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Fear of Missing Out and the Black Friday Madness

Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping day of the year, is just days away. This year, Friday, November 24th, will be the unofficial start of the Christmas season. Throngs of people will make their way to malls all across the country hoping to get some of the best deals on holiday gifts.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say people will act like crazed fans at a football game or soccer match. The news will show us scenes of people fighting over items, shoving each other out of the way to get to the hottest toys and trampling one another the moment stores open.

So much for the season of giving and the spirit of joy!

What causes normal people will do some very abnormal things in hopes of getting the best deal? Why would someone stand in line for hours waiting for a store to open when they could visit that same store any day of the week? And why to people forego sleep, getting up hours earlier than they have to on their day off? Fear of missing out.

Fear of missing out taps into scarcity, the psychological principle of influence that tells us people value things more when they’re rare or appear to be less available. Scarcity can be triggered by time constraints and competition for a limited number of items.

Black Friday naturally taps into time constraints because it only happens one day each year. Forego this shopping day and you might miss the best deals of the season! But then again, you might not have missed out because sales only seem to better as Christmas approaches and retailers look to unload the last of their holiday merchandise.

Nonetheless, over the years the lure of Black Friday has increased dramatically and retailers have taken advantage of the popularity of Black Friday by opening stores earlier and earlier each year. Some stores will open at midnight because Thanksgiving will be over and it will officially be Friday. If you don’t get there at midnight you might just miss out on some time sensitive deals!

When we hear the word “competition” we often think of athletic endeavors but competition isn’t limited to the sports arena. No, when it comes to shopping competition is alive and well, and retailers play on it in a big way.

Here’s how the competition part of scarcity works – no longer is it good enough to just get to a store because if you are not there when the store opens they might run out of the thing you wanted most. Limited availability is different than limited time so while you might have all day Friday to shop, certain items marked “While Supplies Last” or “Limited Availability” might be gone by the time you arrive at 5 AM or 6 AM. Can’t let that happen now, can you?

It’s amazes me that people respond as they do because little Johnny probably doesn’t remember that great toy you got him three years ago. You know, the one you stood in line at the mall at 4 AM to get? And sweet Sally probably can’t tell you which American Girl doll you got her when she was eight years old but it’s a good thing you stood in line for several hours to pay for it.

Here’s another eye opener. People will say, “But I saved $200!” Saving money is great but many of those same people wouldn’t drive across town to save $200 on a car because a $200 savings on a $20,000 car by comparison isn’t worth the extra time and effort.

So, they spend four hours negotiating a car deal, could go across town and maybe spend another four hours to save $200, but they don’t. Sure, it’s an eight-hour investment but many of those same people will spend more than 12 hours at the mall just to save $200.

I’m not telling you not to shop. I know for some people, Black Friday shopping has become as much a holiday tradition as Thanksgiving, getting a Christmas tree or sending holiday cards. But I challenge you to consider if it’s really worth all the hassle – the lost sleep, extra time at the mall, fighting traffic, searching for a parking space, the disappointment when someone bought the last item you wanted, etc. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Would I normally respond this way? Do I want to respond this way?” Then decide what you want to do.

If you know you’re going to give into the madness then I’ll help you save some time by sharing with you the Black Friday web site. Go to this site to get a sneak peek at some of the deals that will be out there. Before all the holiday madness starts I want to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving and a safe time no matter what you decide to do.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Hurry Before It Goes Back Into The Disney Vault!

I just returned from Orlando where I spent two and a half days at Coronado Springs, a Disney resort hotel. I was there with more than 1800 learning professionals from around the globe to attend Elliott Masie’s Learning 2017 conference. It was an awesome experience! As I sat in the airport I thought about Disney’s phenomenal brand success.

There are many reason Disney appeals to young and old alike but one that stands out in my mind is the Disney Vault. The mental picture of a vault compels us to buy certain products because it taps into scarcity. This principle of influence teaches us we want things more when we believe they’re rare or going away. With that in mind, let’s analyze the concept of the vault.

The imagery of the vault conveys a secure place where precious item are stored. We use vaults for safekeeping jewelry, money, cash, passports and other valuables. We don’t store everyday items in vaults and neither does Disney.

Disney reserves the vault for its most valuable items – it’s feature length films. Every generation has its favorites such as Cinderella, Snow White, and my daughter’s all-time favorite, Beauty and the Beast. I bet you have a favorite Disney movie that conjures up strong emotions and brings to memory magical times.

When a movie goes into the vault the door is closed, the lock is spun and you can no longer get the movie because you don’t know the combination. Only Disney knows that and only Disney knows when they’ll unlock the vault next.

When items finally come out of the vault Disney does two significant things. First, whatever is brought out is only available for a limited time. After that it goes back in for an undisclosed amount of time. In other words, if you don’t act quickly you might miss out on your opportunity.

Second, when something comes out of the vault it’s not the same as when it went it. Something magical always happens. The movie that comes out might be digitally remastered in Blue-Ray with never before seen extended scenes! Your mind screams, “Holy cow!” You think to yourself, “I have the movie but how much better will it be in this new, digital version? And those scenes, what they are?”

As you ponder these thoughts you can bet your bottom dollar others are ordering so now consensus is at work on you. When we know lots of others are doing something we consider doing it even more. That wisdom of the crowd gives some validation that the new movie version must be worth it.

Between consensus and FOMO (fear of missing out) you psyche is taking a pounding! Maybe that’s not enough to get you to order…this time but it’s undeniable that this Disney approach works like a charm. I write that because marketers are savvy. They test different approaches and measure everything. If the concept of the Disney Vault didn’t work they’d have abandoned it long ago. The fact that you keep seeing it, no matter how ridiculous it might seem to you now, is proof enough about its validity.

What’s an unsuspecting shopper to do? First, remember almost everything is available on Amazon or EBay. If you miss your opportunity someone somewhere is selling the latest Disney stuff. And if your patient enough the Disney vault will open again and the same item – only enhanced and better – will come out for a brief time.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? It will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

What the FOMO are You Doing?

Last month I was in Arizona where I had the good fortune to combine business and pleasure. Pleasure was seeing family and attending an excellent Scotch tasting event at Total Wine. Business was a keynote presentation, sales calls with a good friend and coworker Dan and a trip to Flagstaff. One afternoon Dan and I stopped by Total Wine and during check out the person in front of us began telling us about a bourbon the store had just gotten in, Weller 12 year. He proceeded to tell us it was from the same distributor as Pappy Van Winkle, a rare and expensive bourbon. He let us know the store didn’t have many bottles and they’d probably sell out within the hour. Fear of missing out (FOMO) was enough for Dan to grab a bottle…even though he’s not much of a bourbon guy.

Dan’s decision to buy was heavily influenced by the principle of scarcity. This psychological concept alerts us to the reality that we value things more when we believe they’re rare or diminishing. FOMO is another way to describe scarcity. Most people hate missing out on what might be golden opportunities. If you think back on life most of what you regret probably centers around what you didn’t do (missed out on) rather than what you actually did.

Even though Dan isn’t much of a bourbon drinker, knowing Pappy Van Winkle has an excellent reputation and finding out this particular bottle would probably fly off the shelves was enough for him to make an unusual decision. Had that customer not mentioned how seldom the store got that specific bourbon and how fast it would sell I’m positive Dan wouldn’t have bought a bottle.

FOMO is constantly at work when it comes to sales.

  • Coupons that are about to expire get used more than those that still have time to use them. We may procrastinate but don’t want to miss out on that potentially great deal so we take action before opportunity passes!
  • The last day of a big sale gets us into the store even if we don’t have something in particular we’re looking for. You tell yourself you just want to see what deals are going on but once you’re in the store you’re far more likely to buy than if you don’t go at all.
  • Black Friday will be here before you know it and people will stand in line all night just so they don’t miss out on some of the best deals of the year.

Responding to FOMO isn’t all bad. After all, saving hundreds, or possibly thousands of dollars on something you’ve wanted for quite some time (new computer, flat screen television, a car) feels good and can be a prudent decision. Where you need to be careful is when you’re only responding to the deal but not necessarily a need. For example, many people are buying 4K televisions right now even though they don’t need them. Why? Because the prices have dropped recently and the deals seem too good to pass up. But remember, there will be another FOMO deal once the one you’re considering has passed.

Sure, not getting in on Apple or Amazon stock when they were first issued left a lot of people with regret. Perhaps that first love that got away gnaws at you because you think, “What if?” But keep in mind, as we enter the holiday shopping season the deals that will tempt you will be there during the after-Christmas sales, President’s Day sales and all the other traditional selling holidays. Make sure you’re responding not only to FOMO but what you really need and you’ll be a little happier in the long run.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? It will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Build Your Persuasive Skill

To excel at anything in life you need skill but that’s not enough. You need to work on whatever skill is most important for your potential success. A golfer works on his or her swing, putting, chipping and a host of other things. Athletes work on speed, agility and flexibility to name a few. Businesspeople work on skills such as listening, writing, and public speaking. Did you know persuasion is a skill? That’s right, persuasion is something you can learn, work on, improve upon and build. Persuasion is a multiplier because if you don’t know how to ethically and effectively persuade then skills like writing and speaking will never be as effective as they could be.

What does it take to work on your persuasive skills? There are six essentials: learn, practice, stretch, observe, communicate and feedback. Let’s look at how you can use each to improve.

Learn

Most people think they know what persuasion is but in my experience, they don’t. When I ask audiences what it means to persuade the definition I hear most often is, “to change someone’s thinking.” That may be a start but it’s usually not enough. Typically, when we try to persuade someone it’s to get them to do something.

I think Aristotle has the best definition of persuasion I’ve come across. He said it was the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask. Ultimately persuasion is about changing behavior. And here’s the good news – there’s more information available for you to learn from than you can imagine. That’s because there’s more than seven decades of research from behavioral economists and social psychologist into this area of study.

You’re reading this blog so that’s a start but I would encourage you to go further. Pick up Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice. Pre-suasion, his latest work, is another excellent book.

Practice

Perfect practice makes perfect. Just like an athlete, you cannot expect to get better without reps. Once you’ve learned something you need to put it into practice repeatedly. If you don’t then you’re like someone who attends a seminar on healthy living but never uses what they learn to live a healthier lifestyle.

Practice is important because it’s not likely you’ll try something new when there’s a lot on the line because you won’t have confidence. People who just play golf, no matter how often, only get marginally better without practice. However, those who practice and play are the ones who see their handicap steadily go down.

Stretch

This is a subset of practice but deserves mentioning by itself because of its importance. Go beyond what you know you can do. Again, that’s how athletes grow. If you don’t stretch yourself you’ll be limited to what you currently know and can currently do.

Stretching has an element of risk and reward. When you stretch yourself you do so in order to get better results. Having said that, until you perfect a skill you might fail from time to time and that’s okay. It’s all part of learning and growing.

Observe

In order to excel at persuasion, you need to hone your observation skills. This means you have to be excellent at listening and watching. What you learn with your eyes and ears opens opportunities for you to be a more effective influencer. For example, let’s say someone mentions they went to the same college that you attended, or you see a diploma on the wall. What would you do? Hopefully, you’d mention you want to the same school to engage the principle of liking. This is important because you know that principle alerts you to the fact that people say yes more often to those they know and like.

Communicate

It’s not enough to know the six principles of persuasion or to glean information through your observation skills if you cannot use that information to communicate. This is where verbal and written skills can me magnified.

For example, if your product costs less than a similar product you could lure prospective customers by mentioning how much they might save. That works but the skilled persuader knows there’s a better way. The skilled persuader knows people are more motivated by what they might lose so he or she will talk about how much a prospective customer is currently overpaying.

Feedback

The final consideration for building your persuasive muscle is feedback. From time to time you need to get feedback from respected sources. Getting third party advice on what you’re doing well and what you could be doing better can be massively helpful. Sometimes that feedback is from an individual but sometimes the feedback can be metrics.  Simple A-B testing can do the trick by comparing the traditional way of doing things to a potential new way.

Nothing worth anything in life comes easy, especially success. If it was easy everyone would be successful but everyone isn’t. Take time to build your persuasive muscle and you’ll have a much better chance of achieving professional success and personal happiness. The research guarantees it.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Risk, Reward and Following the Crowd

A little over a month ago I wrote a post I titled Everyone’s Doing It: The Impact of Consensus. It provoked quite a reaction, especially on LinkedIn. Here’s a small sample of comments from readers:

“It’s called groupthink. Look it up. Don’t hide in the flock of sheep. Emerge the solitary extrovert with an independent brain!!”

“Consensus is not a reality- it’s an abstract concept. Dissent is always essential.”

“Lemmings…”

“Consensus is an effective (cowardly?) way to hide from having to face the fact that no innovation took place because of consensus, but in spite of it.”

If I had to characterize most of the response it was resistance to the idea of consensus, following the lead of others. People don’t like to think of themselves as followers but we all follow more than we realize. It’s why we generally buy Amazon products that are rated four and five stars and avoid products that primarily get one or two star ratings. It’s why we tend to go to crowded restaurants instead of empty ones. And seldom do we go to movies that get poor reviews. (An exception to that might be movies that “critics” pan because the views of “critics” are often contrary to the average moviegoer.)

The subject of consensus (a.k.a. social proof) came back to awareness as I watched Ray Dalio’s Ted Talk “How to Build a Company Where the Best Ideas Win.” Dalio is a well-known hedge fund manager and what caught my attention were his comments about risk, reward and following the crowd.

In a nutshell, Dalio told the audience when it comes to investing following the crowd, the market, won’t make you rich. Why is that the case? It’s like riding in a bike race and staying in the pack. You can do okay but you won’t win being in the pack the whole race. The people who are willing to take a risk and break from the pack have a chance to win but there are risks that could lead to big time failure too. And so it is when it comes to investing. Breaking from the market and conventional wisdom might help you make a lot of money but it could also result in big losses.

Why don’t more people break from the pack? Because human beings are generally risk averse. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on loss aversion. Kahneman and his late partner Amos Tversky statistically proves humans feel the pain of loss anywhere from 2.0-2.5 more than the joy of gaining the very same thing. Consider for a moment the safety of the crowd combined with the aversion to loss most people feel and you see why the so many generally play it safe and go along with the crowd.

Are there exceptions to the rule? Absolutely! I’m sure as you read this you can recall times when you went against the grain. We generally do that when we’re convinced we’re right, regardless of what everyone might say or do. That same sense of certainty is what leads some people to go against the crowd and gamble on their dream job, go for broke in the stock market, or passionately pursue their dreams. That’s how some people make it big. But don’t be deceived, far more people don’t land their dream job or become wildly rich because it’s hard and the odds are against them. After all, if all it took was the courage to take the first step or determination to do the work then everyone would be going for it and everyone would be rich. But that’s not the case because the greater the payoff the greater the risk and as we’ve already seen, most people are loss averse.

This post isn’t intended to discourage you from pursuing great things. On the contrary, it’s intended to open your eyes about what may be holding you back. Hopefully after reading this some readers will realize why they’ve not already taken that first step and decide to go for it. Even if you fail, there may be great things in store for you. I’ll end with the famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt on this subject:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

If You Haven’t Seen It, It’s New to You

Some of you reading this might remember the NBC commercial with the tagline, “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.” Almost 20 years ago that commercial had one goal – entice viewers to watch summer reruns. Catching a tv show you missed by watching summer reruns might be a foreign concept for many people today because virtually all television shows and movies can be viewed on demand. But 20 years ago it was your only hope of catching the shows you missed.

The NBC commercial came to mind as I listened to Roger Dooley’s Brainfluence Podcast. During episode #138, The Customer Loyalty Loop, Roger was interviewing Noah Fleming and Noah referred to Schlitz beer back in 1919.

Noah shared the story of a marketing consultant, Claude Hopkins, who was walking the floor of a Schlitz plant and saw some really interesting things happening. When he asked why Schlitz wasn’t talking about those things in their advertising their response was basically because all beer makers did those things and they were nothing special. Claude’s response was, “Yeah, but nobody’s talking about them,” so Schlitz built a marketing campaign around those cool things.

Sometimes marketing is no more than sharing what you do in a compelling way. A more recent example would be Liberty Mutual’s commercials that highlight how some auto insurance doesn’t give you enough reimbursement to replace your car when it’s totaled. They’re correct and the commercials touch a nerve with the buying public.

Liberty tells you their insurance will replace your car. But here’s the catch – you have to pay extra for that coverage and almost every insurance company offers the same coverage for a price. Kudos to Liberty though because they’ve talked about something all of their competitors do but in a compelling way that makes Liberty stand out. No doubt many more people have contacted agents who represent Liberty Mutual for a quote because of those commercials.

So what’s the point? Whether it’s NBC summer reruns, Schlitz beer or Liberty Mutual’s new car replacement, what each company was touting may not be new but those offerings are new to you if you’ve not encountered them before.

When something is viewed as new, novel or unavailable elsewhere that’s an application of the principle of scarcity. This psychological concept tells us people value things more when they’re rare and it compels us to act in ways we wouldn’t normally. Once people realize they can get something like new car replacement from any insurance company the Liberty advantage will disappear because it will no longer be viewed the same way.

When you’re marketing your products or services look for ways to share the novelty of what you’re offering. That novelty might not be one thing, it might be a combination of things, but either way you stand a much better chance of gaining people’s attention and making the sale.

The Politics of Fear: They’re Trying to Scarcity the Hell Out of You

You’ve probably heard people say something like this many times in recently, “I wish candidates would just tell us what they stand for and their plans instead of bashing other candidates.” Those sentiments have probably never been as strong as they are right now with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton going after each other like fighting pit bulls.

Candidates are engaging in is what’s known as “The Politics of Fear.” Many accused Donald Trump of that immediately after his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. Some pundits called the speech dark and foreboding. Others said it distorted reality as he invoked images of terrorist attacks and police killings. Trump painted a bleak picture and projected himself as the only answer.

But don’t be fooled because Hillary is engaged in the politics of fear, too. She wants her supporters and undecided voters to be scared as hell of a Trump presidency. Her fear messaging wants you to believe he’s a tyrant and will rule like a dictator. One MSNBC commentator went so far to say, diplomatically, Trump would be like a mushroom cloud (i.e., nuclear) when it comes to international relations. Scary!

If we’re all so sick of the negativity, candidate bashing and fear mongering then why do politicians continue to do it? Because fear moves people more than almost anything else.

The principle of scarcity tells us people are moved to action far more by the fear of loss than they are by the thought of gain. Daniel Kahneman, a Noble Prize winner in the field of economics, studied this phenomenon with the late Amos Tversky. Together they proved people are motivated 2.0-2.5 times more to take action by the thought of losing something as opposed to gaining the same thing. Think of it this way; most people will work a lot harder to not lose $100 they already have versus how hard they’ll work to earn an extra $100.

For as long has humans have been around we have instinctively known this and it has not escaped the notice of politicians either. Perhaps the most famous use of fear mongering was President Lyndon Johnson’s television ad when he ran against Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964. The ad shows a little girl in a field with flowers then suddenly there was a nuclear explosion. The ad ended with a deep voice saying, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” This particular message may not resonate as much today but in the early 1960s there was a real fear of a nuclear confrontation with Russia. The message was clear; nuclear war was a possibility if you voted for Goldwater. Click here to see the iconic commercial.

As the rhetoric ramps up on the march to the November election, don’t expect either candidate to go positive. Governor John Kasich did his best to stay positive in the Republican primaries and it got him nowhere.

As one slings mud, the other will respond. If a candidate doesn’t respond to a negative attack they are seen as weak. Just ask John Kerry about the “swift boat” allegations in 2004.

As much as we say we don’t like it, we will get nothing but doom and gloom combined with personal attacks like we’ve never seen before. But take heart, in all likelihood this will be dull compared to what we’ll experience in 2020 and beyond.

Persuasive Marketing the Old Fashioned Way

People often ask me if Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence are as effective today as they were when he first wrote about them 30 years ago. I emphatically reply, “Yes!”

The methods of communication may be changing – email instead of letters, text or instant messaging instead of phone calls, online advertising instead of television commercials, to name a few – but humans have not evolved nearly as much in the last century.

The human brain has not changed as rapidly as technology so you can rest assured the principles of influence work every bit as well today as in the past IF you understand them and employ them correctly.

Even though the preferred methods of communication may be changing, things like television ads, phone calls and letters are not going away any time soon so the smart marketer will be looking to use the principles with traditional media during this transition.

A friend recently gave me a marketing letter he received from AT&T because he knew I’d be interested in it from a persuasion perspective. I’d like to point out several places where AT&T is effectively using influence.

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At the top the letter had my friend’s name – John – which personalized the communication. Dale Carnegie said the sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name. Our name catches our attention and that’s the marketer’s opportunity to keep you reading.

In the opening paragraph it reads, “Per your request…” Closely read the letter and you’ll realize it isn’t directed to the person who received the letter. It’s written to David Banks of AT&T’s Consumer Marketing Department. Like most people reading something like this I didn’t pay close attention so it took me a couple of reads to figure that out.

If the person reading the letter assumes it’s directed at them then “Per your request” taps into consistency. This principle tells us people feel psychological pressure to be consistent in what they say and do. If you requested something it’s much more likely you’ll take time to read the rest of the letter and consider the offer.

The next paragraph mentions a number of free offers. People love free to the point of irrationality. Dan Ariely wrote about our obsession with free in Predictably Irrational. One example Ariely frequently cites is how often people purchase additional items on Amazon just to get the free shipping. In the end they spend much more money!

Being offered the free items up front is an attempt to engage reciprocity although it doesn’t actually do it in this letter because unless you take AT&T up on the offer you’ve not received anything. It’s only when you get something that you feel obligated to do something in return. Nonetheless, a potential free offer keeps the reader interested.

The fourth paragraph reads, “We don’t want John to miss out on this great deal.” This is the principle of scarcity. People hate the thought of losing out, especially on great deals, so it motivates behavior that wouldn’t otherwise happen.

At the bottom of the page the “Reviewed” stamp adds an element of authority. As noted above, the letter is to David Banks from AT&T’s Consumer Marketing Department and the stamp shows he reviewed and approved the offer.

Last but not least is the “hand written” yellow sticky note affixed to the top of the letter. In a blog post I called 700,000 Great Reasons to Use Sticky Notes, I went into detail about how using these little post it notes can dramatically increase response rates. This sticky note looks hand written and that engages reciprocity because the perception is that someone took a little more time to put the sticky note on the letter and more time to actually write the note.

Now you may be thinking this would never work on you and you might be correct. However, it works on enough people that AT&T and many other smart companies incorporate this type of psychology into their communications. If it didn’t work they’d quickly abandon approaches like this in search of others that do work.

Using the principles of influence won’t make a bad product good or a lousy offer better. But, in a day and age where we’re assaulted thousands of times a day with marketing messages, small tweaks to communications might be the things that grab attention and keep people reading. And that’s the goal of marketing because in the absence of that, nobody would take AT&T up on an offer like the one you just read.

The Southwest Airlines Love Affair is over and it’s Completely Irrational

Yes, you read that correctly; my 12 year love affair with Southwest Airlines is over and truthfully, it’s irrational on my part and Southwest’s too. Perhaps you could say we have irreconcilable differences.

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality, uses studies from behavioral economists to prove we humans are not the rational beings we like to think we are…at least most of the time. One such study that highlights our irrationality is the ultimatum game.

In the ultimatum game, person A is given $10 and can choose to give any amount to a playing partner, person B, and keep the rest for himself or herself. How much would you give person B? Is $1 enough? After all, that’s better than nothing. Would you give $4 or $5? That seems like something a fair-minded individual would do. How about $6 or $7? It’s a rare person who would give away more than they would keep.

There’s a catch to the game; person B can reject the whole deal – meaning neither side gets to keep any of the money – if they don’t like what’s being offered.

Things change rather dramatically under conditions of perceived fairness. Person A almost always offers $4 or $5 in hopes of being viewed as fair because that usually leads to agreement. When agreement is reached everybody wins because both parties leave better off financially than they were before the game started.

If you think about it rationally though, if you were offered $1 that’s better than nothing and yet the vast majority of people don’t view it that way. If something “fair” isn’t offered, person B will almost always reject it…even to their own financial detriment.

Consider that for a moment – people willingly subject themselves to “injury” (take no money instead of a few free bucks) just to punish the other person when they feel they’re being treated unfairly. You need look no further than divorce court to see this play out in real life!

How does this impact Southwest and me? I fly a good bit but recently learned I had lost my A-List status with Southwest. When I called to find out why, I was told I needed 25 flights in 2015 but only had…24. I thought it reasonable to ask for an exception given my loyalty, increased flights in recent years, and because I had a December business trip I needed to reschedule till this spring. I’d be hard pressed to think of a handful of times I’ve flown other airlines the past five years and when I have it’s because I traveled with colleagues who had already booked flights.

My request was rejected three times at various levels over the phone and one last time after writing a letter. The reason Southwest wouldn’t budge was “to maintain the integrity of the [frequent flier] program.” I was shocked given the level of customer service I’d experienced with Southwest and my loyalty over the past dozen years. I would have expected that response from many other companies but not my beloved Southwest!

Being a persistent guy I finally emailed CEO Gary Kelly (you’ll never hear “Yes” if don’t ask, right?). At each level Southwest dug their heels and now I have, too, because I’ve made the choice to take at least a couple of flights on other airlines this year. It’s irrational because Southwest flights are almost always on time, their flight attendants are great, and the more I fly the better my chances at getting my coveted A-List status back. But like the person who feels they were treated unfairly in the ultimatum game, I don’t care!

For Southwest’s part, they could have made a loyal customer even more loyal by saying, “Mr. Ahearn, seldom do we make an exception like this but we can see you’re a loyal customer and we appreciate your business so we’ll do it this one time. Will you still be flying with us every chance you get?” Boom! I would have been happy and would have told them I’d absolutely fly Southwest at every chance. And you know what, I would have, because they would have used the principles of scarcity, reciprocity, and consistency on me at the same time. Making such an exception would have cost them almost nothing other than letting me to accrue frequent flier miles 25% faster. That benefit equates to me getting a free ticket 25% sooner which might cost Southwest about $100 assuming a I earn a $400 round trip ticket a year.

So Southwest has made an irrational choice, too, because when I choose to fly other airlines, Southwest will lose more revenue than they would have “given up” if they’d simply accommodated my request.

Much like the ultimatum game, there comes a point when everyone loses despite their best effort to persuade the other side. In this instance I lose and Southwest loses too. But, we’re all human after all so I’m sure it’s not the last time Southwest will stick to their guns nor will it be my last time to stick to mine.

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.