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Get Everything You Want Every Time All the Time – NOT!

If you read this post it’s guaranteed you’ll get everything you want every time, all the time. Of course that’s not true but it’s what some people would like you to believe because people love the easy way out. Let me read a book, read a blog post and I’m good.

Understanding the science of influence is no guarantee that you’ll always get what you want any more than understanding how to live healthy ensures you’ll never get sick.

But, knowing how to ethically influence others will increase the odds that you’ll get what you want more often, just like living a healthy lifestyle will increase your chance to live longer and in better health. Neither is guaranteed but smart people would do well to listen to science in both cases and do their best to employ it.

This came to mind recently when I wrote about Southwest Airlines and how I didn’t get what I wanted. A reader emailed me and wrote, “I thought you were an expert on persuasion? How come you couldn’t use your ability, knowledge and experience to persuade the airline otherwise? Not a very good advert for you talents I’d suggest.”

I replied and in his follow-up email he apologized saying his email was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. We had a good exchange but it got me thinking about this issue of failure.

Failure isn’t always bad because sometimes it can be used to your advantage. The principle of authority is based on two factors – credibility and expertise. You have to be an expert to leverage the principle but you also have to be credible. Did you know your credibility could be enhanced when you admit weakness? That’s so because you gain trust.

Here’s the reality – no person gets what they want all the time. As I noted in the opening, there are books, blogs and speakers who will tell you that you can, but don’t fall for it!

Consider this; Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence Science and Practice, the most cited living social psychologist in the world on the topic of persuasion, sometimes doesn’t get what he wants. On one of his CDs he shared a story where he failed to persuade someone working at the gym he belonged to to allow him to use the phone after he’d locked his keys in his car. Sounds simple enough to persuade a guy folding towels for such a small favor but Cialdini couldn’t do so on that particular day.

If the recognized authority on influence can fail on occasion then I don’t feel so bad for not being able to persuade Southwest Airlines to bend their rules for me. And trust me, you will fail too!

Two people can go to the same physician, trainer, or life coach and do everything the same but get different results. However, I would venture to guess both people would be better off following the sound advice.

The science of influence is based on nearly 70 years of research, not someone’s good advice. If you learn what the science says, then look for opportunities to ethically and correctly approach situations using that science, you will be more persuasive most of the time. You can take that to the bank.

As for me, I did fail in my attempt to persuade Southwest. However, I turned lemons into lemonade because I got not one but two blog posts from the experience. On top of that, I learned a few things and I hope you did as well.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Sell

One of the biggest reasons salespeople fail to make the sale is simply because they don’t ask for it. It’s easy to tell someone all about your company, product or service. After all, a good salesperson will know about these things backwards and forwards. However, asking for the sale (a.k.a. “closing the sale”) can be scary because of the fear of rejection.

Some of the biggest regrets people have are not when they stepped out and failed but when they failed to step out. When we don’t take a chance we’re often haunted by what might have been and ask ourselves, “What if…?”

Studies show people who ask for favors often underestimate the number of people who would be willing to help. In fact, they underestimate it by a lot! In one study, when asked how may strangers they’d have to ask to walk them a few blocks to a location they’ve been unable to find on a college campus, most people assumed they’d have to ask seven or more strangers before one person would take the time necessary to help. However, when they actually asked for help, the number of people they had to approach was only two or three before they got the help they needed. If you knew people would most likely respond positively to you twice as often as you thought they would, you’d probably have a lot more confidence to ask.

Having been a consumer all my life and teaching sales for the past 20 years, I can tell you most salespeople fail to ask for the sale. They might fear being seen as too pushy or believe the prospective customer can sort out all the product features, weigh the benefits against the cost, and make a decision that’s in their best interest.

But here’s the problem – as consumers, when we’re making purchases sometimes we’re overwhelmed by all the choices and price points. And the more money we’re about to spend the scarier it can be because we want to make sure we make the best choice. We want to avoid “buyer’s remorse.” A salesperson can alleviate much of that anxiety throughout the sales process but in the end the salesperson still needs to ask for the sale.

One way to lessen the fear and increase the odds of hearing “Yes” is to learn up front exactly what the customer is looking for. If the salesperson can meet the customer’s requirements, then simply asking the following should work: “If we can get you A, B and C at a fair price, would you seriously consider buying from us?” Most people will agree to that; then it’s up to the salesperson to show their product or service has all the required features. This is known as “the up-front close” in sales circles.

The reason this approach can be so effective is because the principle of consistency comes into play. This principle of influence tells us people generally live up to their word because they feel a little bad about themselves when they don’t. If someone says they’ll strongly consider you, your company or your product/service, then odds are they will if you can deliver what you said you would.

Once the salesperson has asked the right questions up front and then clearly shows how their offering meets the requirements it becomes much easier and more comfortable to take the next step and ask for the sale. It’s like dating. Wasn’t it easier to ask for a date when you knew beforehand the other person was interested in you?

Here’s my persuasion advice. You don’t have to live with the regret of what might have been. Remember, people are more likely to say “Yes” than you probably think. If you use the up-front close the odds that a customer will say “Yes” are significantly better. So remember – Don’t ask, don’t sell.