Trust is the Most Essential Ingredient in Communication and Persuasion

When it comes trust, the late Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, told audiences, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Persuasion is a form of communication and trust is essential if you want to become more effective when it comes to your ability to build relationships and influence people. Why is trust so important when it comes to persuasion? Two big reasons: trust removes thoughts of manipulation and doubt. Let’s look a little deeper at each.

Manipulation

When you think about manipulation you probably remember times where you felt taken advantage of. Those memories may include:

  • Paying way too much for some product or service
  • Being talked into buying something you clearly didn’t need
  • Realizing after the fact that you were lied to

After each situation you may have thought, “If I only knew then what I know now, I would have made a different decision.”

Trust entails being truthful and being honest. Ethical persuaders don’t lie, conceal facts or distort the truth in order to get what they want.

When it comes to price there may be reasons you’re paying more and ethical persuaders let you know when and why that’s the case. No matter the reason, to build trust an ethical persuader deals with it early on. Here is an example:

“Mr. Smith, I want to be up front with you. Our price is higher than our competitors. Part of the reason is we pay our people more so we get the best electricians [carpenters, repairmen, etc.]. Another reason is our guarantee to finish the job on time. I told you this project will take a week so we will be done by next Monday. Unlike some competitors, we won’t allow this to drag out over two or three weeks. You have my word.”

Doubt

A big reason you engage the services of people like attorneys, doctors, financial planners and others is because they have more expertise than you do in their chosen field. It’s likely they have better solutions than you do and can arrive at those answers faster than you can. In the end you decide it’s worth the money to engage their services because it saves you time, effort and headaches.

Being unsure as to what you need to do causes doubt. None of us likes doubting ourselves as we try to make decisions about our futures. Engaging the services of a trusted expert removes or severely reduces doubt and that makes us feel better.

No matter how much expertise someone may have, if you don’t trust them you’re not likely to follow their advice. Bernie Madoff may know more about investing than you or I, but would you trust him with your money after he swindled people out of more than a billion dollars?

Conclusion

If you want to be as effective as possible when it comes to persuasion you have to be a trustworthy person. Here are three simple ways to make that happen:

  • Be truthful in all your dealings
  • Address any weakness or flaw in your offering early on
  • Make sure your words and deeds match

I’ll close with a quote from Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” Be known as a person of character because you’re someone people trust.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 50,000 people! His latest course, Persuasive Coaching, just went live. Have you watched them yet? If not, click on either course name to see what you’ve been missing.

Winner-Take-All: Small Changes, Big Differences

If you’re a sports fan then you know the margin between victory and defeat can be extremely small. When it comes to victory it’s often the case that small changes, seemingly insignificant decisions in the moment, can make a big difference when it comes to winning or losing. Here are a few examples:

  • It’s not uncommon in football or basketball to see the game determined on the final play or shot after about 60 minutes of competition. That final 1% of the game determines the winner. Having the ball last becomes quite an advantage.
  • In golf the margin of victory can be even smaller. After four days of play, 72 holes, and some 280 total shots, the margin of victory may be a single stroke. That’s a difference one third of one percent. A single decision on one hole can make all the difference.
  • The margin gets even smaller with elite marathoners. The best runners take just over two hours to cover the 26.2 miles and the race may come down to less than ten seconds after all that running. The difference in a race like that might be one tenth of one percent! “Little” choices during the course of the race might be the difference between first and second place.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, wrote in his newsletter: “Situations in which small differences in performance lead to outsized rewards are known as Winner-Take-All Effects. They typically occur in situations that involve relative comparison, where your performance relative to those around you is the determining factor in your success.”

The winner-take-all effect applies to business as well as sports. Small changes in how you approach influence can lead to big differences when it comes to hearing yes. Yes might mean a sale, promotion, funding or the okay for a new project. Here are a handful of examples to show that those seemingly insignificant decisions can have a huge impact:

  1. Using the word “because”can increase your odds of hearing yes by as much as 50% according to one study.
  2. In his NYT best-selling book Presuasion, Robert Cialdini cites a study on the importance of asking the right pre-suasive question. Doing so changed people’s frame of mind and more than doubled the number who were willing to give their email address to a marketing firm.
  3. Making the right comparisoncan make all the difference. In one case, nearly four times more people were willing to drive across town to save $20 versus another group that could save the same $20.
  4. Talking about losing vs. gainingmakes quite a big difference too. According to Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, 2.0-2.5 time more people will say yes under loss framing scenarios as opposed to pointing out gains or savings.
  5. Asking instead of tellingcan gain a commitment and significantly increase the odds that someone will do what you want.

Each of the five ideas I’ve shared are small, costless changes to how you might communicate with someone. Despite being “little” adjustments, they can have an outsized impact on your ability to ethically influence people and get to yes. This is why it’s so important that you understand understand how to ethically influence people.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 50,000 people! His latest course, Persuasive Coaching, just went live. Have you watched them yet? If not, click on either course name to see what you’ve been missing.

“Don’t Do That” Might Cause Someone To Do That!

Sometimes you inadvertently work against yourself without even knowing it. Case in point, you want someone to not do something so you tell them, “Don’t do that.” Your approach is quick and to the point but it might make the person more likely to do that very thing! Here are a few examples you might relate to:

  • You tell your child, “Don’t watch that television program, it’s trash.” Your motive is good, keep negative influences away from your child.
  • When talking to your spouse you remind him or her, “Don’t eat that, it’s unhealthy,” because you care about their health.
  • Your thoughts are, “Don’t go in the water,” as you prepare to tee off on the 18th hole where there’s water on the right.

Good Intention, Poor Execution

Your intention is good in each case but the execution could be better.  You see, a couple of things are working against you and you probably didn’t realize it: priming and scarcity. Let’s take a quick look at each.

Priming

Priming is the concept that many things influence your thinking and subsequent behavior with little or no awareness on your part. Small cues in the environment, what you see, read and hear can cause you to behave in ways you might not normally or would be less likely to in the absence of the primes.

One simple example comes from a Dutch study where obese people were given coupons upon entering a grocery store. Some people received coupons that had words related to dieting and healthy living. Others were given coupons that did not contain those words. The result, those with the healthy words bought far fewer unhealthy items because they were primed to think about more health-conscious choices.

Mentioning the television program, unhealthy food and water on the golf course only serve to draw attention to each and makes the unwanted behavior more likely to occur. Consider this example; don’t think about a tiger. Unless you consciously switch your thoughts to something like a bear, a dog or something altogether different, it’s a good bet you’re thinking about a tiger. And telling yourself, “Don’t think about a tiger,” only makes you think about a tiger!

Scarcity

The second factor that works against you in many cases is scarcity. It’s human nature to want whatever is rare, scarce or going away. If you think you can’t have something you almost instinctively want it. And, whenever some freedom is perceived to be restricted you work harder to preserve that freedom.

In the examples of television and food noted above, each admonition restricts the other person only causing them to want the thing even more.

What can you do?

What are you to do then if you want a different behavior? Your best bet is to direct attention away from the behavior you don’t want to a behavior you prefer. Rather than telling someone to not think about a tiger, tell them to think about dogs, horses or some other animal. Let’s take a look at our examples:

  1. You direct your child to a different television program, preferably giving choices so he or she feels a sense of control. “How about a Disney movie or Sesame Street instead?”
  2. The same thought applies to your spouse and food. Direct him or her to healthy alternatives and give choices. “Would you rather have veggies and hummus or fruit with yogurt for our snack?”
  3. When it comes to golf, focus on what you want. You can do so by telling yourself, “Aim at the tree on the left to keep the ball on the left side of the fairway.” This should keep you out of the water more often than not.

Conclusion

Will these approaches work every time? Of course not because this isn’t a magic wand. However, each approach will work more often than focusing on telling someone, “Don’t do that.” In the long run, using an approach as I’ve outlined will get you what you want more often. Considering it’s a small, costless change, isn’t it worth giving a try?

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 50,000 people! His latest course, Persuasive Coaching, just went live. Have you watched them yet? If not, click on either course name to see what you’ve been missing.

Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room

Have you ever been in a situation where there was an elephant in the room but nobody acknowledged it? The term “elephant in the room” is used to describe a situation or problem that exists and everyone knows about it but is unwilling to deal with it. But, what if people really missed the elephant in the room?

Many years ago, on a trip to Baltimore, I arrived at State Auto’s regional office and asked if there was a room I could use to sit down and get some work done. I was led to a conference room and started getting busy. Sometime later Gretchen, the sales manager, stopped by to see how I was doing. She asked, “What do you think about it?” I replied, “Think about what?” She said, “The elephant in the room.” “What are you talking about?” I asked. She pointed to the back of the room where a seven-foot cut out of an elephant was up against the wall.

I had literally missed the elephant in the room! You might be wondering how that could happen. Well, it happens to me quite a bit and I’m sure it happens to you on occasion too. Here’s one more story.

Over 20 years ago Jane and I were walking around a gallery hop. It wasn’t my cup of tea but I tried to act like I was engaged so I made a comment about a painting by the famous French painter Monet. As we looked at the painting I said to Jane, “We have a painting buy that guy.” Jane told me, “We have that painting!” “Really? How long have we had it?” I innocently asked. She said, “About three years. It sits at the top of the stairs.” Wow, not an elephant but I sure missed that one.

How is it we can miss the obvious? Quite often it’s nothing more than focus. When I went to Baltimore and got to the office I had one goal – get some work done before several days of training. I only “saw” whatever would help me accomplish that goal.

At other times we become so familiar with our surroundings that we stop noticing things. For married men reading this you understand this every time your wife asks, “Notice anything different?” That’s when the beads of sweat start to form on your forehead, your mind starts racing, and you choke like an athlete in the biggest moment on the biggest stage. You’re so familiar with your spouse, home or something else that you stopped noticing the details. Ask someone in love the color of their partner’s eyes and they are very likely to give you a correct answer. Ask couples that have been married a long time and there’s a good chance they don’t remember. Familiarity isn’t always a good thing.

So how can you overcome this? Two simple ideas: slow down and get out of your head.

  • There’s an old saying, “Stop and smell the roses.” In other words, consciously take time to slow down so you can pay attention to things you normally don’t mindfully consider.
  • Make the conscious choice to stop focusing on certain things. You can’t “not think about an elephant” but you can distract yourself from thoughts of an elephant by choosing to focus on something else. Take a break from your work, go for a walk, or engage with a coworker to get out of your head.

While my stories are funny there are downsides to this. Missing the obvious can lead to bad decisions and in a business setting it could cause others to think less of you. And when it comes to personal relationships, missing the obvious can hurt someone’s feelings. None of these are good so slow down and get out of your head every now and then so you don’t miss the elephant in the room.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 50,000 people! His latest course, Persuasive Coaching, just went live. Have you watched them yet? If not, click on either course name to see what you’ve been missing.

Are You Ever Really Past Your Past?

Have you ever observed a friend who reacted in a certain way and it was apparent his reaction had to do with something from his past? Maybe your friend was unable to make a commitment and you know it’s because of past relationship where he was burned. Or perhaps you knew someone who was afraid to try something new because last time she did so it turned out horrible. In both cases the past is impacting the present. Are we ever really past the past? Closer to home; are you ever really past your past?

Last week I wrote about the book Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do by John Bargh, PhD. It was such an interesting book that I’m reading through it again. The first section, chapters 1-4, have to do with our past and how it shapes who we are. The past includes our evolutionary past as a species, our personal history, the culture we grow up in and recent events. As we take a quick look at each, remember that virtually all of this impact takes place at the subconscious level.

Evolutionary Past

Whether or not it’s apparent to you, your ancestors helped shape who you are. I’m not talking about your great, great, great grandparents. I’m referring to the human race over the course of history.

Much of what we do comes from our genetic make-up. The genes that survived over the millennia are passed on from one generation to the next are the ones that impact your thinking which drives much of your behavior.

Human genes have two main priorities – help us survive another day and procreate. Both priorities ensure the human species will continue on. Those inherited genes impact things like who you’re attracted to, who you’re afraid of, your willingness to follow certain leaders and the groups you’re a part of. Your tendencies for each of those choices, along with many other choices, have been heavily influenced by your ancestors from long, long ago.

Personal History

Your personal experiences, whether or not you can recall them, are another huge determinant of how you think and behave. It’s a mistake to believe only the big or traumatic events of life shaped you. How much do you recall from your first few years of life? Probably nothing but they’re called “the formative years” for a reason.

It’s during your first few years of life you begin to learn about trust and relationships. How you were parented during that time shows up in your ability to build trusting, intimate relationships. How outgoing you are, confidence and many other traits come in large part from your experiences in early childhood.

Culture

It was eye opening to learn how impacting culture is without our awareness. For example, there is a societal perception that Asian people are good at math. There’s also a stereotype that girls are not as good as boys when it comes to math and science.

In studies where Asian women were asked to list their ethnicity, but not gender, they did better on math tests than Asian women who were not asked to list their gender or ethnicity. When Asian women were asked to list their sex, but not ethnicity, they did worse compared to the control group of Asian women who listed neither. It’s theorized the results in both cases are a result of the cultural norms that women subconsciously carry with them.

Lest you think the study of Asian women was a fluke, studies show African Americans do worse on certain standardized tests when they list their ethnicity as compared to those who are not asked to do so. How culture views us impacts how we view ourselves to a large degree.

Recent Events

You don’t have to dig into evolution, your family upbringing or culture to see how the past can impact you. Sometimes looking back a few minutes or hours is all you need to do.

Have you ever had a stressful commute home where other drivers set you off? If so, did you notice the impact on your mood and emotions afterwards? The “hangover” from events like that can cause you to be short with others where you’d normally exhibit patience. You may not notice you’re acting impatiently until someone points out the obvious.

Conclusion

In a very real sense the past is never past because so much of the past affects who you are in the present moment. The more you understand how the past may affect you the better positioned you’ll be to make course corrections for yourself and others.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 50,000 people! His latest course, Persuasive Coaching, just went live. Have you watched them yet? If not, click on either course name to see what you’ve been missing.

Before You Know It

I read a lot and for the most part the books I read are good. Every now and then I come across one that’s so good it needs to be shared. Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do by John Bargh, PhD, is one of those.

As the subtitle indicates, Before You Know It is about how our subconscious drives the vast majority of our behavior. I first became interested in the subconscious when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller Blink where he mentioned several of John Bargh’s studies on priming. Bargh’s work in this area is of particular interest for me because it dovetails with many concepts Robert Cialdini covered in his NYT best seller Pre-suasion.

While scientists cannot pinpoint exactly how much of human behavior is driven by the subconscious, estimates I’ve come across during my studies place it anywhere from 85%-95%. That means nine out of 10 things you do every day are done without conscious thought! If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be good to understand more about how your subconscious is formed and what you can do to make it work for you as opposed to just letting it randomly guide you?

In Before You Know It Bargh helps you understand your subconscious and how to harness its power to create more of the outcomes you want. He looks at subconscious drivers from three primary vantage points; the past, present and future.

Past

Over the course of evolution our genes have constantly been filtered for reproduction and survival. The genes that helped us survive and reproduce best are the ones that got passed down from generation to generation.

For example, if running fast was necessary to survive because of predators, slower people would eventually be the ones who don’t make it. Over time the human race would become much faster compared to our ancestors because the fast genes would flourish.

The principles of influence operate at the subconscious level for the most part and have helped humans survive over the course of history. Going along with the crowd (consensus), being loss averse (scarcity) and working together in cooperative ways (reciprocity) come natural for most people and are all good ways to ensure you live another day.

Your personal history also plays a huge role in developing your subconscious and determining who you are. Throughout life you’re constantly learning. When it comes to getting what you want, the things that worked and things that didn’t get stored in your memory. Before you know it, that learning is in the back of your mind driving your behavior in the form of habits that require little or no thought.

Present

This section looks at all sorts of environmental cues that can impact you in the moment. Mere exposure to something can change your thinking and behavior in ways that might surprise you. For example, simply finding out someone was born where you were born, attended the same school as you, or cheers for the same team will make you like that person more without much conscious thought.

What’s interesting is how unaware you are of such stimuli. When asked for rationale after acting in a particular manner, your mind will generate reasons, many of which are actually bogus. Salespeople have known this for decades and have a saying to describe this phenomenon, “People buy based on emotion and justify with logic.”

Future

Your goals, dreams and desires are all in the future. What you want and the problems you need to solve can weigh heavy on your mind. Until they are resolved they can disrupt your sleep and distract you during the day. But there’s good news. You subconscious can help you sort out many of those things without your awareness.

Imagine you shared a goal with a small group of friends for accountability. After sharing you spend some time each day trying to achieve that goal. How cool would it be if those people kept working on your behalf and occasionally texted you with insights and ideas on ways to achieve your goal? That’s essentially what your subconscious does when you’re not consciously focusing on your goals.

Conclusion

If you find social psychology interesting, if you enjoy books like Blink and Pre-suasion, if you’re ready to learn more about why you do what you do and how to harness your subconscious, then pick up a copy of Before You Know It. If you apply some of what you learn, before you know it you’ll take more control of your life.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 50,000 people! His latest course, Persuasive Coaching, just went live. Have you watched them yet? If not, click on either course name to see what you’ve been missing.

PAVE Your Way to Success in 2019!

If you’re like many people then you’ll be making New Year’s resolutions and if you’re like most people you’ll break your resolutions within a week or two. According to one study, more than half the people who make resolutions are confident of achieving them, yet barely more than 10% do so.

That’s unfortunate because most resolutions are good! Here are a some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions:

  • Prioritize family
  • Lose weight
  • Begin exercising
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce debt
  • Get organized
  • Stop drinking

The list is admirable so why are these goals so difficult to achieve for 9 out of 10 people? There are probably as many reasons as there are resolutions and dwelling on those reasons would not be as beneficial as giving you scientifically proven ideas that can help make 2019 different from those that came before. I’ll share an influence technique that can help you PAVE the way to success in the New Year.

In the study of persuasion there’s a powerful motivator of behavior known as the principle of consistency. This proven rule tells us people feel internal and external psychological pressure to act in ways that are consistent with their prior actions, words, deeds, beliefs and values. When we act in consistent ways we feel better about ourselves and other people perceive us in a more favorable light.

There are four simple things you can tap into in order to strengthen the power of consistency in your life. These simple ideas will help you PAVE the way to success because they’ll dramatically increase the odds that you’ll follow through on your New Year’s resolutions.

Public – Whenever you make a public statement, whether verbally or in writing, you’re putting yourself and your reputation on the line. The mere fact that another person knows your intention and might ask you how you’re doing is often enough motivation for you to follow through.

Recommendation #1 – Share your New Year’s resolution with another person, or group of people, and ask them to hold you accountable.

Active – You have to actively do something. Merely thinking about a resolution, just keeping it to yourself as some sort of secret, will lead to the same results as people who don’t make any resolutions. In other words, nothing will change. This came to light in a study with a group of students who wanted to improve their college grades. One group was asked to write their goals down, one group kept their goals in their heads, and the last group had no specific goal whatsoever. As you can imagine, the group with the written goals succeeded, with nearly 90% of students increasing their grades by a full letter grade! With the other two groups the results were identical and poor. In each group fewer than 1 in 6 students improved a full letter grade. It’s worth noting, they were all given the same study materials so they all had the same opportunity to better their GPA.

Recommendation #2 – Make sure you have to take some active steps. It could be as simple as buying a book to help you learn more about the changes you’re hoping to make or writing them down.

Voluntary – This has to be YOUR goal, not someone else’s goal for you. If you’re trying to do something – quit smoking, lose weight, get in shape – it’s not likely your motivation will last if someone told you that you have to do it. The goal has to come from you because if it’s forced on you it’s not likely your willpower will last long. Samuel Butler said it best when he wrote, “He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Recommendation #3 – Make sure it’s something you really want to do of your own free choice.

Effort – It was already noted that you have to actively do something. In other words, making the commitment should require some effort on your part. The more effort you expend setting up your goal, the more likely you are to succeed. Something as simple as writing down your resolution can make a difference, even if you don’t share it with anyone. But, taking the time to share it also fulfills the public requirement, which gives you more bang for the buck! Robert Cialdini puts it this way, “People live up to what they write down.”

Recommendation #4 – A little more effort, like committing pen to paper, will increase your chance for success significantly.

So to recap the four recommendations:

  • Public – Share your resolutions with others.
  • Active – Make sure to take some active steps.
  • Voluntary – Make it your goal and own it.
  • Effort – Commit pen to paper.

None of what I just shared is new but I’m guessing you may not have tried to PAVE the way to success before. If you’ve failed at your resolutions in the past then give this approach a try. If you fail again you’re no worse off but this different approach might just be your key to success in 2019. Good luck and Happy New Year’s!

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

 

The Greatest Salesman Who Ever Lived

I’ve shared variations of this post in the past. Because it’s Christmas Eve I thought it appropriate to share it again. Enjoy!

Santa Claus is the greatest salesman who ever lived! Why do I assert that Santa is the ultimate salesman? To start, he has a couple of success stories most of us can’t compete with. First, he’s successfully run the same family business for hundreds of years. There’s something to be said for stability, especially over the long haul.

Second, Santa has a client base that expands every year — no matter the state of the global economy.

Can you or your business make those two claims?

But those aren’t the reasons I believe Santa is the greatest salesman who ever lived. Contrary to what you might think, his success doesn’t come from his business savvy. After all, consider the obstacles he has to deal with.

  • Business attire: Santa obviously doesn’t buy into the “dress for success” business attire philosophy. Power suits are fine but a red suit and hat, both lined with fur, is a little over the top in today’s casual business environment.
  • Delivery system: Santa’s remains way behind the times here. His “One Day Delivery” is literally that – you get your packages one day a year. He doesn’t seem to notice in today’s economy people want what they want, when they want it, and that usually means now. But the real problem behind “One Day Delivery” might just be his delivery method. I think you’d agree the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS would be much more efficient than eight tiny reindeer pulling a small sleigh.
  • Manufacturing: Some say Santa’s operation is too labor-intensive to survive much longer. After all, he’s competing with Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple and other giant organizations. In today’s marketplace, how can any business can get by without automating? Perhaps if he automated a process or two he’d have enough inventory to open this store more than one day a year.
  • Efficiency: I realize Santa gives his product away for free but that doesn’t mean it costs him nothing. He has all those elves and reindeer to take care of. Food and lodging are bad enough but health care costs have to be crushing his profit margin! And what about worker’s compensation costs? If he automated at least he’d save a little money and might be able to take Mrs. Claus on a nice vacation – somewhere warm for a change!
  • Branding: All companies change their branding to fit the times and Santa might want to consider doing the same. After all, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!” has gotten a bit old and stale.
  • Orders: I think Santa could fill orders much faster if only he’d just set up a website. And how about replacing all those last minute letters with email, text, instant messaging or a Twitter account? It has to be painfully slow for him to read all those handwritten letters.

So, all this begs the question, “Why is Santa so successful…in spite of himself?” In business if you continually land new customers and retain the old ones then you’re doing something right. Here are six reasons Santa continually attracts new customers and retains all his current ones:

  • He loves his job! Could you do the same job day after day, year after year for most of your life? Could you do it and remain so upbeat and jolly? Perhaps, “Ho, Ho, Ho,” is his corporate culture and not just some slick branding slogan.
  • He genuinely cares for his customers. His goal is to meet everyone’s needs and all he hopes for in return is to see joy on their faces. Do you get joy from serving others?
  • He gets to the personal side of selling. Granted he’s not always accessible but he doesn’t expect clients to come to him. When he’s at his absolute busiest, with his deadline approaching and delivery date nearing, he can be seen everywhere talking with his customers. How he can be in so many places at one time I’ll never know. How often do you initiate contact with your customers, even when it’s inconvenient for you?
  • He creates an experience. A toy is just a toy, except when it’s from Santa. Because it only comes once a year and will be found under the tree on Christmas morning it creates anticipation and builds excitement! That’s so much better than getting something online or from some mail order catalog. Do you create an experience for your customers?
  • He adds value. When people hear the word “free” they often think “cheap” or wonder, “What’s the catch?” Even though Santa gives his products away we love what he gives us mostly because it comes from him. Don’t you have a few things you value above all others because of the person who gave it to you? Do your customers see you adding value?
  • He delivers on his promise. Santa does what he says and always delivers; no excuses, no extra charge, always on time! Can your customer count on you to be that consistent?

So there you have it, six reasons behind the success of jolly old St. Nick. Did you notice that everything Santa does is within your power to do with your customers? That’s right, there’s no reason you can’t do the same things Santa does. And here’s some welcome news for most of you – you don’t have to wear a silly red uniform while you do those things!

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you and your loved ones have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

 

A Skill Displayed at Birth

Our daughter Abigail turned 23 years old this month. It’s hard to believe because I still remember standing at her crib thinking, “I can’t believe you’ve been with us for 100 days.” And here we are more than 8,300 days later! As I reflected on her birth it occurred to me that persuasion is a skill we all display as soon as we exit the womb.

What’s the first thing babies do when they enter the world? They cry. They do so because they can’t express their needs any other way. They cry when they want to be fed, burped, held, changed or any number of other things. They feel their needs and seek to get those needs met through other people.

Aristotle said persuasion was the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t normally do if you didn’t ask. That’s a great definition for us as we learn to speak but babies don’t come into the world with any language. Despite lacking verbal skills, they keep trying to influence people.

As we grow we begin to learn other ways besides crying to get our needs met. Some of those learned methods are more socially acceptable than others. A short list of acceptable behaviors includes:

  • Offering help in exchange for help.
  • Saying please and thank you.
  • Asking instead of demanding.

As children grow some socially unacceptable behaviors many also manifest themselves. Those might include:

  • Throwing tantrums
  • Threats
  • Physical harm

Here’s the reality when it comes to behavior – what is reinforced will be repeated. If parents, teachers, friends or others reinforce unacceptable behaviors a child will keep going back to those behaviors for one reason and one reason only – those behaviors get the child what they want.

That approach shouldn’t surprise you. Getting what they want, no matter how it happens, may seem like a great strategy to kids in the short-term. However, it’s a poor long-term strategy for the vast majority as they grow into adults because no one wants to be around adults who throw tantrums, issue threats or resort to violence to get what they want.

This is where understanding the principles of persuasion becomes so important. The principles of reciprocity, liking, consensus, authority, consistency, scarcity and unity are hard wired into our brains. Each has its roots in our development and survival as a species and that’s why humans have come to rely on them more often than not. In one sense they are a force of nature.

Think of the principles of persuasion this way – they help people process information more efficiently which makes communication easier. The easier it is to process information the more likely it will be that it’s acted on.

If you’re not getting what you want, or feel your current approach is taking a toll on your relationships, then maybe you should consider a change and take time to study human behavior. After all, it’s easier to swim with the waves and run with the wind than it is going against those forces of nature.

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

 

There Were Three Frogs on a Log

There were three frogs on a log and one decided to jump off. How many were left? If you’re like most people you thought to yourself, “Two,” but you’d be wrong. You see, there’s a difference between deciding and doing.

That riddle was first posed to me by John Petrucci. John was a coworker at State Auto for 22 years and led the department I was in for 18 years. When John joined State Auto I learned more about sales in one year with him than I had in my first 10 years in the business. After a long career with Allstate and State Auto John is retiring at the end of this month. Not coincidentally he also just celebrated his 60thbirthday. You can consider this post a tribute to John.

Over the course of my life I’ve seen the wisdom behind John’s riddle. Far too often I’ve seen people “decide” to do things – change careers, get in shape, repair a relationship, get out of a bad relationship, etc. – but failed to act. It’s as if they fooled themselves by deciding and talking.

Goal Setting

If you Google goal setting you’ll find lots of articles that talk about the need for goals if you want to succeed. I’m sure that’s no surprise. What might surprise you is the number of articles that try to dissuade you from setting goals because they see them as limiting.

Personal Goals

I’m all for goals because I’ve seen how valuable they’ve been in my personal and professional life. My best personal example would be running. I took up running because Jud, a friend and fitness trainer, convinced a number of friends that we could run the Columbus Marathon. I took up the challenge and failed miserably in my first race, the Cincinnati Marathon.

After figuring out what went wrong I went back to the drawing board. I had some success so I decided to make qualifying for the Boston Marathon my goal. That meant cutting more than an hour off of that first marathon time! Three years later I ran the Boston Marathon. That never would have happened without a goal to pursue.

Professional Goals

On a professional level it’s been my goal to turn Influence PEOPLE into a full-time career. I took that step last month but it didn’t just happen because I decided. I’ve had an eye on the prize for 10 years. My goal has been to nurture the business while I worked at State Auto Insurance. I knew doing so would give me the opportunity to step into it when the time was right. The nurturing was working on my speaking, landing outside opportunities and blogging during that time. There was a master plan in place because I had a goal then acted.

The Challenge

The challenge about deciding and doing is this – once someone decides, and even puts together a plan – then the real work begins. For marathoning I had to get out the door every day at 5 AM and run. For Influence PEOPLE it was writing every week for years on end, countless hours practicing and actively seeking opportunities.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that deciding, or even planning, are actually doing. Both are important but they are only the starting point. After that the work begins.

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.