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Persuasive vs. Compelling

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Persuasive vs. Compelling
Persuasive vs. Compelling
By Roger Burnett
Posted: 2020-01-02T21:25:00Z

Persuasive vs. Compelling
Which one are you?
Roger Burnett, CAS , The Burn

Where do you come out on this question? Before you answer, allow me the moment to level-set the discussion with the definitions of each.


  1. 1. good at persuading someone to do or believe something through reasoning or the use of temptation

Or, the root verb: per·suade
per·suade | \ p?r-'swad  \
transitive verb

  1. 2. to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action


  3. 3. to plead with : URGE


  1. 1. evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.


  3. 2. not able to be refuted; inspiring conviction


  5. 3. not able to be resisted; overwhelming

Historically, sales training, field coaching, and 1st line sales manager/salesperson activity tend to focus on the mechanics of the sales process – things like asking open ended questions, understanding where the opportunities to win exist within an account, where competing relationships might undermine their ability to win, and of course, whether or not the deal has reached the forecast stage in a way the field team can defend to upper management.

Discussions about more nuanced aspects of mastering the discipline of sales, such as becoming more persuasive, were left to the individual to devote time and energy to at each salesperson’s discretion. Much like athletes training in the off-season, it was up to the rep to put in the work to improve above and beyond the inevitable and painful learning process realized while losing (and winning, but mostly losing) deals.

If this idea is new to you, and if your sales process doesn’t take into consideration an analysis of a salesperson’s ability to reliably close business beyond management of the steps in your sales process (as they’ve been trained), it might be possible that your team hasn’t developed persuasive OR compelling skills. If they have, the tendency for nearly all salespeople is to rely on persuasion, as persuasion can be applied at the end of the sales cycle.

In my mind, persuasion is expensive. It costs margin. Absent some significant enticement (better terms, a new promotion to start a sales quarter, a trip to your Company’s conference) the only viable option is to discount your price to achieve a persuasive outcome.

On the other hand, compelling is ALSO expensive, but requires a much different kind of investment. Take Steve Jobs. Had Jobs not went to Pixar and learned the art of story, Apple products might never have become ubiquitous. By learning where he’d gone wrong in his first stint in Apple’s leadership chair and taking advantage of the miraculous set of events that delivered him the vital element missing from his arsenal as a pitch man, he transformed commerce by having the vision and determination to bring that story to life in the hearts and minds of Apple fans and cemented Jobs as a titan in sales lore.

How did Apple become so compelling? It sprang from their long-held expectation to be great and an intentionally built team of crazy talent on a mission to change the world. From an unwavering desire to be the best and a continuing unwillingness to make excuses about performance when greatness isn’t coming. Frankly, it came from Jobs sometimes being an absolute jerk to people in his quest to become compelling.

Being compelling isn’t easy, but the result is product people clamor for and are willing to not only pay full price for, but wait days in line and still smile to do so.

If you make the necessary (vital, really) continual investment in becoming the compelling choice, the transaction with buyers immediately moves away from price. If a potential new account decides against an acceptance of your value, being compelling creates replacement accounts to move on-to when any relationship becomes no longer mutually valuable. Your investment moves from the end of the sales cycle to the beginning, in ways that may not always be obvious or certain from a results perspective. It’s often best when it’s something you truly believe in and become unattached to the outcome.

Lastly, equipped with the necessary authority and credibility to be seen as compelling, the questions you’ll find yourself asking skew much more quickly toward the specifics of the problem on the other side of the table, as clients are proven to be more honest and open with business partners they believe to be expert in their field. What may have been difficult to impossible information to obtain persuasively becomes the entry fee for an engagement with a compelling choice.

Persuasive, or compelling. The decision is yours. Regardless of choice, knowing the road you’re taking and the results that await is often the most important step in the journey.

Roger has spent 20+ years making complex concepts more understandable for both buyers and sellers alike, and has devoted the majority of his recent career to injecting purpose via philanthropy to his sales and marketing efforts. He’s intent on making the world a better place and his nirvana exists at the intersection of Mission, Passion, Profession and Vocation. He loves the outdoors and seeks memorable experiences whenever possible. Contact Roger at or 810-986-5369