Mistakes Salespeople Make When Trying to Influence Prospects

Brian Ahearn, Chief Influence Officer, Influence PEOPLE, LLC

A hand holding a stop sign with "Error" on it that is coming out of a laptop screen

For decades I’ve helped salespeople incorporate the psychology of persuasion into their sales processes. During those years I’ve seen countless salespeople make the same mistakes. To help you avoid those pitfalls and enjoy more success I’ll share the six most common mistakes salespeople make. More importantly, I’ll give you solutions to the pitfalls. 


We all know it’s easier to say yes to those we know and like. Most sales are built on the foundation of relationships.


Salespeople work too hard trying to get others to like them. In doing so they can come across as desperate to close the sale.  


Focus on liking your prospect and current customers. When others sense you genuinely like and care for them, they’ll be more likely to say yes to you. Why? Because, deep down, we believe friends do right by friends.


From the time we’re young we’re taught that, when someone does something for us, we’re expected to do something in return. Give and, quite often, you’ll get.


Giving a free gift after someone does something, like sign up for a newsletter. That’s not reciprocity – that’s offering a reward as inducement. And there’s a big difference.  


Encourage people to take advantage of your free offer. Only after they’ve done so should you ask for something in return. Once they’ve benefited from your offer they’ll be more likely to say yes to whatever you might ask next. 


Humans are social creatures. Over the course of history, we’ve learned there’s safety in numbers and “everyone can’t be wrong.” Generally, it works well for us to follow the crowd.


Thinking that all we need to do to convince a prospect to act is highlight a big number.  


Talk about people who are most like the prospective customer you’re courting. When a prospect learns people just like them benefit from your product or service it will be easier for the prospect to say yes to your offer.


We feel more comfortable following the advice of experts.


Not highlighting your experience and expertise – or waiting until the end of your sales conversation to so. By that time some prospects may have tuned you out.  


Let people know your credentials up front. Whenever possible, have someone introduce you for even more credibility. A third party can say things about you that might sound like bragging coming from you. 


We feel better about ourselves when our words and deeds match. As little pleasure seekers and pain avoiders, this is a powerful principle of influence. 


Too many salespeople tell prospects what to do. When you do this you’ve not gained a commitment by triggering the psychology of wanting words and deeds to match.  


Stop telling prospects what to do – and start asking. When you ask and someone says yes, they’re far more likely to follow through. That’s because they don’t want to feel bad and look bad at not having kept their word.


It’s natural for us to want what we can’t have or whatever might be going away. We hate the thought of having missed out on some potential opportunity.


Manufacturing false scarcity will hurt your credibility. Don’t use the worn-out line, “If you sign today I can save you 15 percent, but I can’t offer you this deal after today.” Seldom is that true – and people see through it.  


When scarcity is available, tap into it – but not in a fear-mongering, scare-tactic way. “I’d hate for you to miss out on this opportunity,” will be more effective than, “You really should take advantage of this deal.” It’s a subtle difference that can make all the difference.

Successful interaction with other people comes down to psychology. Tap into the vast body of research from social psychology and behavioral economics and you’ll have more people saying yes to you more often. When that happens, sales success is inevitable. 

Headshot of Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is chief influence officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC, and is author of Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade That Are Lasting and Ethical.