• Women small business owner discusses exit strategy with a small business coach.

The art of persuasion plays a key role in the success of every business. Your ability to sell affects many parts of your work, from convincing a prospect to buy your product or service, to getting a colleague or partner to see things your way, to having an employee perform a function they may not be keen on doing. Here are some helpful pieces of advice from experts in sales and persuasion.

Understand the mindset of your audience

When trying to sell something to a prospect, partner, or employee, the first thing to remember is that people do not like being sold. A recent study found that of the 25 most common adjectives people used to describe sales people, 20 were negative, the most popular one being “pushy.” Keep this in mind.

People also tend to say “no” to what’s being offered more times than they say “yes.” You can’t win them all, so don’t get hung up when you don’t. Of course, your chance of success varies with your audience. Colleagues and partners may buy what you’re proposing just to keep the relationship on an even keel. And you have extra leverage with employees whose salaries you review.

The important thing is to try and see the world through your customer’s eyes. When you encounter resistance, make an effort to understand where the other person is coming from. Turning up the intensity of your pitch never works—you can’t force people to buy. Instead, find out what’s causing their hesitation. Look for common ground where both of you benefit—a true “win-win” situation!

Remember where buyers are getting their information

The person with something to sell used to have the advantage of having more information than the person being pitched. Now that isn’t the case. But remember, information on the internet can be incomplete, misleading, or even totally inaccurate. Be prepared to address this misinformation. Be polite and patient and you’ll be able to take back the advantage.

Don’t focus on selling—focus on serving

Ask yourself how what your offering will improve the life of the person you’re selling. Keep the answer to that question top of mind, and your selling instantly becomes serving—and way more effective.

At the heart of serving someone is listening to them. Instead of waiting to jump in to make your great sales point, slow the process down to hear what the other person is telling you. When you listen, you find out a person’s real needs, wants, hopes, and dreams. Deliver on those things and you’ll get the sale.

Another benefit of listening is being able to clarify the situation for the buyer. Successful sales people aren’t just good problem solvers—they’re also good problem finders. With all the information people can access online (see above), they may feel they can find a solution without your help. But people often don’t know what their problem is—or they haven’t correctly identified it. Often what you hear from other people will enable you to provide insight and expertise to guide them to the right solution. Focusing on serving the other person will also help you stay balanced. You’ll know when to push and when to hold back, when to speak up and when to be quiet.

Small goals help you reach the large ones

When it comes to selling prospects, you may have a long-term goal of posting a record sales year. But to get there, you’ll need to set and reach many smaller goals. These could be sending out a handful of follow-up texts or emails before the end of the day, or contacting two or three new leads first thing in the morning. Do not underestimate the importance of setting—and reaching—smaller, interim goals like these. They are key to achieving your larger objectives.