stats for wordpress
alt text image of a trial lawyer making his closing argument

Selling Is Persuasion, Not Force

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Your client’s contract is up. You need the renewal. But your client is dragging their feet. So you decide to ratchet up the pressure and start withholding. You withhold support. You withhold some orders. You believe that by withholding, you can ratchet up the pressure on your client and get your contract signed. They need you, and you have the upper hand. Or so you think.

Or maybe you want to create a sense of urgency, so you make your dream client a time-sensitive offer. If they don’t place their order by the deadline, “poof,” the offer disappears. Now they have a compelling offer; scarcity works. Or does it?

These are both tactics. They both sometimes work. But they’re force, not persuasion. And selling is persuasion, not force.

Persuasion Saves Relationships

Anything that violates trust works against long-term relationships. And being self-oriented is a violation of trust. Period.

There are better ways to handle issues like the two I described above. It’s better to deal with these things openly, honestly, and persuasively.

In the case of the expired contract, you’re better off persuading your client to put a 30-day patch in place while you complete your contract negotiation. It’s better to go to your client directly, work to understand what’s preventing them from signing a new agreement, and persuade them to make something work. If you have to resort to force, you run the risk of damaging your relationship—and potentially losing your client.

I promise your client will remember having their support turned off and their orders not shipped.

There is nothing wrong with trying to compel a client with a time sensitive offer—if it’s truly time sensitive. But if it’s only time-sensitive to meet your revenue goals, then you are using force when you should be using persuasion. Instead, call your client and ask them when it would make sense for them to make the purchase. You might be able to persuade them to buy sooner.

If you have to use force to make your offer compelling, you don’t have a compelling offer. Don’t be surprised if instead of being greeted with a signed contract, you’re instead greeted with a lost opportunity.

Force isn’t as effective as persuasion. It never is. It never has been. You’re better off winning hearts and minds than attempting short cuts that damage—or destroy—relationships.


Do you ever try to resort to force to compel your clients or dream clients?

Why do some salespeople—and sales organizations—resort to force?

How might resorting to force damage your client relationships?

How could you use persuasion instead of force—even if it took longer and was more difficult?

Join my weekly Newsletter or apply for membership in my exclusive Inner Circle Mastermind Group.

Subscribe to my weekly podcast In the Arena.



  • Faye_Oney

    Good points Anthony. Lowering the price of the product happens a lot in media sales. This happened to me when a co-worker called one of my clients and gave him a ridiculously low price for a full-page ad in one of our magazines as a “last-minute discount.” Obviously that created internal issues, but I was never able to get him to pay regular price again.

  • Brooke Martin

    many large organizations have been using pressure sales techniques for ages, especially QTR and Year end closures. This has resulted in many buyers holding out for the perceived price negotiation/drop. We’ve conditioned ourselves and buyers to behave this way, doesn’t make it right.
    We do this ourselves when we go to purchase large item tickets, think of a car purchase, likely as sales people we take a similar action on them as we are dealt ourselves.
    You may find that our/your clients as in the examples above, do not perceive the value of the service or do not recognize the danger of taking no action. And there are many more reasons for their buying behavior as well.
    good discussion.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Brooke!

  • Pingback: Hello Dolly: Episode 2 - Publishing Platforms, Interns, and Popovers - WP Daily