Social psychologists conducted an interesting experiment in Holland in which they asked two opposition party leaders to argue the same cause, with the identical speech, to a number of groups of people. They then asked each individual the extent to which they had been persuaded by the speaker.
As you might expect, those in the audience that were members of a speaker’s political party were most convinced by that speaker’s words, because for them that speaker already had credibility, almost regardless of the cause. They were influenced by the person presenting the information, rather than the information presented. This is referred to as a ‘peripheral cue’.
So how do you get credibility? As a salesperson in your industry, you get credibility by being considered an expert in your field and by being a trustworthy operator. Is this hard to achieve? Not if you are already established in your industry, demonstrate your expertise and always do what you’ll say you’ll do. If you are brand new to your industry you have to work a little harder, but you can quickly gain credibility with your clients and prospective clients by:
- Setting a client focused agenda for every meeting (so they know why you are there and what you want to achieve from this meeting)
- Introducing yourself to clients in a way which demonstrates the relevance of your previous experience; including explaining your (positive) reasons for being in your current role
- Showing – through your intelligent questioning – that you have a comprehensive understanding of both the client’s and your own industry/organisation
Ask yourself this question: If you were placed in the same experiment as the Dutch politicians – in which you presented to a group of prospective clients within your industry and were then compared to other operators in your industry making the identical speech – how many of those prospective clients would vote for you?
* O. Wiegman, 1985; Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 15, 673-686