Which Sales Influence Techniques Are The Best?

Before you read the rest of this blog post, the answer to the question, “Which sales influence techniques are the best?” is: It depends. sales-closed-deals-ideal-candidate

To learn more about what it depends on for different sales techniques to result in closed deals, read on.

The research

A recent study by Professor Plouffe and colleagues examined the impact of B2C salespeople’s influence techniques on their sales performance.

Specifically, the researchers studied 6 influence techniques:

  1. Information exchange: providing the customer with all product- and sales-related materials relevant to the purchasing decision and asking the customer about their long-term purchasing goals.
  2. Recommendations: convincing the customer that the product/service would be beneficial and outlining the evidence for the customer’s expected success.
  3. Threats: telling the customer that they’ll stop receiving preferential treatment and that the salesperson will stop doing business with them if their requests are ignored.
  4. Promises: offering to give the customer special attention if they buy and providing incentives for agreeing to requests (e.g., discounts, quicker delivery).
  5. Ingratiation: complimenting the customer and discussing shared interests or hobbies before discussing sales issues.
  6. Inspirational appeals: appealing to the customer’s emotions, values, and ideals when making a sales pitch.

The sales performance metrics they looked at included number of transactions, commission income, and total sales revenue.

The results

Results found that salespeople were similar in how much they used each influence technique. What differed was how effective they were in using each one.

The researchers conducted a cluster analysis and found salespeople’s successful influencing styles fell into 3 groups.

1. The educator

For the educator, information exchange and, surprisingly, threats were correlated with sales success. It’s a no brainer why a transparent exchange of information between the seller and buyer works. Why threats worked is more of a mystery, but threats may have been success in these sales contexts because they represented a type of information.

Interestingly, attempts at recommendationsinspirational appeals, and ingratiation hurt sales performance. It’s possible that these emotional techniques are inconsistent with an informative style and thus, confuse or turn off customers. The other possibility is that salespeople who are good at using an educational style aren’t great at using emotional appeals.

2. The evangelist

The evangelist was able to successfully use recommendations, threats, inspirational appeals, and promises to close deals. But for this group of salespeople, information exchange hurt sales performance.

These results suggest that when customers are emotionally invested, salespeople who know when and how to apply pressure to close will be successful. For this group of salespeople, it’s possible that providing information (dry, boring details) has a negative effect by lowering customers’ enthusiasm.

3. The politician

For the politician, the only influence technique that was correlated with sales success was ingratiation. For this group, recommendations and threats had a negative effect on sales performance. It’s possible that these buyers already knew they were going to buy beforehand and as long as they liked the salesperson, any attempt to influence them otherwise was viewed as a waste of time.


So what does it depend on for sales influence techniques to be successful?

  • Sales rep differences. Salespeople’s underlying personality traits may correlate better with some techniques vs. others.
  • Different combinations of techniques. Some closing techniques may be more effectively used in combination such that one technique balances a customer’s reaction to another one.
  • The product or selling situation. What works in one context (e.g., using threats to motivate a buyer in a seller’s market) may crash and burn in another.
  • Customer differences. What works with an emotional buyer may not appeal to a rational buyer.

The takeaways

The bottom line is that an influence technique that works in one sales context won’t necessarily succeed in another. But you knew that already.

What is valuable to know is that salespeople need to be able to adapt their selling style based on customer feedback and to view their mistakes as learning opportunities. It’s also really important for employers to figure out what works with their customers by assessing their current top sales performers.

Which sales influence techniques have you had the most success with? Share your insider tips in the comments or tweet @ideal.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min