or wizards of design but few also happen to be wonderful salespeople. Usually, they leave the selling stuff to the marketing types, the ones who seem naturally to know what pushes buyers’ buttons… and who don’t mind the rejection.

But to turn any idea into a business, a product or even just a new freelance gig will require some skills at persuasion. Here are a number of neat little tricks that no geek should do without:

The Sullivan Nod
Invented by restaurant consultant, Jim Sullivan, the Sullivan nod involves reciting a list of options but just inclining your head slightly when you reach the choice you’d like the buyer to make. The nod has to be subtle but perceptible and works best in lists of no more than five items. According to Jim Sullivan, it’s successful up to 60 percent of the time.

For geeks who aren’t trying to push the most expensive wine in the restaurant though, the same technique could be used at a face-to-face meeting when offering design options or server choices, but it could also be used in emails by marking out one item (with a double-space, say) or on the phone with a short pause.

It might just get the client’s site looking the way you want it to look, rather than the way they think it should look.

The Benjamin Franklin Close
When your prospect is humming and hawing, help them reach a decision by taking a leaf from Benjamin Franklin’s book: have them make a list of the pros and cons of the option you’re trying to persuade them to take.

Of course, if their “cons” turns out to be longer than their “pros,” you might be in a spot of trouble. But while you can praise the pluses, you can also knock down the objections now that you can see what they are.

Remember that it’s not just the quantity of items on a list that matters; it’s their priority too.

The Boomerang Method
Popular among savvy salespeople — and not just in Australia — the Boomerang Method tosses an objection back at the prospect, pitching it as an advantage.

So if an investor argues that he can’t afford to hand you a suitcase full of cash to help you develop your toolbar, you’d reply with: “But can you afford not to?”

Clearly, you’re also going to need a good follow-up so that you don’t get a simple “yes,” and that’s where things can get a little tricky. But if you can show a prospect that what they think is the biggest reason not to listen to you is in fact an unbeatable reason to agree, you should get your way.

Kotler’s Black Box Model
Marketing academic, Philip Kotler, described the human mind as a black box containing all of the aspects that go into making a decision to buy: why, how, when, and from whom.

He didn’t, however, explain how you can get the box open, unravel the wires and listen to the tape so that you can make use of the answers. What you’ll have to do then is focus not on the box but on what Kotler says is in it.

If you know how the person you’re pitching to would answer those questions, you’ll know what it will take to make them agree.

Needs-Creation Selling
The most important question you can answer someone you’re trying to persuade is “Why do I need this?”

The problem is that often the answer is that the person you’re talking to doesn’t need it. When that happens, the solution is to create the need. That will involve asking questions and above all, listening to the answers.

Try to listen out for problems that they or their company may be having… then explain why your method will solve those problems,

And if they don’t have any problems you can solve, tell them about the problems they’re going to have.

T-O Technique
Finally, if all else fails, one option is to give up… and let someone else have a go.

This is a technique common in retail in which one salesperson turns the prospect over to another before the close.

You might not have another salesperson to finish the persuading for you, but you might have a partner who can ram home your point or even a customer service person.

Sometimes, the best way to persuade someone is not to try at all.


  1. Greg Says:

    Alex, what an odd mix of persuasion techniques ? A covert influencing technique, two objection answering technique, an old closing technique then throw in a little sales psychology and an operating method. All good if a little random

  2. Jack Kinsella Says:

    I love this guide. Advice you don't get anywhere else - and advice that makes sense to me. I rewtweed!

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