Persuasive Coaching: The Right Relationship, The Right Coach

Not too long ago, on a Saturday afternoon I was having a cup of coffee with my daughter Abigail. One of her friends stopped by and as you might expect, the conversation turned to what each of them had done the previous Friday night.

Abigail’s friend talked about how she and her boyfriend played pool. Her friend said she’s not a good pool player and her boyfriend tried to “coach” her. If you’re thinking, “I bet that didn’t go too well,” you’re right.

After a while I shared with the two of them that in order for coaching to work you have to have the right relationship and the right coach. For example, my wife Jane is an avid golfer. On her best days, she shoots in the upper 70s. I learned the game as a kid, took lots of lessons, and even played at one of the best courses in the United States – Jack Nicklaus’s Muirfield Village Golf Course. Despite my background, I don’t give Jane any advice unless specifically asked. If you’re been married for any length of time you know what I’m talking about. Having shared that, many people – perhaps even you – could give unsolicited advice to Jane and she’d give it serious consideration.

This phenomenon doesn’t just apply to spousal relationships. Why is this the case? Sometimes the more we’re known the more we’re taken for granted. Jesus noticed this an said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (New Living Translation)

Sometimes those most familiar to us, even though they have our best interest at heart, are rejected when it comes to advice. This can happen in business as well as personal life. Someone within the confines of a company can be seen as just a coworker and not an expert even though they may have plenty of expertise.

How can you overcome this? Tap into the principle of authority in two specific ways; create expertise inside the business and establish your expertise outside of your company.

Within the business work on getting one coworker to listen to your advice and try it. Once you’ve done this (assuming your advice worked well) you’ve established beachhead of sorts. With one person won over it becomes easier to win over the second, third and so on. By doing this you gain advocates (the principle of consensus) which makes future opportunities easier because those advocates can “brag on you” in ways you cannot, at least without seeming like a boastful jerk.

Outside of the business how can you establish expertise? You can blog, write a book, give presentations, create videos to name just a few. As you do this and begin to gain some notoriety. When people at work see others paying attention to your expertise it’s likely they will too. That’s also the power of the principle of consensus.

When it comes to persuasive coaching, assuming you’ve done a good job establishing rapport and building trust, people want to know they’re dealing with someone who really knows their stuff – an expert. What are you good at, known for and/or passionate about? Make sure others know that about you and you’ll begin to attract the right people to coach because you’ll have the right relationship and be seen as the right coach.

8 Simple Phrases to Become a More Persuasive Salesperson

I think it’s safe to say the easier something is to remember the more likely you are to act on it. State Auto’s Chief Sales Officer Clyde Fitch drove home this truth during his tenure with the company. Clyde had many memorable sayings we affectionately called “Clyde-isms.” He used these simple messages to drive home various points. Here are just a few of Clyde’s well-known sayings:

“Self-interest isn’t the only horse in the race but it’s the one to bet on.” A great picture of the reality that most people will do what’s in their best interest most of the time.

“If you only have bananas, sell bananas.” Don’t complain about what you don’t have or bemoan what your competitor has. Instead, make the best of what you’ve got because complaining gets you nowhere.

“Creativity is fine. Plagiarism is fast.” Learn from others by taking what they do well and making it your own. Sometimes it’s not about originality, it’s about having the tool to get the job done quickly.

I’ve learned a lot from Clyde and as I reflect on his “Clyde-isms,” I recall influence phrases that can serve the same purpose for you. Below are eight that will help you be a more persuasive salesperson if you commit them to memory.

“People live up to what they write down.” It’s scientifically proven people are more likely to do what you want if you can get them to put pen to paper. The act of writing and the visual reminder of what was written compel people to follow through more than those who don’t engage in this simple act. This is the principle of consistency.

“Less is more.” Hitting people over the head with too many facts, features, benefits, etc., works against you. One study showed this when people were asked to list reasons they would buy a particular car. Contrary to what most people would guess, those who listed fewer reasons felt more compelled to buy the car! It’s easy to come up with three reasons (probably the best ones come most easily) but if you struggle to list 10 reasons you might convince yourself the car isn’t the right one for you after all. This is the principle of scarcity.

“In wins!” This phrase is short for, “If you retreat in the moment you win. If you retreat from the moment you lose.” No matter how good a salesperson you are people will say no to you. However, if you come in with a second proposal immediately you’re very likely to hear yes because you’re seen as a reasonable, somewhat giving person. This is an application of the principle of reciprocity.

“Compared to what?” In sales you hear “Your price is too high” all the time. Something can only be high or low, big or small, inexpensive or expensive compared to something else. You need to know what that something else is because all too often it’s not a valid comparison. Yes, this Cadillac is expensive…compared to the Volkswagen you currently own…and there are lots of reasons for the difference in price. This is the contrast phenomenon.

“Keeping up with the Joneses.” Despite the fact that we’re all individuals and want to be recognized as such, people are social creatures. We want to know what others are doing; especially those who are most like us, because that’s an indicator we should be moving with the crowd. If you’re a salesperson touting what other customers (just like the one you’re talking to) have done makes getting the sale much easier. You may have heard this called peer pressure, social proof or the principle of consensus.

“People like to do business with people they like.” I’ve heard people say, “My job isn’t to be liked, it’s to get things done.” You may not be paid to be liked but you’ll get a lot more accomplished if people like you. So why not make friends of coworkers, vendors, clients and others so you can accomplish more (that’s what you’re paid to do!)? Oh yea, and one other benefit – you’ll enjoy what you do even more than you currently do. This is the liking principle.

“No pain, no gain!” This too is short for a longer phrase, “People are more motivated by what they stand to lose versus what they might gain.” Studies from Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and his late research partner Amos Tversky proved that people generally feel the pain of loss anywhere from 2.0-2.5 times more than the joy of gaining the same thing. Point out the downside of not going with your proposal and people will me more motivated to take it. This is the principle of scarcity.

“Stop telling and start asking.” Nobody wants to be told what to do but beyond being polite there’s another reason to ask instead of tell. Once someone tells you (verbally or written) they’ll do something, research shows they’re much more likely to do so as opposed to those who are told. Ask people questions to get them to verbalize what they want and your job as a salesperson gets a whole lot easier. That’s because asking triggers the principle of consistency.

So there you have it, eight short phrases I encourage you to commit to memory. Do so and you’ll become a more persuasive person as you recall them and act on them.

Don’t be so Quick to Restock that Shelf

My daughter Abigail’s good friend, Maxie, used to work at a bakery in our hometown of Westerville.  One Saturday morning Abigail and I stopped by to say hello and get a sugary treat after having coffee. I noticed Maxie was busy replacing donuts and making sure the pastry trays were completely full. Unfortunately, it was a bad persuasion move on her part.

I asked Maxie why she was so quick to restock the trays after a few donuts or pastries were purchased. She said the bakery owner liked the trays to be full and he believed they looked better that way. I told her that approach is actually working against the bakery making more sales. Let me explain.

Two principles of influence were potentially at work in the bakery if the situation was handled correctly. The first was consensus – we look to others to see how we should behave in certain situations. The second principle was scarcity – we value things more when they’re rare or diminishing.

When people walk into a bakery and see a tray with very few donuts left, consensus kicks in as the first thought is – those must be good donuts because everyone seems to be buying them. Next comes scarcity – with so few donuts left, if I don’t get one soon I might not be able to get one. Both principles become a huge draw do make a purchase!

I’m pretty confident the owner of that bakery has many things for employees to do other than constantly restocking the shelves. One big thing would be having them engage customers and sharing what items are “selling like hotcakes.”

Have you ever been to a store where you obviously needed help but an employee or employees seem more concerned with stocking the shelves? That’s frustrating. Some of that may be due to their hesitancy to interact with people but I’m sure some of the pressure comes from a manager who feels fully stocked shelves is a high priority for the store. Not smart if you want to sell more goods.

Think about where you work. Are there things you have that people actually see? If so, don’t be so quick to “restock the shelves” because doing so reduces the impact of consensus and scarcity. Rather, manage the process so you convey what other people are buying and get your customer to “act now” so they don’t lose an opportunity. If you’re worried about employees standing around, teach them how positively engage customers in such a way that customers enjoy the buying experience and keep coming back.

V = WIG/P … What?

Don’t worry; this post isn’t about algebra or calculus. This week we’re going to look into the value proposition and how salespeople can use the principles of influence to make sure their product or service offering shines.

First, let me say my introduction to the value proposition came nearly 20 years ago when John Petrucci joined State Auto. I learned more about sales from John in his first year with the company than I had in my previous 10 years in the industry. One concept he shared with me, and others throughout the company, was the following formula for the value proposition:


Value equals What I Get divided by Price

Let me illustrate. Let’s say currently you can buy 12 widgets for $6. That means the value of each widget is 2. At some point in the future, if you can get 18 widgets for $6 then the value of each widget is 3. Or, maybe you can get still get 12 widgets but now they’re only $3, which makes the value of each widget 4. In each case the value of the widget has gone up which is a better deal for you!

Conversely, if you can only get 12 widgets but the price has gone up to $8, then the value of each widget is only 1.50. Perhaps the price stayed at $6 but now you can only get six widgets. The value you get from widgets has dropped to 1. In both cases, not as good a deal as it once was.

Bottom line; if you can get more and pay the same OR if you get the same but pay less, you’ve received more value. On the flip side, if you get the same and pay more OR get less but pay the same as you always have, then you’ve received less value.

Oh if life were only so easy as a formula! If it were, we would just plug in the numbers and always make the best choice. But here’s the problem – rarely do things play out in real life like they do in the classroom or on paper. Most of the time what we’re offering, be it a product or service, has many components that become hard to value in a formula. Here’s an example from the insurance industry. Many people assume one automobile insurance policy is like another. To some degree that’s true but here are factors that may account for much of the price difference:

  • Coverages – Not all policies have the same coverages and not all have the same coverage limits. More coverage or higher limits means paying more.
  • Bells and whistles – Many policies have extra coverages that are intended to make the policy more valuable. While these may be free (you can’t remove them and save money) they add value to the policy.
  • Claims – Not all companies handle claims the same. Those with better claims service usually charge more because they have more and better staff.

As you can see, it becomes hard to measure value when there are so many factors involved. However, if you’re in sales you’d better know how your product or service is different from your competitors. Your offering may not appeal to everyone but you may have a niche market you go after. That usually makes highlighting value easier.

So how you do use some of the principles of influence to highlight value? Here are three easy-to-incorporate examples.

Authority – People look to experts for guidance when they’re not sure what to do. Can you point to unbiased sources that show the superiority of your product or service in certain areas? Can you fall back on your expertise (years in the business, training, breadth of experience) to make a potential customer feel more comfortable?

Consensus – Humans are essentially pack animals. The vast majority of people feel better knowing what others have said about a product. Can you incorporate information about what the masses think about your product? Is there an opportunity to narrow the focus to people just like the person you’re trying to sell to?

Scarcity – People are much more motivated by what they may lose versus what they might gain. Talking about saving $100 (if your product is less expensive) will not be as effective as telling the prospective customer what they’ll will lose out on by overpaying.

Most people only have a vague idea about the value of what they’re getting even when they do a little research. For more on that just go back and reread my article on buying something as simple as an iron. Do we really know the value of the work done on our car? How about buying a lawnmower? Hiring a personal trainer? The list could go on and on with products or services where we can only “ballpark” to get an estimate of value.

A good salesperson will ask lots of questions to identify someone’s needs. From there they’ll begin to point people to products or services that best meet those needs. While doing so they will look for ways to ethically incorporate authority, consensus and scarcity to the degree that each is available. Doing so will help highlight the value of their offer and lead to a better buying experience for the customer.

So remember, even if you’re not a math whiz, V= WIG/P is a formula you want to know cold if you hope to succeed in sales.

Ironing out the Buying Thought Process

I’ve been on the road a lot lately. In a recent stretch I was gone Monday through Thursday or Friday four weeks in row. When I returned from a recent trip, my wife, Jane, had gone to Myrtle Beach to spend time with her family. I was left with a daunting task: two-dozen shirts to iron!

But there was a problem; our iron was ruined not long ago when I dropped it on the floor. Before I could start ironing I needed to buy a new iron, something I knew nothing about. I’d like to let you in on my thought process as I made the purchase. I don’t think I’m much different than any of you reading this so perhaps it will help you understand why you do what you do when it comes to certain purchasing decisions.

Let’s start with this fact – the vast majority of our decision-making takes place at the subconscious level. Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology (yes, I spelled it correctly) contends non-conscious forces drive upwards of 85% of our decision-making. People who’ve been in sales for any length of time understand this and that’s why it’s often said, “People buy based on emotion then justify with logic.”

My first decision was where to go to get the iron. I ended up at Target. I guess I could have stopped by Sears, Wal-Mart or some lesser-known stores but I didn’t even consider them because prior experiences at Target have been good, their prices are reasonable and Target is burned into my subconscious more than the other stores because of their advertising.

After asking a clerk where I could find irons I ended up in front of shelving full of irons ranging in price from $12.99 to

$89.99. Immediately I knew I would not spend anywhere close to $12.99 because having some cheap irons in the past and using them at hotels is frustrating. I also knew there was no way I’d pay anywhere near $89.99 for an iron because ironing as little as I do doesn’t necessitate one that would be used in a laundry mat.

As I looked at all the different the models I saw several options from Shark. I’d heard of Shark and seen some commercials and remembered their products seemed unique although I couldn’t recall specifics. Other than glancing at some other brands I really gave all my attention to the Shark models.

As I looked at the Shark irons they did look different than all the others and the price range was reasonable with the low-end model for $29.99 (Lightweight Professional) and the top of the line model for $49.99 (Ultimate Professional). There was one other model for $39.99 (Professional Steam Power).

At this point I did what most discriminating shoppers do – I compared. Did I need 1800 watts, 1600 or 1500? Was the 9.5 inch base, 9.0 or 8.5 best for me? Does it matter that one is 3.6 lbs., 3.3 lbs. or 2.0 lbs.? Decisions, decisions, decision, all of which I knew nothing about.

That led me to one more decision criteria; what do people say about each model? That was easy enough to look up on my phone as I stood in the aisle. Each iron had 4.5 stars, some with more than 100 reviews. I felt comfortable because people just like me (principle of consensus) thought highly of each model so I felt better and better about my potential Shark decision.

With all that going on in my head which model did I buy? I bought the $39.99 model, which is what most people would do. I remember thinking, “Do I really need the top of the line and will those subtle feature differences be worth it?” I also thought, “If I buy the low-end model will I regret it because maybe it turns out a be a little cheap?” The middle seemed to be a safe alternative.

Most companies offer three product models (cars, shoes, bread makers, etc.) exactly because of the thinking I outlined above. Some people will want the top of the line, some will default the cheapest but most people will buy in the middle. If a company removes its high priced model the average sale will drop because some people buy the top of the line but also because more people will shift from the mid-range product down to the lowest priced model. Pay attention next time you’re in a store and see if you begin to notice the three choice offerings.

Although I’m in tune with buying, selling and psychology, I must admit, it was an interesting exercise to really pay attention to what was driving my purchasing decision. I got home and used that iron for three hours as I knocked out all the shirts at once. I must say, I was pleased with my purchase – at least that’s what my mind told me.


Influencers from Around the World – Paradox of “The Bridge of Life”

Hoh Kim has been a guest blogger for Influence PEOPLE since I began the Influencers from Around the World series more than five years ago. I met Hoh when we went through the Cialdini certification training together. At the time Hoh had his MA but it’s with great pleasure I can now say Hoh now has his doctorate, as well! Hoh received his Ph.D. in

Culture Technology from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; his dissertation title was “Psychological and neural influences of public apology on audience responses in corporate crisis situations.” I know you’ll enjoy his post on the paradox of “the bridge of life.”

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


Paradox of “The Bridge of Life”

On September 1, 2015, Seoul city metropolitan government announced that they would discontinue “The Bridge of Life” which was established in August 2012 by cooperation between Seoul city metropolitan government and Samsung Life Insurance. Cheil Communication, the largest advertising agency in Korea, a subsidiary firm of Samsung Group, developed the idea. The idea and project received positive spotlights from both local and international media. “The bridge of life” received more than 30 international awards including Titanium Lion winner at Cannes Lions and Clio Awards in 2013.

What is the bridge of life? It is an interactive storytelling bridge and as you walk across the bridge, the bridge talks to you. Click here to watch a short video.

For your information, Korea has unfortunately been the number one country among OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) in terms of the number of suicides for more than a decade.

Mapo Bridge is one of the 31 bridges crossing Han River in Seoul, and it has a notorious nickname — “the bridge for suicide” — as more people tried suicide on this bridge than any other in Seoul. That’s why city government made the bridge of life. What were the results? In 2012, 15 people “tried” suicide on the Mapo Bridge. Then, “the bridge of life” was established. Surprisingly 93 people “tried” suicide on the bridge. There is an argument. In 2012, 60% of the people who “tried” suicide on the Mapo Bridge were saved, but in 2013, 94.6% (85 out of 93) was saved from the suicide attempts. In 2014, 184 people “tried” suicide on the bridge (I don’t have the number of people who survived in that year). Regardless, the survival rate, it was clear that many more people tried suicide in “the bridge of life.”

What was the problem? A possible explanation can come from “side effects” of social proof principle. When Dr. Cialdini explained the principle of social proof – i.e., people follow the lead of many/similar others – he warned to be careful not to use it with negative information. Even though I have lived in Seoul for more than 40 years, I came to know the fact that more people tried suicide on the Mapo Bridge than any other bridge in Seoul through the “Bridge of Life” campaign. I think the side effect of social proof influenced the surge of suicide trials on the bridge. However, to be honest, when I first heard about the campaign around 2013 from TV News, I thought the idea of the bridge was fascinating, and could not predict the side effect of the social proof principle.

What are the lessons out of it? Two things. First, when we design a campaign, we have to look at closely at whether there are any side effects of the campaign. How can we do that? The “red team” from the American soap opera “Newsroom” might help. Red team is a sort of Devil’s advocate. Red team intentionally attacks an idea so that we can cross check whether there is any downside of a project.

Second, the Bridge of Life project was a persuasion project where the campaign tried to influence to reduce actual suicide and suicide attempts. When there is any persuasion project, the best reference would be six principles of influence by Dr. Cialdini as he reviewed influence psychology of more than 60 years and found six universal principles.

By applying and checking against the principles, you can create a better persuasion campaign and avoid any pitfall of the campaign. When I first heard about the Bridge of Life, I should have carefully thought about the campaign against the principles, both their applications and side effects.

Hoh Kim, Ph.D.
Founder, Head Coach & Lead
Facilitator, THE LAB h


The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Objections

“Let me think about it” and “Your price is too
high” are two phrases salespeople dread. They’re perhaps the most often cited
objections put out by prospects during the sales cycle. As I noted in closing
last week, it’s not often a sale is made without resistance. Objections might
come after your presentation or they could be peppered throughout. This week
we’ll look at some principles of influence that can be very helpful in overcoming

Two principles that are particularly useful
are consensus and authority. They’re the ones to focus on because more than any
other principles they help people overcome uncertainty and that’s the root of
most objections. We’ll also touch on the contrast phenomenon because it’s
particularly useful to demonstrate your offering is actually a better deal than
the prospect might believe.
You may have heard the old saying, “The devil
you know is better than the devil you don’t.” What that means is, as bad as
things may be sometimes, there’s always the chance they could be worse with
change. That fear of change is always in the back of the prospect’s mind,
especially with big-ticket purchases. Below are a few thoughts prospects may have
as you present. In fact, you may have held some of these very thoughts last
time you bought something expensive. 
  • Will it last?
  • Will it perform as advertised?
  • Will it be worth the extra money?
  • Will I regret this decision down the road?
  • Can I really believe the salesperson’s claims? 

The challenge for the salesperson is to
uncover the real objection. For example, when it comes to, “Let me think about
it,” there may be something underneath that statement. Perhaps the prospect met
with another salesperson and kept their appointment with you only because they
said they would. It’s okay to ask, “What specifically will you be mulling over?
I ask because I might be able to answer some questions for you right now to
make the decision easier for you.” People generally don’t like confrontation so
it’s easier to avoid it by saying, “Let me think it over.”
Let’s start with price. When it comes to price
I tell people, “There’s nothing high or low but comparing makes it so.” If
someone says your price is too high it’s because they are comparing it to
something else. Your challenge is to find out what they’re comparing your price
to and then to reset the comparison point so they’ll see your offer
is actually a better value. The contrast phenomenon comes into play because
what you present first will make the difference in how they perceive the next
item presented.
The principle of consensus, that desire we
have to move with the crowd, can help deal with objections. You never want to
tell someone they’re wrong because that will only produce resistance. A better
approach would be to incorporate consensus through the “feel, felt, found”
approach. An example might go like this:
“I understand how you feel because other
customers have felt the same way initially. However, here’s what they found…”
Then you go on to show them what others discovered. It might be the realization
that a higher price, say 10%, is worth it because the product life is 20%
longer. Getting 20% more product for only 10% more money makes for a better
When we’re in a state of uncertainty making a
decision is a lot easier when an expert tells us what to do. Establishing your
expertise early on in the prospecting phase makes this much easier. That’s
using the principle of authority. You can defer to this casually:
“Ann, as I told you when we first met, I’ve
been doing this for 25 years and I can tell you…”
Maybe you don’t have that much experience or
the credentials just yet in order to be viewed as an expert. You can still
refer to others who are experts and you can share various facts to support your
“Bill, there’s a reason Consumer Reports has
rated this product #1 for the past three years.”
“Sarah, several independent studies show…”
Dealing with objections isn’t something most
salespeople look forward to but there’s good news. First, most of the time
people who throw up objections are engaged in the sales process and that means
you still have a shot at making the sale.
Second, if you’ve been in your role for any
length of time you probably know 80% or more of the objections you’ll face.
That being the case, you should be ready to answer those objections each and
every time. Give thought to the proper responses, utilize the psychology or
persuasion, then drill on the proper responses until they roll off your tongue
in a very natural way.
Even if you successfully handle all the objections
and the prospect clearly wants to do business with you the sale might not be a
foregone conclusion. It’s very likely you’ll find yourself negotiating over
price, terms, conditions or other items related to your product or service. The
next post will look into which principles of influence will help you negotiate
most effectively.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Qualification

You made it through the first meeting with the
prospect, rapport was established and he/she liked you enough to allow you to
come back and continue the sales process. And you enjoyed the prospect enough
to want to pursue the business. Now it’s time to determine if you can do
business with the prospect. By that I mean, after you do your fact finding, you
have to honestly assess whether or not what you have to offer can help him/her.

On the flip side, you also want to figure out
whether or not you want to pursue the prospect any further because not all
business is good business. If you get sense that prospects’ demands will be
more than you want to take on, or if you begin to get the feeling you might not
like working with them, this is the time to politely back out of the process.
Better to not take on a customer than to have to end up “firing” him/her.
As you qualify the prospect through a series
of well-planned questions the principle of consistency becomes very important. During
the follow up meetings after the initial contact, you want to ask LOTS of
questions. A rule of thumb is that a good salesperson should talk no more than
25%-30% of the time. That might be contrary to what you’ve experienced with
salespeople in the past because a misperception about salespeople is they have
to have “the gift of gab” to talk people into anything. Nothing could be
further from the truth! Excellent salespeople talk so little because they ask
good questions that allow the prospect to do most of the talking. Excellent
salespeople are also good listeners because it doesn’t do any good to ask the
right questions if they don’t care about the answers.
Here are some benefits of asking good
  1. They allow the prospect to feel in control of
    the situation.
  2. They help you gather information so you can
    understand the prospect’s needs.
  3. They will let you know whether or not you
    should go forward. If you can’t meet the prospect’s needs or requirements then be
    honest, remove yourself from the sales process and go work with prospects you can
  4. They help you tailor your presentation or
  5. You will be able to tie back what you
    ultimately propose to what the prospect told you in earlier meetings. This is where
    consistency becomes a powerful principle to leverage the sale.  

One more point about questions. Whether you
win or lose an account, you should always try to understand why. Replicate your
winning behaviors and change whatever led to you not making the sale. When you
lose, you need to see if there’s a question or two you can add to your qualification
process to avoid that from happening again. For example, if you find out the
prospect’s brother-in-law works for the company the prospect is currently doing
business with then add a question in your qualification process to uncover that
next time. Refining your questions over time will make you more efficient and
Last, consider scarcity as you go through the
qualification phase. People naturally want more of what they don’t have, can’t
have or perceive as going away. By asking the right questions you can start to
highlight what prospects might be missing currently and they’ll want it more.
An example from insurance might be the following: 

Agent – “If you’re like most customers I work
with you probably want to make sure your building is fully covered in the event
of a total loss, correct?” 

Prospect – “Of course. I can’t get stuck
paying tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket if the building burns or a
tornado takes it down. That’s why I buy insurance.” 

Agent – “How about your employees? If your
business was shut down for six months or longer would you want them to come
back when you reopen? 

Prospect – “Sure. Without them I have no

Agent – “I thought so but right now you don’t have business income coverage. If
you can’t pay them while the rebuilding is going on they’ll end up looking for
other jobs so they can pay their bills and feed their families. Should I include this coverage in your

Prospect – “I never thought about that. I
couldn’t afford to hire new people, retrain them and do all the other stuff you
have to do with new employees. Yea, include it so we can see what it will cost.”

Tom Hopkins, a well-know sales trainer and
author regularly tells audiences, “If you say it, they doubt it. When they say
it, they believe it.” Telling prospects what they need is never as effective as
them seeing the need themselves and verbalizing it. This comes about more
easily when you know you product or service and ask the right questions.
Next week we’ll delve into the presentation or
demonstration with a prospect looking to leverage certain principles of
influence that will help that go smoothly.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Influencers from Around the World – Consensus + Scarcity = FAIL!

This month, our Influencers from
Around the World guest post comes from Anthony McLean, a long-time contributor
to Influence PEOPLE. Anthony is Australia’s one and only Cialdini Method Certified
Trainer (CMCT®). He started the Social Consulting Group where he teaches people and
organizations the principles of influence. Reach out to Anthony on LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more from him.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Consensus + Scarcity = FAIL
Recently I have noticed a very
interesting phenomenon. Consensus is failing to have the impact it is intended
to have. In our time,  the cues to guide
our behaviour are more prevalent and appreciated than ever before. For example,
when I land on an online shopping page, the reviews, ratings, and testimonials
provide me with vitally important information such as others like me have been
here before; this vendor can be trusted; the products are as they are
described; and so on.  In the traditional
sense it is these cues that help me overcome my uncertainty and help me make a
Therefore when I am not sure of
what I should do, I look to the actions of others; especially in unknown and
untested situations. And not just any others, I look to those most like me to
guide my behaviour. 
Rest assured my friends, Consensus
is truly a principle that, when used well, saves time, promotes sales, and
builds communities. It’s a cracker (Australian for really good, awesome, etc.)!
What then, I hear you say, does
the title of this post mean? Let me tell you, but first let me pose a mystery.
Why would a leading publically listed company make a wrongheaded decision and
turn away from the actions of others?
In the delivery of the Principles
of Persuasion Workshops, my keynotes and in my consulting and coaching, I
continually stress to my audience that not all testimonials are same. We know
that by distilling the testimonial data, drilling into the case studies, and
sharing what people most like you are doing now or have done in the past, will
have a great impact on your “persuadee’s” behaviour.
However, recently I have been
working in a space in which the products on offer between companies are very
similar. Many industries have been through a phase in which they have competed
on price. However to cut prices they must cut margin and then services and
ultimately their perceived value. Those industries then got to a point where
price was no longer a determining factor. While they could have continued to
compete on price, at some point there needed to be platform based on value, relationships,
and/or loyalty. The change had to come because buying customers through discounts
was bringing about the wrong type of relationship, where every dollar was held
tightly. Dishonesty between provider and customer was rife because of the
perception that every dollar mattered and after all it was just a transactional
relationship; those who got or saved the most money won!
It is at this point a nuance of
Consensus kicks in; the suppliers are all in the same industry, they offer
similar products, they compete for the same customers, staff and leaders, but
they do not see themselves as the same as each other. How do I know? 
If you present to an organization
evidence of what others in the industry are doing, rather than move toward your
ideas, they immediately repel, back away and dismiss what others in their
industry are doing. Showing them what many others in their industry are doing,
creates a drive in initiative to be different and cut a new path, one less
travelled, in an effort to attract disgruntled and disenfranchised customers
looking to leave their current provider in search of something better. The
competition is so great in this industry that the drive to be unique, to be
something truly valuable, outweighs the power of Consensus.
Now I am not saying Consensus will
not work in this industry – quite the contrary. However, , Consensus can fail to
influence behaviour because of Scarcity – if the competition is doing it we
must do something different and  be seen
as unique. We must have a clear USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and can’t be
the same because then the consumer will not be able to tell us apart. 
In this instance Scarcity was
trumping Consensus.
So what are you to do? Firstly
don’t get caught up in labels and demographics. Just because Company A and
Company B are in the same industry they may not see themselves as the same. Therefore
ask the decision makers you are seeking to influence about their values, their
vision and whom they think across the business world is most like them.  Then start to research, dig into those
companies that your persuadee sees themselves like and show them what those
companies are doing in similar situations. 
Therefore why did a publically
listed company turn away from the crowd and make a decision that seemed at odds
with their industry? Because they did not see themselves as the same as others
in their industry. They were different. They were unique. They were
competitors. Therefore they would do things differently, cut new directions and
be innovative – they wanted to be Apple. So we showed them what Apple did and
low and behold they sat up and took notice. 
By the way they were not in the
same league as Apple but it didn’t matter – in their eyes – they were, so
that’s what we showed them to change their thinking.

Anthony McLean, CMCT®

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Prospecting defines a prospect as “a
potential or likely customer.” By extension, prospecting is the act of
searching for potential or likely customers in hopes of setting up an initial

How salespeople go about prospecting varies by
industry, product or service, and personality. Here are just a few ways in
which salespeople tackle prospecting: 
  1. Cold calls – Getting on the phone and asking
    to speak to a decision maker.
  2. Mailings – We all get marketing fliers and brochures in
    the mail where businesses hope we’ll respond.
  3. Email blasts – It’s easy to find email
    addresses to build a database. This approach is more effective than mailings
    because you can send the same message to hundreds or thousands at a time with
    little effort or cost.
  4. Door hangers – Bypass the mailbox and go
    door-to-door leaving marketing material.
  5. Door-to-Door – It used to be the case that
    salespeople simply knocked on doors to meet people and sell their wares. This
    is a very time consuming and expensive approach!
  6. Internet – You can search by various criteria
    to see who or what businesses in a geographic area fit your customer profile
    with a goal of target marketing.
  7. Conventions – Going to some event where you
    set up a booth and interact with customers.

The list could go on and on and I’m sure
you’re thinking of a way or two to prospect that I’ve not touched on. Creative
prospecting means doing something to stand out from the crowd, something that
makes people take note and listen to you when they’re not paying attention to others.
The focus of this article is not to cover the
different ways of looking for customers. The purpose is to talk about the
principles of influence that will give you the best chance to stand out using
whatever approach is best for you. You have one overriding goal when you’re
prospecting – to get an initial meeting with a potential decision maker.
When you’re requesting time with someone, did
you know they’re listening to their favorite radio station? That’s right, they’re
tuned on to WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? In other words, with all the other
salespeople who would like their business why should they meet with you?
First and foremost, and this can’t be
emphasized enough, you have to believe in your company and product. Will doing
business with you make the prospect better off in the long run? If you don’t
believe it will, if you doubt your company or product, prospects will sniff you
out like an animal smells fear. It’s a survival instinct. For the sake of this
series I’m going to assume you have that belief in your company, product and
your potential to help the customer.
Knowing the prospect is uncertain about
whether or not to give you consideration, the three principles that come into
play most prominently when prospecting are consensusauthority and scarcity.

It’s natural for the vast majority of people
to feel comfortable going along with the crowd. That’s the principle of
consensus at work. It’s natural because we look to others when we’re not 100%
certain of the course of action we should take. Just remember the old adage,
“There’s safety in numbers.”

In your marketing material, emails, phone calls,
etc., can you tap into this principle by talking about all customers you
already serve? The more you have, the more that consensus comes into play. Allstate Insurance did this effectively many years ago when its spokesman Dennis Haysbert stood in the Rose Bowl
and said 100,000 people would watch a game there on Saturday. He went on to say
Allstate filled the stadium ten times with the number of people who made the
switch last year. When more than one million customers switch insurance
companies you can bet many viewers called an Allstate agent or went online to
If you don’t have a huge number, or even of
you do, it’s always more effective when you can point out customers or clients
who are just like the prospect you’re talking to. After all, dealing with a
restaurant owner can be very different than dealing with a grocery store owner,
or hotel manager for example. When talking to one of those business owners, if
you can refer to other restaurants, grocery stores or hotels you do business
with, the prospect will feel more comfortable and you’ll gain much more
Speaking of credibility, the other principle
of influence that comes into play is authority. When people are unsure what to
do, quite often they want to defer to an expert, someone they view as having
superior knowledge or wisdom. This can be conveyed through your title, years in
business or years of experience, awards you’ve won, degrees you’ve earned,
credentials and designations. Any opportunity to get this information in front
of a prospect conveys you have expertise. It’s a strong reason for them to
consider meeting with you as opposed to someone who lacks expertise or has not
conveyed their expertise.

The last principle that could come into play
is scarcity. It’s a natural response to want things more when we
believe we can’t get them anywhere else. Does your company, product or service
have something unique or a combination of features that make it unique? This is
important because you want the prospect to see he/she can’t get something
exactly like what you’re offering anywhere else. If so, and you point it out so
they understand what they might lose by not considering you, that might be
enough for them to give you that initial meeting.

So the three principles to thoughtfully
consider as you approach potential clients during the prospecting phase of the
sales cycle are: consensus, authority and scarcity. Engage any or all of these
ethically and correctly and you should land more initial meetings with

Next time we’ll look at the initial meeting
with a prospect and how to leverage that opportunity using the principles of
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.