The following is an excerpt from my next book, which I’m knee deep in the middle of right now. It focuses specifically on selling and I use the following personal story to introduce the psychology of “pre-suasion” as a key to success and happiness. In addition to working on the book my story is appropriate at this time because on May 14th it will be 33 years to the day that Jane and I got engaged.
Once Upon a Time…
In July 1986, I was a recent college graduate walking into the HR training room for The Travelers Insurance Company. First job, first day and I saw Jane Baily, a recent college grad also on her first day of work. My thought at that moment was, “Wow, she’s beautiful!”
Many years later she told me what she thought when she first laid eyes on me; “What an egghead. The Travelers really got a winner here.” Okay, I stumbled badly out of the gate but I recovered quickly. Within a few weeks I was no longer going out with my longtime girlfriend and I began dating Jane. We quickly fell in love and everything was awesome…until my old girlfriend called out of the blue later that fall.
That phone call threw me for a loop! I started wondering if I’d made the right choice. Did I want to give up all those years with my ex-girlfriend? But I loved Jane. I was torn and suddenly I was back and forth between these two women. Some people might think having two people want you would be a great “problem” to have but it was horrible because I had a conscience and didn’t want to hurt either person. In hindsight, that’s all I did as I went back and forth between the two for about six months.
Jane and I still worked together and one day I saw her in the break room and asked how she was doing. She told me she was fine and announced she was done with my indecision. She went on to tell me even if I asked her out again she’d say no because in her mind it was over. She wasn’t going to put up with my indecision any longer and who could blame her? That was a problem because I was beginning to think she was the one I wanted to be with. In fact, I was thinking I wanted to marry her.
If you had known me at that time you would have said, “Don’t do it. Don’t ask her to marry you. Just date a while and make sure that’s how you really feel.” If you had known Jane you probably would have encouraged her to run for the hills. At a minimum you might have suggested some proving period of dating, maybe six to nine months, to see if I had truly settled things in my heart.
I knew I was going to have to do something big if I was going to hear “Yes!” to a marriage proposal. Here’s what I did.
On Jane’s birthday, May 14, 1987, I sent her a dozen roses at work. Of course, she loved that and the attention she got from all the ladies in the office.
I told her I wanted to take her to dinner and she agreed. I showed up at her apartment with another dozen roses and a bottle of wine. At this point she was thinking, “This is turning out to be a pretty good birthday!”
When we went downstairs from her apartment to leave for the restaurant she saw the 1963 Silver Cloud Rolls Royce and chauffeur I’d hired to take us to dinner. Now it was beginning to feel like a fairy tale he drove us to downtown Columbus.
The restaurant I chose was atop one of the tallest buildings in the city. We rode a glass elevator up more than 30 floors, had a romantic dinner overlooking the city then rode the glass elevator back down.
In the back of the Rolls Royce, on our way back to her apartment I popped the question and she said “Yes!” As of the writing of this book, we’ve been married for 32 years.
I had no idea what the psychology of pre-suasion was at the time but I’d unknowingly engaged it (pun intended) in a big way. Imagine for a moment that I’d asked Jane to marry me at work in the break room:
Me – “Jane, I’m sorry for all the indecision. I love you and want to be with you. Will you marry me?”
Jane – “No!” or best case scenario “I think we can start by dating first and see where this goes.”
Fortunately, I “set the stage” romantically in a way that made “Yes!” far more likely. That’s exactly what pre-suasion is all about; creating conditions that will put someone in a frame of mind that makes it easier for them to say “Yes” when you make your ask. Pre-suasion led to success and happiness for me and I hope it does for you too.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world!