Aristotle’s 5 Canons of Persuasive Selling

Believe it or not Aristotle had some excellent advice for salespeople!

Now, this advice wasn’t directed towards salespeople per se, it was intended for the public speakers and writers of his age, in order to help them become more persuasive.

Aristotle’s work–The Rhetoric–was so groundbreaking that it is to this day considered the “the most important single work on persuasion ever written.”

Salespeople…get the idea?? Aristotle can help you become more persuasive!!

The fundamentals of his work break down into in several principles referred to as “The 5 Cannons of Rhetoric”.

With a bit of a twist for salespeople, here are “Aristotle’s 5 Canons of Persuasive Selling”:

  1. Invention:

Invention is about finding the right argument for the right scenario.  For salespeople, consider it a gauge of how adept you are at finding the right selling point or sales strategy for the right prospect. It’s about being good at sizing up a prospect, identifying what they need to hear, what will be valuable to them and then applying that approach. It’s also a measure of how good you are at making the right counter argument, in other words objection handling.

Invention impacts: sales strategy, negotiation and closing.

2. Arrangement:

Arrangement is all about structure. Think if it on one hand as representing how well you organize your personal sales methodology (qualification process, needs assessment questions, etc.), but on the other as a measure of your ability to identify where your deals are along the sales cycle. It’s about how well you understand how sales actually work from a technical point of view and from a reporting perspective.

Arrangement impacts: sales tactics, qualification and forecasting.

3. Style:

Style is about how adept you are at communicating. It’s about how good you are at injecting personality, charisma and gravitas into your conversations. When you have Style you also know how to shift your communication style to fit the appropriate context.  It’s about knowing how to tell it when telling is necessary and knowing how to sell it when selling is necessary. Style means you know how to talk to different types of people, and all in the right way.

Style impacts: initiating sales, navigating to the decision maker and communicating value.

4. Memory:

Memory is about the accumulation, retention and recall of critical information. If Invention is about knowing when and where to apply the correct argument, then Memory is about how well you are able to store knowledge and draw from it when it matters. It’s about recognizing when a certain buying signal or objection requires not only the correct argument, but when it requires you to display information that will establish your credibility and expertise with the prospect.

Memory impacts: influence, advisory status and thought leadership.

5. Delivery:

Delivery is all about the performance. Every sales person knows that there is a showmanship that goes into every presentation. It’s about your personal presence and includes everything from tone of voice, to the effective use of presentation collateral.  It’s about getting on that sales stage and knowing how to perform when the curtain goes up and the lights are shining only on you.

Delivery impacts: presentation quality, personalizing value and delivering the wow factor.

The 5 Canons of Persuasive Selling can be used as effective gauges for identifying any salespersons particular level of persuasiveness.

Sales stars at the highest levels combine all of these factors. When someone lacks persuasiveness you can use the 5 Cannons to identify exactly where their problems areas are and begin working on a solution to that weakness.

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