Communication Sales

How to harvest the massive power of Social Proof

Social Proof – What is it?

We make many decisions every day.

Most of which very quickly.
Without putting too much thought into them. We quickly form an opinion about the impact of the choice and the potential effects of the decision.

In fact we have a part of our brain that is specialized in recognizing situations and feeding us similar memories and decisions from back then. We use those to make quick decisions.

Basically we compare and decide.

In brand new situations we lack relevant memories, so being the social animals that we are we like to see what other people do or did.
We tend to look at other people to decide how to behave, react or even feel.

This is what Social Proof is all about.

It’s a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation.

Examples of social proof

What is good?

When a new movie is applauded by the critic whose opinions you tend to like then you’ll be more likely to watch it even though the trailer didn’t quite catch your interest.

When there’s a long queue at a fun fair attraction you’re likely to assume it must be a cool ride!

When you’re planning a romantic night odds are that you’ll choose the restaurant with the great reviews.

When you’re at the carwash for the first time, you’re likely to choose the program that says “Popular choice”.

This mediocre looking guy that seems the center of attention of those stunning ladies must actually be pretty great!
“Pick up artists” have written whole books about this one and even use the same name for it!

53% of readers tweet the link of this article!

Menno Bieringa

Oh wow, 53%! … So maybe you should too!
(Really… you should!)

How to harvest the massive power of social proof

If you want to persuade or influence people to buy your product or to do that thing you need them to do then Social Proof is an awesome tool in your belt.

In written communication

  • Include testimonials from other customers
    Jolly Jon says: Eating at Wok ‘n Roll was the most memorable event of my life!
  • Include statements like 64% of our customers sign up for a free membership!
  • Include awards: Winner of the Best Customer Service aware 2021.
    You even see that affiliated companies invent awards that they give to each other so they can include in their communications.

In verbal communication

  • Include statements like 64% of our customers sign up for a free membership!
  • Refer to respected colleagues / people’s comments:
    The other day, Jill from Sales came up to me and told me how much she loves this idea!
  • Refer to a respected Media source:
    I read in The Onion that people who say yes more often live happier lives.

In Photos and Videos

Even without using words you can use social proof to your advantage. One of the best examples is using famous people in advertising

The Future of Celebrity Endorsement | by 14ideas | Medium
OMG! Rachel is drinking it too!

Or product placement.

brandchannel: 5 Questions: The State of Product Placement in Movies and TV
If the bear eats it then it ought to be good!

Communication Sales

Presentations – How to effectively communicate a message

People have a shorter span of attention than ever.
It’s hard to keep them focused, especially if the subject isn’t something they know is interesting for them.

The rules for a good presentation

Follow these pointers while authoring a successful presentation:

  • A quick overview of the presentation
  • Subject is relevant to the audience
  • A clear presentation structure
  • Appropriate length
  • Entertainment value / Humor
  • Call outs to keep the audience hooked
  • Few words per slide
  • Hidden content until relevant

The slide creation process

Good things take their time

Take your time while creating your slides.

I recently got very positive, unsolicited reactions to a 30 minute presentation I gave. It took me almost 2 business days spread out over the course of a week to get it right!

1. Start chaotic

Don’t waste time on design at first.
Use your first slides as a notepad for your thoughts, adding bits and pieces of info you think you want to share.
Everything you add at this point is to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

2. Add structure

Now start organizing your slides.

  • Order the information logically
  • Inject a bold statement / interesting fact every 2-3 slides
    This call-out keeps your audience hooked
  • Add a short “In this presentation” overview at the start

3. Apply the rules of a good presentation

Add an “In this presentation” slide

A few bullet points describing the contents / structure of what’s going to be covered in the presentation

Keep slides short!

  • Don’t show more than 6 words to the audience at at time.
  • Use your speaker notes to guide yourself through your chat.

People can not read and listen at the same time, so give people the time to read those 6 words and then deliver your pitch.

Use animation

Simple “Fade-in on click” animations are a great way to limit the amount of visible text and avoid people from reading along / ahead.
Use short fade times to avoid things feeling sluggish.

Need to distribute your slides as hand-outs later? Then hide the verbose bits while speaking by using animation. You can then easily skip over the long part

Ruthlessly delete text

The passion you may feel for your topic is likely not shared by your audience. Also it might not all be relevant for them.
People pay more attention when they feel your message is relevant to them.

So, delete all slides or text that does not strictly contribute to the message you want to convey or that is not strictly relevant to your audience.

Use words that your audience knows

Adjust your message to your audience.
If you deliver a scientific breakthrough in nano-technology to a group of investment bankers you need to adjust your wording.
Dumb it down, if you must.

You want to communicate a message.
Not appear to be a show off.

Make it fun

Even when presenting to strangers, adding a sense of humor helps you in 2 ways:

  1. The presentation becomes more enjoyable for everyone
  2. You look confident

Someone who delivers a very serious chat without humor is prone to become nervous. Every mistake will stand out and contribute to the nervousness.
Lace your chat with humor and you’ll be able to brush of mistakes much more easily.

Limit the amount of slides

No one likes long presentations. As a rule of thumb, 8-12 slides is a good target.

Don’t count slides that show a quick fact (call out) or that are there for the fun factor.

Claim authority

Are you presenting to people who do not know you?
Add an introductory slide which states that you are someone who knows about the subject you are talking about.

Example presentation using Google Slides

Here’s an example presentation for in-company use.
I’ve used my company’s internal, overly-used template but made it fun by replacing the standard imagery for new, more funny images that follow the same recognizable style.

Note the use of animation everywhere to avoid people are reading what I’m telling them. Once I’ve brought across my message I will let the full text appear. That way the slides serve as hand outs too.
Arguably this is not an ideal approach, but it’s been working for me very well.

Communication Sales

Landing long-term projects

In my experience, the best part of selling a project is the price negotiations. This is where it all comes together and you earn your bread, butter and hopefully some tasty extras.

Here are some tips based on my own experiences.

Be trustworthy

As a sales person it’s not just your task to land a deal.

You must genuinely want to help the customer solve his problems at a price that is good for them and good for you. This may sometimes even mean that you should refer them to someone else.
Being a genuinely trustworthy person is key in landing long term contracts.

Paint the future

For every project there’s a budget. Sometimes you’ll know about it, but more often than not your price quote will be compared with that of other companies.

What worked well for me is to sit down and rethink the customer’s request. What is his problem and what is the best, minimal solution to satisfy his needs.

While thinking up the solution I maintain 2 lists: The main solution and the “next level” functionality.
My quote will detail the main solution that satisfies the basic requirements and its price. I may even leave out customer requests that I consider to be icing on the cake. This will reduce the risk of being too expensive.

Then I add a future iterations section in which I sketch all the “next-level” additions which I think would make the solution even better.
Here I don’t add any pricing information to not make the document too bulky. Besides, odds are that the next-level stuff needs more discussion anyway.

The power of this approach is:

  • Your quote is likely to not be rejected for being the most expensive one.
  • You show you have thought about the solution and the interests of the customer. This will help gain their trust.
  • The first version of your product will be smaller and is more likely to:
    • Be delivered in time (adding to the trust)
    • Work well
      Smaller projects tend to be easier to deliver
    • Cover the needs of the customer but leave then wanting!

What is not included

A good quote doesn’t only describe what will be delivered at what price, but also what will NOT be included in the price.

For example:

  • How many design iterations are included in the price?
  • Who will take care of the hosting?
  • If there’s a problem with the server(s) on which the product runs, who is responsible for that?
  • Who will pay for (recurring) licence fees?
  • How about bug fixes?
    Who takes the risk of bugs that appear after the software has been accepted by the customer?


Again, it’s very easy both for supplier and customer to only think about the execution of the project itself and not about what happens after the project is done and the product has been delivered.

But once they really start using it it’s likely the customer will need support, trainings, bug-fixes and they will want this within what they consider reasonable timeframes.
But you may not have the time, nor resources to cater to their needs at that moment.

That’s why it’s very important to agree on aftersales.
Basically a rudimentary service level agreement is needed.

Things to cover are:

  • What rates / timelines apply for additional work?
  • What rates / timelines apply for bug-fixes?
  • Who will maintain the infrastructure on which the system runs?
    • In case the customer does this but needs help, what timelines and rates apply there?