Patrick Forsyth, author of 100 Great Sales Ideas

Whatever kind of small business you have, you probably didn't start it because you wanted to sell things. Perhaps you have technical expertise, design flair or a bright idea. Yet people won’t beat a path to your door unless you tell them about your business and do so convincingly. and Patrick Forsyth, author of 100 Great Sales Ideas, discuss how to be more persuasive:

Avoid an introspective tone: If everything you say begins with the word ‘I’, listing things from your own point of view, it becomes tedious and is unlikely to prompt interest in others. Try starting with the word ‘you’. It will sound very different. So ‘I would like to give you…’ becomes something like ‘you will benefit from…’.

Avoid circumspection: A persuasive case is no place for ‘I think’, ‘I hope’, ‘probably’, ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’. You need to have the courage of your convictions. Ideas and suggestions, or anything for which you seek agreement, must reflect your confidence in it. So phrases like ‘this will give you’ are better.

Similarly, avoid bland description. Your product is never just good, never describe a suggested feature as being quite interesting and use words that add drama and certitude without going over the top.

Stress the benefits: Features are factual things – tangible or intangible – about something. Benefits are things that something does for people. So to increase the chances of your proposal being accepted, benefits should predominate. They should be well expressed and, if necessary, backed up by proof.

Make things interesting: As with any other message, you need a clear beginning, middle and end. What you say must allow you to project something (attractive) about yourself. Make sure you do not sound formulaic – the “standard pitch”. However you want to sound – friendly, efficient, professional or whatever – make sure such characteristics show.

Like most communication, if you are to be persuasive you need some preparation. Think about what you want to say. Ask yourself why anyone should agree to your proposal. List the reasons – all of them. Then organise them. What are the most important things? How does one link to another?

Arrange a logical argument, say something at the beginning to command attention and grab attention, and aim to maintain interest throughout. A powerful start that then tails away will persuade no-one. Lead with the benefits and follow with features to explain.

Patrick Forsyth is the author of many successful business books including 100 Great Sales Ideas (Marshall Cavendish and Cyan Books).

Britain’s big business ideas fail to become reality

While programmes such as Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice portray entrepreneurs’ dreams coming true, many people struggle to put them into action, says a new survey by business angel network Angels Den.

Potential UK entrepreneurs with big ideas are failing to turn them into something more tangible, with 65 per cent of people having had a new business idea at one time in their lives but only 30 per cent having made any attempt to turn their dream into reality.

Financing was the major factor cited for budding entrepreneurs who have not managed to set up businesses, with 77 per cent of people stating that lack of funds was the main stumbling block.

Bill Morrow, joint managing director of Angels Den, comments: ‘We are often told by politicians, industry experts and angels that the UK is a hot-bed of entrepreneurship and innovation; however the facts indicate that while people have the bright ideas they are failing to try them out.’

Entrepreneurs who have had the ‘divine inspiration’ and need some investment can log onto and submit their idea to a host of UK business angels.

Alan Dobie

Alan Dobie

Alan was assistant editor at Vitesse Media Plc (previous owner of before moving on to a content producer role at Reed Business Information. He has over 17 years of experience in the...

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