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3 Ways to Take Your Permission-Based Selling Strategy to the Next Level

3 Ways to Take Your Permission-Based Selling Strategy to the Next Level

Optimise your permission-based selling process with these expert tips. Plus, find out how you can speed up the process.

You might have heard of permission-based selling, and it’s possible that you’re already doing it without even knowing. It’s a strategy that eliminates the old stereotype of cold-calling and pushy sales reps. Instead, you engage with prospects who have already made it clear that they want to hear from you. By gaining the permission to sell, you remove obstacles that may have stood in your way if you had used more blunt sales techniques. 

The technique is similar to permission-based marketing, where a customer opts in to receiving marketing messages, by subscribing to email newsletters for example. There are many overlaps between the two techniques — permission has to be granted before the selling or marketing activity can take place, and you have to make sure you don’t lose the customer by exploiting that permission. 

The benefits of permission-based selling are clear: the prospect is more open to your proposals if they have asked to hear them. Your messages are less likely to be ignored if the recipient wants to read them. 

You can gain permission in a number of ways:

  • Approach a prospect and ask them if they’d be willing to hear your proposal, or they could express interest by contacting you first.
  • Request permission through your website, in your email signature, and even on your social media profiles. Just be careful that the request for permission isn’t itself too pushy.

So far, so good. But there are ways to improve your chances even further.

1. Don’t forget the human connection

All sales negotiations, even large B2B deals, are ultimately conversations between human beings. Understanding how to make connections on a personal level will improve the quality of your permission-based selling. 

No-one likes to be talked ‘at’ — if you can engage your prospect in a two-way conversation, rapport will be built much quicker. In person, these conversations happen naturally, but as we move to a hybrid working environment, you may find it harder to maintain that human connection over video. There are a few things you can do to make it easier: 

First, break the ice

Don’t just jump straight to business. Think about what’s important to your customer, how has their career journey been? What about outside of their job? Perhaps it’s their children, or a sports team they follow. Talk for a few minutes about these things, and the rest of the meeting will flow more easily. With experience, you will learn how to maintain the delicate balance between being too business-like and too friendly.

Understand how you appear on screen

We have all got better at meeting over video, but it’s a skill that needs to be practised. Consider putting a note near your camera to remind you to look at the camera when you are speaking — not to the screen. Make sure you have good posture, that you are seated in a well-lit place and that the area behind you is uncluttered.

Maintain your curiosity

Pause often, ask open-ended questions, and make sure to leave room for your prospect to ask their own. Get them to talk to you, rather than dominate the conversation yourself. In the end, a good sales conversation is a bit like a first date, you want them to leave feeling heard!

2. From rapport to permission

Once you’ve developed a rapport with your prospect, you can start building towards permission to sell. Think of it as a chain from rapport to permission: 

Rapport > Trust > Credibility > Permission

One way to build trust with your prospect is to not waste their time — a person’s time is the most valuable commodity they have. The best gift you can give a prospect is to end a meeting early — they will remember it and consider you a reliable person.

The more you know about a prospect’s context before you begin, the higher your credibility becomes. ”

As trust develops, you will have the opportunity to display your credibility. At this point of the conversation, you should be presenting solutions to your customer’s problems – not selling your products. This is the time when your research shows its value. The more you know about a prospect’s context before you begin, the higher your credibility becomes. 

By solving problems, you will become a trusted, credible advisor in the eyes of your prospect, not simply someone trying to sell a product and move on. Naturally, permission to sell follows, and you can make your pitch. The time you spend building rapport helps to establish trust and credibility with your customers. Sales should come easier following that.

3. The power of the referral

If what you’ve read so far has made you think permission-based selling takes time, you’re right. It’s a long game.

There is one way to speed up the process, though. If you can get a referral from a trusted third party, you can gain permission to sell almost instantly. 

The secret to getting a referral is to ask for one — it’s as simple as that. Many people won’t think to pick up the phone (or open up Slack) and ask to be referred, but it’s the quickest way. 

If you can get a referral from a trusted third party, you can gain permission to sell almost instantly.”

If you have cultivated a reputation as a reliable person and have ensured that your business relationships are built on mutual trust, then people will gladly help you. Of course, the reverse is also true — if someone asks you to refer them to a customer, and you trust them, it will help everyone if you make the referral. 

When someone gives you a referral to a prospect, they are placing their credibility in your hands, so it’s more important than ever that you act with integrity, and do your best to solve the customer’s problems. 

More sales insights and advice

For more sales advice from Salesforce, Trailblazers and industry experts, download 50 Pro Sales Tips.  

Cecily Ng

Cecily leads the Singapore business at Salesforce as Area Vice President and General Manager of Singapore and is focused on enabling Singapore businesses in Asia to innovate, be more agile and connect with their customers in a whole new way. In this capacity, Cecily serves as a trusted advisor to the C-Suites of Asia's large enterprises while leading a robust team that drives growth of Salesforce in this region. Cecily amassed 15 years of progressive experience and is a seasoned tech professional. Prior to Salesforce, Cecily worked with IBM, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. An equality champion, Cecily is the Executive Sponsor for Salesforce Women's Network in Singapore and is especially passionate about helping young women develop their careers. Dedicated to gender parity at Salesforce and in the technology industry, Cecily also keenly serves as a mentor for young women as part of the Salesforce-Halogen Foundation partnership programme BizAcademy. Cecily was born in Hong Kong, moved to Singapore to study, and holds a BSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the National University of Singapore. In her free time, Cecily enjoys cooking up a storm in the kitchen and seeking out adventures with her husband.

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