As a sales or procurement person have you ever tried to pretend you’re someone else to get the deal to go through? If you have, then you’ve used the social engineering technique of impersonation. Have you ever twisted the truth to get what you wanted? I am sure at some point everyone in these roles has done something to that effect but, is it helpful? Can we effectively blend social engineering with sales and ethics?
What is Social Engineering?
Most people have heard of social engineering, SE for short. If not, it can be broken down two ways: one is the malicious and nefarious way of manipulating people to get what you want, and the other is the kinder, gentler and, in my opinion, more effective way of getting a positive outcome for you and all involved; it uses influence. Chris Hadnagy, CEO of Social-Engineer, LLC, defines it as “any act that influences a person to take an action that may or may not be in their best interest.”
The Downside of Manipulation
You say to yourself, “If I can just manipulate the situation and get the sale, I will hit my numbers for the week/month/quarter and then move on to the next.” Sure, that’s one way to look at it, but you should be looking at the long term. If you leave your potential customer or client feeling worse for having been introduced to you, then they may not sign on, or only ride out this contract and not re-sign. Perhaps they go somewhere else for all future business, and even worse, perhaps they give you a one-star rating on Yelp!
Our company motto is “Leave them feeling better for having met you.” If you can sign a customer or client because they don’t feel like you coerced them into something they really don’t need, that turns into repeat business. It can also generate new business when a customer speaks highly of your company and techniques at gatherings, conferences, meetings, or casual conversation.
The Upside to Influence and the Role of Active Listening
How can you get a sale using influencing tactics? Honestly, just stick to the basics; be yourself, be kind, be honest, and LISTEN! Like one of my mentors, Robin Dreeke, said at the Human Hacking Conference, figure out what their priorities are and make those your priorities. If your priorities align with your potential client or customer, you are halfway to a successful conclusion for BOTH parties involved.
To figure out their priorities, you need to build a solid relationship with your internal team and with the potential client; then you simply ask them something like “What are your priorities regarding…” You might be thinking, “Ask them what their priorities are?!?!, they will never tell me.” They will if you have built a solid relationship with them and haven’t tried to pull one over on them. If they feel you are on the level, you will have built such a great rapport that they will be happy to take your calls anytime, even on weekends or after normal hours, your emails will be a priority for them to answer, and they will stick around for years to come!
Skills for Active Listening
What are some skills you should have to make sure you’re doing this the right way? You need to be a great active listener. That means be quiet and stop thinking about what your next question or statement or retort will be; just listen. The longer you are quiet, the more you will learn and the better your chances are you will meet the needs they have. (I hear that’s also great advice for a marriage, just FYI.)
You may not have something they need and that is fine, no need to be discouraged, stay positive! You can’t win them all, but if you give them solid, free advice on where or how to find what they do need, you will be building a lasting relationship that shows you really care about their bottom line and not just lining your pockets.
Honesty and humility
Tell them the truth up front and be humble. Sure, you may be the greatest salesperson ever or your company may be the best in the world, but if you come at someone like that, they will just run. You need to prove you’re the best through your actions, not your words; suspend your ego! NEVER, I repeat NEVER trash talk a competitor. It’s poor form and clients look at it as though you may speak negatively about them in the future, and no one likes that.
Asking pointed questions
Everyone wants to be heard and understood. If you can make your customer feel heard and understood by using active listening and asking pointed questions based on the information they just gave you; that will break down the barriers of communication and open immense opportunities for effective relationship building. This will lead to more sales and much more repeat business.
Social Engineering Can Make You a Better Person!
In conclusion, don’t treat your potential client or customer as a sale, treat them as a person. Also, don’t treat them the way you want to be treated, treat them the way they want to be treated. Find out what they need and how you can help, don’t tell them what you have and why they need you and your product. Genuinely help them solve problems and ensure you aren’t a problem for them! Is that social engineering or is that being a good person? If you do it right, it is both!
Written by: J