The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Overview

Selling, like most endeavors you want to succeed at in life, requires a disciplined process, sharp skills, and good planning. Just as there are specific sales skills that need to be honed through continuous learning and practice there are parts of the sales cycle that require attention and planning. Sharpening your sales skills and refining your sales process are great ways to ensure success over the long haul.

I will be devoting a series of nine posts to exploring the sales cycle, looking at which principles of influence are most appropriate to focus on at different points in the cycle. My goal for this series is to help you understand how to get the most “bang for the buck” when you’re selling.

Let’s start with the sales cycle. Other sales trainers may combine some of these steps and in some businesses the cycle might look a little different. I see the typical sales cycle as an 8-step process, which includes the following sequence:

  1. Prospecting – Looking for new potential customers or clients.
  2. Initial Meeting – The first contact with a prospect.
  3. Qualification – Fact finding sessions primarily designed to assess whether or not you can – or want to – do business with the prospect.
  4. Presentation – Presenting your service or demonstrating your product to the prospect to show him or her how it meets some need they have.
  5. Objections – Dealing with reasons the prospect might bring up that indicate a hesitancy to move forward.
  6. Negotiating – Potentially altering pricing, terms and/or other aspects of your product or service in order to reach a final agreement.
  7. Closing – Getting the prospect to agree to do business with you and your organization.
  8. Referrals – Getting the names of people or organizations you can approach using the client’s name as a lead-in.

The six principles of influence, as popularized by Robert Cialdini, we’ll look at in conjunction with the sales cycle are:

  1. Liking – We prefer to do business with people we know and like.
  2. Reciprocity – We feel obligated to give back to those who first give to us.
  3. Consensus – We look to others to see how we should behave in certain situations.
  4. Authority – We often defer to those with superior knowledge or wisdom (i.e., experts) when making decisions.
  5. Consistency – We feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and do.
  6. Scarcity – We desire things more when we believe they are rare or diminishing.

Another psychological concept that will come into play throughout the series is the contrast phenomenon. This isn’t a principle of influence but is a psychological concept that works in conjunction with the principles of influence at different times. Contrast, sometimes known as “compare and contrast,” alerts us to the reality that two things will appear “more” different depending on what was presented first.

I encourage you to stay tuned because if you do, your ability to sell, and getting to yes, will be much easier when you add the science of influence into your sales approach. Next week we’ll start with prospecting.

Customer Service Done Wrong, Then Right

As amazing as it is to me and to my wife,
Jane, our little girl Abigail started college this year. In preparation for the
big event we did what many parents do – we took her out to buy a new laptop.
Despite my love for Apple products Abigail didn’t want a MacBook so we headed
to Best Buy in search of the right machine for her.
With the help of a friend of Abigail’s who
worked at Best Buy, we found the right laptop and the whole buying experience
was a good one. Unfortunately things changed just over a month later.
One night I asked Abigail how her laptop was
working she said it was slow and ads kept popping up. I ran the antivirus
software and it seemed to do the job except after rebooting, the laptop froze.
Despite all of my attempts and research online I could not get the laptop
working again so we decided to head back to Best Buy the next day to see if
they could help.
The same young man who sold us the machine was
working so I explained the issue. He tried several times to reboot the laptop
but to no avail. He said we probably needed a new laptop but he’d have to talk
to his manager first.
He came back and said because we were out for
the 30-day warranty period (it was 42 days) the manager was willing to give us
a new laptop if we would buy the one-year Geek Squad protection package. I had
declined that option when we bought the original laptop because generally warranties
like that never get used and are extremely overpriced.
The offered bothered me for several reasons.
First, it was the most expensive laptop in the store so 30-day warranty or not,
it shouldn’t stop working after just 40 days. Second, and more importantly, was
the fact that I’ve shopped at that particular Best Buy for more than a dozen
years buying televisions, PCs, laptops and other electronic items. With that in
mind here was my reply:
“So what you’re telling me is I have to pay
$200 for the new laptop. Tell your manager I’m willing to do it but here’s the
deal; I’ll never shop here again. Let him know I’ve bought several televisions,
PCs, laptops and other things over the years but I will never buy another thing
from Best Buy again. So if that’s acceptable then we have a deal.”
In case you didn’t realize it, I was using the
of scarcity
by letting them know what they stood to lose if they didn’t
remove the $200 Geek Squad stipulation. I wanted them to think about the
lifetime value of a customer like me.
Soon after I met the manager and he said he’d
looked at my purchase history and saw I’d bought televisions, PCs and much more
at the store. He said I was a platinum customer and they usually extend
warranties to 45 days for customers like me. It was BS.
I don’t blame the salesperson because they
have rules that define what they can and cannot do in certain situations. I do
think stores should empower front line salespeople for just such situations and
provide training so they’re confident those employees are making good decisions
for the customer and store.
In this case I think the manager did a poor
job because he ended up giving me some better antivirus software, which was a $50
value. Think about this for a moment; in then end the store paid me $50 to get
the new laptop and I still wasn’t happy. If they’d have handled the situation
differently they could have made it a very pleasant experience and had me
singing their praises. Here’s what they should have done:
First, review my purchase history. Once they
saw my history they should have assumed I would probably continue buying more
items because my disposable income is increasing as I get older.
Next, the manager should have said, “Mr.
Ahearn, I see you’ve shopped with us for more than a dozen years and purchased
several televisions, PCs and other electronic items. Normally we’re pretty firm
about the 30-day warranty but because of your loyalty we’re happy to make an exception
for you in this case.”
Last, to seal the deal he could have delighted
me in an unexpected way. “Mr. Ahearn, I’d like to do something extra for you so
there’s no chance of you experiencing this issue again. I’m going to give you a
year of antivirus protection, a $50 value, for free. How does that sound?”
Had he done what I suggested, he’d have used
several principles of influence and made me happy about the whole experience.
Doing something for me that’s not normally done for every customer – extending
the warranty to 45 days – would have been an application of scarcity which
would have made me value the deal even more. Throwing in the antivirus software
would have engaged reciprocity,
making me want to shop there more. Reciprocity would have been strengthened
because giving me the antivirus software was meaningful ($50 value), customized
(specific to the issue we ran into) and unexpected (we’d have been happy with
just getting a new laptop).
If you’re in sales here are a few takeaways.
  • Research your customer’s buying history before
    making any offers.
  • Consider the lifetime value of a customer.
  • When you’re making an exception, let the
    customer know it so they feel like they’re getting special treatment.
  • If you want to sweeten the deal, do so in a
    way that highlights why your extra step is good for the customer.
  • Lastly, consider the most effective ways to
    use the principles of influence when interacting with customers.


Follow these simple steps and you’ll delight
customers rather than make them feel they have to battle with you in order to
get you to do the right thing.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


No battle plan survives contact with the enemy

There’s a saying in the military that’s
attributed to Helmuth von Moltke, a German Field Marshall in the 1800s – “No
battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Why plan for battle then?
The late Bill Walsh, former pro football head
coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Hall of Famer, was known for scripting out
the first 15 plays his offense would run to start the game. Quite often the
script was out the window depending on what happened during the first few downs
of the game so why prepare a script?
In many martial arts, practitioners go through
forms or katas that simulate fight sequences against multiple opponents. It’s
highly unlikely that any fight ever unfolded as laid out in a kata so why
practice such sequences?
In each case it seems as if the best
preparation is a gamble, a potential waste of time and effort, so why go
through the motions? Because there’s value in planning beyond the plan. Things
may not unfold as planned but soldiers, athletes and martial artists are more
prepared for different eventualities than if they never trained and planned at
How confident would you be in your country’s
ability to defend your homeland if they didn’t train and plan? How confident
would you be about victory if your favorite sports team had no game plan? How
confident would a martial artist be if they never thought about and practiced defending
against multiple opponents and then found themselves facing several attackers?
The same thought process applies in
persuasion. Many of the concepts I teach in the two-day Principles of
Persuasion workshop® take time and preparation. You see, being an effective persuader
isn’t about being a silver-tonged devil in the moment any more than success on
the battle field is just about weapons, or being a good athlete on the football
field, or kicking high in martial arts. All of those things are helpful but the
best in each succeed because they prepare and train.
So what does preparation look like in
persuasion? It starts with learning the science of influence. With more than 60
years of research in this field we can turn to studies that clearly tell us
which principles of influence to use and when. This understanding will lead to
more consistent success than relying on someone’s good advice, what worked for
them or your best hunch.
Another way preparation leads to success comes
with homework; learning as much as you can about the person you’re trying to
persuade. The more you know about someone before you meet with them the easier the
persuasion process will be for a couple of reasons.
You can invoke the principle of liking by
connecting on what you have in common or offering up genuine compliments. Scanning
Facebook, reviewing a LinkedIn profile, or a quick Google search might be all
it takes to find the commonalities or things to genuinely compliment.
To effectively utilize the principle of consistency you want to tie your request to what someone has said or done in
the past, what they believe, their values, attitudes, etc., because people like
to remain consistent in those areas. Again, many of these can be uncovered
simply by doing a little research in advance of your meeting.
Will your next attempt at persuasion go as planned?
Probably not. Will you be better off having done some planning and preparation?
Almost assuredly! So here’s my advice – next time you have something important
you want someone to say “Yes” to, do a little homework beforehand and then allow
yourself to see the situation unfold in your mind’s eye in different ways.
These seemingly small things could have a big impact on the outcome.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


Setting the Stage for the Up Front Close

If you’re in sales you can probably relate to
the following scenario. You met with a prospective client and immediately had
great rapport, which opened the door for you to compete for their business. You
gathered the necessary information and provided them a better deal than they
currently had. They asked for time to think it over and consider a couple of
other quotes. Despite all the positive indicators, in a follow up phone call
you learned they opted for another provider. You’re left wondering what you
could have done differently to seal the deal.

Sound familiar? One way to reduce the odds of
that happening is to engage the principle of consistency through a technique
known as the “up front close.” Consistency is the principle of influence that
tells us people feel internal psychological pressure and external pressure to
be consistent in what they say and do. Getting someone to commit to you early
on exactly what it will take to win their business is what the up front close
is all about. It might look like this:

“Mr. Smith, I’d like to know exactly what
it will take in order for you to move your business to our firm. If I can’t do
something you require I’ll let you know right away and save us both time. How
does that sound?”

 Your goal is to find out all the things you
need to do for the customer in order for them to make the switch to your
company. If you can’t meet the price, delivery date, service requirements,
etc., then let the customer know and remove yourself from the sales process as
soon as possible. If you think you can meet all the requirements then go for it
and use their requirements as leverage during the sales presentation.
During a recent coaching call a graduate of
one of my Principles of Persuasion (POP) workshops asked how he could easily and naturally work his way into
the up front close. That’s a great question because you don’t want to jump
right into the up front close in the first five minutes of meeting a potential
customer. It takes some finesse but you can do it! Here’s how I would envision
using questions in a natural, ethical manner to move into the up front close.

Salesperson – It looks as if business is going
great and you seem like you’re very busy.

Customer – Never been busier but I suppose
that’s a good thing in this economy.

Salesperson – Agreed, better too busy than not
busy enough. With all that’s going on I’m going to guess saving time is pretty
important for you?

Customer – You bet. I’m usually in here by 7 a.m.
and rarely leave before 6 p.m.. I even put in extra time on the weekends.

Salesperson – I have many days like that myself.
If you’re like most people I talk with buying insurance isn’t high on your list of fun
activities. It’s not like planning a vacation or shopping for a new car. Knowing
that, I have an idea that might save us both a good bit of time when it comes
to your insurance. Would you like to hear it?

Customer – I’m all ears.

Salesperson – Since the insurance buying
process is a necessity I’m sure other agents are competing for your business. While
that’s a good thing, you probably don’t want to deal with any more agents than
you have to in order to complete the process, right?

Customer – Exactly. It’s a necessary evil and
time consuming. That’s why we only put it out to bid every two or three years.

Salesperson – Here’s what I propose that could
save us both time. I’d like to know exactly what it would take in order for you
to move your business to our agency. If I can’t do something you require I’ll
let you know right away and remove myself from the quoting process and save us
both time. How does that approach sound?

Customer – I think that’s a great approach.

From this point forward the salesperson has to
use good questioning techniques to learn the key factors in the buying
decision. The conversation should end something like this:

Salesperson – We’ve covered a lot of ground
today! If I understand you correctly we need to do A, B and C in order to
become your new insurance agent. Am I correct?

Customer – That’s right, A, B and C are

Salesperson – And there’s no other reason you
wouldn’t make the switch if we do A, B and C?

Customer – Nope. You do those three things and
we’re in business together.

If you return to the office and realize you
can’t do all three just let the customer know right away. But, if you can do
all three that becomes you’re leverage to easily ask for the business when you
present your proposal. Will everyone say “Yes” at that point? No, because
sometimes things change. However, using this approach will get far more
customers saying, “Yes” because the psychology of consistency drives them to naturally
do that.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Influencers from Around the World – Three Keys to Consider when Negotiating with the Chinese

Marco Germani has been guest writing for
Influence PEOPLE for four years. He’s written his own book on persuasion and
applies the principles of influence daily as he travels the world selling wine.
I encourage you to reach out to Marco on Facebook
and LinkedIn.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Keys to Consider when Negotiating with the Chinese
A few years ago I attended an influence workshop
put on by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., where the last part of the seminar was
dedicated to applying the principles of persuasion to different cultures around
the world. My understanding was the principles were immutable and universally
accepted all over the planet but in fact Dr. Cialdini explained that in
different cultures some principles are much more effective than others.


As an export manager in the wine business,
spending over 70% of my time traveling around the world and making deals, I
started to pay attention to this aspect and I realized that Dr. Cialdini was
absolutely right! What works in Italy is sometimes less effective in Germany or
in South Korea, and the best way to carry out negotiations in the United States
could be totally ineffective in Japan.
 In this week’s post I would like to focus on
China, a country which I’ve had the chance to visit many times over the past
seven years and which can be considered one of a kind in many aspects,
including the way Chinese negotiate and persuade. This subject could be very
vast but I would like to point out three main differences in the Chinese way of
negotiating because this understanding can make a big difference if you ever
find yourself doing business in China.
1. The
concept of “face” (Mian Zi)
“Losing face” is considered one of the worst
things that can happen to a Chinese person. Being diminished or worse, ridiculed,
in front of others, is the ultimate humiliation in China and this must always
be taken into account when negotiating. If yielding to your conditions could
even remotely generate the feeling that your counterpart was wrong, proposed
something inconsistent, or that makes him clearly “lose the game” when
negotiating, the deal simply will not happen. This extension of the principle
of social proof is a very sensitive subject in Asia and Chinese people in
particular seem to care about it even more.
A Chinese boss would never criticize or
admonish a subordinate in front of others, as this would cause him to lose
face. When bargaining in a street market a Chinese vendor would prefer to lose
the sale rather than accept your first price.
Taking this into account means always giving a
way out to your counterpart in order to help him “save face.” It is surprising
how many Westerns ignore this point and have trouble negotiating with the Chinese.
If the negotiation is seen as a battle, in which a party wins and the other
loses, in China the two parties are almost always bound to lose simultaneously.
The “win-win” concept introduced by the late Stephen Covey in his best seller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is
more relevant in China than elsewhere. It can be the deal maker or deal breaker,
whether in a business or personal negotiation with a Chinese individual.
2. The
concept of relationship (Guan-xi)
Business IS all about relationships and
everybody knows it. In the newest edition of The Pyramid of Sale by Brian Tracy and other renowned sales
trainers contend that the pyramid base is building relationships and trust with
the customers, whereas in the past it was the presentation of the product.
In China this concept goes even further. The
nearly untranslatable word  “guan-xi”
literally means “network of relationships” but it has a deeper meaning,
including how well you are perceived by influential people in your network and
how you are able to help your business counterparts network with the influential
people you know.
When starting to negotiate with a Chinese
person, the fact that you have common friends, or the fact that you have relationships
with relevant people who might turn out to be useful to your counterpart, can
give you a huge advantage. I consider this an extension of the principle of liking
even though it has a deeper and subtler meaning.
The skilled negotiator, when entering into a
discussion with a Chinese person, will take care to inform the other of the influential
people he knows or has business relationships with, letting the other
understand that, if the deal between the two of them is made, this influential
network will be put at his disposal as a natural consequence of starting a
partnership.  The problem with this
attitude, which is widely used by Chinese people when negotiating with
Westerns, is this; the information shared is seldom accurate and often purely
instrumental to get a vantage point in the discussion.
Let’s pretend I am trying to sell wine to a
dealer in China. He might state that, if I accept his conditions and start a
partnership with him, that he would introduce me to his best friend, the buyer
of the largest Chinese retail chain, whom, thanks to his introduction, will
seriously consider doing business with me as well. This is obviously just a negotiation
technique, which appeals to the greediness of Western business people and in
part to their ingenuity.
3. The
concept of circular thinking
The last crucial information to know about
when negotiating with the Chinese is the difference between the Western
“linear” thinking and Eastern “circular” thinking.  A few years ago I was involved in a long
negotiation with a Chinese buyer of frozen pizza, produced by an Italian
factory and to be distributed in several regions of China. This was going to generate
a considerable amount of business for the seller. The negotiation went on for
weeks and it seemed like we never reach an agreement. Every time there was a
new issue popping out: exclusivity, special recipe for the Chinese market,
color of the label on the package, selling price, payment terms, etc. In the
end, and after several meetings with the owner of the company in China, a
contract was finally written and it seemed to suit both partners. We celebrated
together in one of those infamous Chinese banquets for more than five hours
with alcohol flowing freely.
A couple of days later, when the Italian CEO
had already left China, I was incredulous when the Chinese buyer called me and
he said he would like to meet me to again discuss several points of the
contract. It seemed like all of the past efforts were useless and we were back
to point zero. This was because I did not understand at the time the concept of
“circular thinking.” For Western businessman reviewing an already signed contract
means there’s something wrong with it which needs to be changed but for a Chinese
businessman this might only mean they really would like to review the points
and have them restated, not necessarily that they don’t agree with them or they
want to change them. It is part of their culture and the process makes them
feel safer and reassured. This must always be taken into account when
negotiating with the Chinese. Reviewing over and over already established points
is not a bad sign or a waste of time, it is just part of the natural process of
negotiation in China!
As said, the subject is much wider than this
and I have treated it extensively in my eBook Business con la Cina (Bruno Editore – 2010, only available in
Italian at the moment but maybe one day I’ll have it translated into English).
For those who speak Italian, you can find it here



Cialdini “Influence”
 Would you like to learn more about
influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini
Method Certified Trainers from around the world.

The Overwhelmed Brain – An Interview

Earlier this month I was the podcast guest on The Overwhelmed Brain: The Journey to a
Stress-Free Life
. The site was recently started by Paul Colaianni. Paul and
I have been connected through social media for several years.
Paul’s fascination with psychology, self-help
and his own personal journey led him to start The Overwhelmed Brain. His goal
is to help people who are feeling overwhelmed because of the pace of life and the
circumstances they face.
Several months ago Paul reached out to ask if I’d
be interested in talking about the psychology of persuasion. Of course I said
yes because it’s one of my favorite things to share with people! I truly
believe understanding how to ethically persuade others is a big key to your
professional success and personal happiness.
Would you like to understand a few concepts that
could help you enjoy that personal success? How about more personal happiness?
Would coping a little better with the overwhelming things in your life be beneficial
for you? If you answered yes to any of those questions then I invite you to
visit Paul’s site and listen to theinterview.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Social Proof in Social Media


Not long ago, as I scanned through my social
media sites one morning, I came across a blog post where someone shared six
reasons why they decided to give up alcohol. Curiosity got the best of me so I
clicked on the link to find out why the author made that choice.
All of his reasons were valid and probably the
best choice for him. What caught my attention more than his reasons were the comments
that ensued. At the time I read the post, all 15 comments were from people who
had also given up alcohol. There wasn’t one person who took the opposing view.
I decided to post a comment about why I choose
to drink alcohol. To every point he shared I could make the opposite case as
long as the drinking was in moderation. Despite the fact that according to a 2012
Gallup Poll 64% of Americans
drink alcohol on occasion, I felt odd posting my comment because I was
definitely in the minority.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that despite
the fact that two out of three Americans drink, all the readers said they
didn’t drink. As I thought about it two reasons came to mind.
The first reason was social proof (aka
consensus or peer pressure). This principle of influence tells us the more
people do something the more inclined others are to join in. In other words, we
get our cues for socially acceptable behavior by looking at how others are
behaving in the same situation.
This was a classic case of social proof in
action because the more people posted about their experience, the more others
felt free to do the same thing.  It’s not
just that other people posted that made the difference, it was that all the
posts were similar. You see, when we notice the behavior of people we view as
similar to us that magnifies the feeling that we should behave in the same way.
For example, if a teen sees a large group of
people doing something do you think they’re more inclined to follow suit if
that large group consists of other teenagers or adults? Teenagers, of course.
Another reason the comments gained traction
was due to liking. We tend to like those we see as similar to ourselves in some
way so readers seeing the author had a similar stance on alcohol made them like
him more and, therefore, made it easier for them to post.
Social media is amazing for so many reasons. At
my age I can easily recall the days before mobile phones, the Internet and
social media. Soon younger people won’t have any recollection of those days and
therefore might not marvel at the technology the way some of us do.
However, despite all the good social media can
do, sometimes it doesn’t change human behavior much. Prior to social media, and
still today, I bet you hang around people who are similar to you. Take politics
for example. My guess is the vast majority of your friends hold essentially the
same political views as you do. Being similar generally makes for less
contentious conversations and better times for the majority of people.
That same trigger applies to those with whom
we connect on social media, the blogs we read, the news stations we watch, and
so on. There’s nothing wrong with this but the more time goes by the more
entrenched we become in our viewpoints. Knowing our point of view isn’t always
correct, isn’t it worth it to stretch ourselves some?
Here’s my advice – make it a point to get
together on occasion with people who are different than you. If you watch Fox
News take a look at CNN sometimes, and if you’re a CNN person, watch Fox News.
Believe me, it won’t kill you. Follow some blogs or people you know who hold
different opinions than you do, if for no other reason than to try to
understand their perspective. You might be surprised at what you learn.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Don’t take it Personal. It’s Just Business.

“Taken” is a movie that tells the story of a
young girl who goes to Europe with a friend and is kidnapped. She’s sold into
the sex slave trade but fortunately for her, and unfortunately for the bad guys,
her father, played by Liam Neeson, is a badass ex-CIA type who is used to
solving problems in a ruthless way.

I’ll never forget Jane and I watching “Taken”
in the theater just days before we were about to put Abigail on an airplane to
see her Aunt Eva in New York City. Not the most comforting feeling to know there are
sick people out there ready to prey on the innocent and unsuspecting as you’re
about to send your 13-year-old daughter on her first solo trip!
As Neeson closes in on finding his daughter,
he finds himself at the party of a very rich businessman. The businessman has a
secret; despite being a father he is running a sex slave trade where people are
paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for young women. Neeson learns that his
daughter is at this house and is about to rid the world of this thug and just
before he does so there is a brief exchange:
Bad Guy – “Please understand it was all
business. It wasn’t personal.” [Hoping to be spared]
Liam Neeson – “It was all personal to me.”
[Shoots him]
For those of us in business, while not enduring
the kind of situation Neeson found himself in, we’ve probably heard something
similar countless times from much nicer people – “Don’t take it personal, it’s
just business.”

But the reality is this; we do take it personally.
Think about how people describe themselves so often:I’m a fireman.

I’m a salesman.
I’m a nurse.
I’m a …
Much of our being is wrapped up in what we do,
“I am.” That’s only natural because from about age 20 through 65, many people
will work upwards of 100,000 hours! We spend more of our lives at work than
with our loved ones so how can we not heavily associate our identity with what
we do? If that’s the case then it’s almost impossible not to take it personally.
So how do we avoid taking it personally? By
building relationships that are so strong they can trump almost all other
reasons to do business with us. Jeffrey Gitomer, a well-known author and sales
trainer puts it this way: “All things being equal, people want to do business
with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do
business with their friends.”
Gitomer’s philosophy goes to what Robert
Cialdini calls the liking principle. This principle of influence reminds us that
people prefer to say, “Yes” to those they know and like. It’s a very powerful
tool when it comes to influence.
I’m a realist and know friendship won’t trump
everything. There’s a certain price for which people will switch. How big that
difference is depends on a lot. However, I bet many of you reading this can
think of times you’ve chosen to do business with someone despite their pricing
being higher because of the friendship you have.
Here’s some proof in case you’re a skeptic. A
study was done with students from Stanford University and Northwestern. The
students were given the task of negotiating a deal. Half of the students were
told to “keep it strictly business” while the other half were encouraged to get
to know their negotiating partner; exchange pictures, emails, etc.
Did getting personal make a difference? It
most certainly did! Five times more “strictly business” students got deadlocked
in their negotiations as compared to the “get to know your partner group.” That’s
right, five times more (30% vs. 6%). Would it be beneficial for your business
if you could seal the deal significantly more than you’re currently
doing…without having to spend more money? All it takes is a bit of effort and
conversation to do these two things:
  1. Take time to find similarities with people you
    do business with. Talking about what you have in common is an easy way to bond
    with another person.
  2. Look for things about the other person you can
    genuinely compliment and then compliment them. They’ll feel good about you and
    you’ll convince yourself they’re a pretty good person in the process.
Fortunately we don’t have to try solving our
business problems like Liam Neeson had to. Give these two simple ideas a try
and you’ll build better relationships — the kind that will make, “Don’t take
it personal, it’s just business,” a thing of the past.

Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

What’s Aristotle’s Best Persuasion Advice?

Last week I quoted Aristotle in the post about Lance Armstrong. The great Greek philosopher, is credited with telling the world, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” I had a chance to see that up close and
personal not too long ago.

Many of you reading this may be familiar with the tragic story of Josh Brent and his late friend Jerry Brown. Jerry died in a car accident in December when Josh was behind the wheel. According to police reports, Josh’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit to be considered drunk. In an amazing act of kindness Stacey Brown, Jerry’s mother, forgave Josh and asked his Dallas Cowboys teammates to do the same.
On December 16 the Dallas Cowboys played the Pittsburgh Steelers in a nationally televised game and Josh Brent was shown on the sideline with his teammates. The Cowboys organization thought that was a way to
support Josh as he struggles with the reality of his actions. The American public didn’t see it that way and Facebook and Twitter lit up with comments asking how the Cowboys could do such a thing. I was among those who posted a comment because it was inconceivable to me that someone getting ready to go to court for the manslaughter of his best friend, while intoxicated, would be allowed on the sidelines, especially given the fact that the National Football League has had such a big problem with players and substance abuse.
Several people commented on my post and I made a joke that Josh’s next game will be as a prisoner in The Longest Yard 3. That’s when a friend, someone whom I respect very much, weighed in and wrote, “Jerry Brown’s mother has forgiven Josh. Please don’t dishonor her or her son with these comments. Thanks so much fellas.”
Immediately I was convicted. I still disagreed
with the decision by the Cowboys organization but my second comment was insensitive and my friend was 100% right. But what really made the difference for me was the respect I have for my friend. He didn’t need to do anything except share the truth and because of how he’s conducted his life it carried the weight of the world for me.
I deleted my original comment and the subsequent comments from my Facebook wall then sent a message to my friend to let him know I heard him, that I was wrong, and that the comment had been removed. He
replied as follows:
“My niece was killed by a drunk driver; my sister was maimed by a drunk driver, losing the use of her leg. I am adamantly opposed to drinking and driving. I can’t imagine what this young man will go
through knowing what he did to his best friend. My guess is that his teammates are just trying to help him get through it. You are a great friend and I know you would do the same for me if I screwed up like this; while still kicking my butt for being so stupid.”
I didn’t know this about my friend’s family history with drunk drivers. As I noted earlier, because of how my friend has conducted himself over the 20 years I’ve known him he had the right to set me straight. It never feels good to be called to the carpet but I’ve learned the best approach is to take Dale Carnegie’s advice – When you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.
I teach people about the psychology of persuasion because I believe it’s a necessary tool for success and happiness. However, even if you don’t consider yourself an expert on the principles of
influence there’s another tool that’s completely within your control – your conduct, which builds or destroys your character. Do the right thing and you earn the right to speak into people’s lives because Aristotle was correct, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”


Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Influencers from Around the World – Real World Persuasion in Selling

To start the New Year our Influencers from Around the World guest post comes to us by way of Ireland from my good friend Sean Patrick. Sean owns a sales training company, Sales Training Evaluation. He  came to the States in October 2010 to spend a week with me and attended the Principles of Persuasion workshop I hosted. You can connect with Sean on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Brian, CMCT® 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Real World Selling
As a reader of Brian Ahearn’s blog, you’ve come to expect to read mostly about Robert Cialdini’s principles of persuasion. This post is slightly different, as I’ll be talking about some fanciful tactical elements that can make up a potent mix and get more people to say “Yes” more often.
You’ve probably read it somewhere that people buy from people and people trust people that appear similar to themselves. The next time you are solving a personal crisis with a friend or about to go and pitch to a new customer, how about understanding those people first? Do your research and find out as much about that person as possible. Learn out about their past, their likes, dislikes, as well as their personal and professional milestones. You can actually find a lot of this information just by using a strong Boolean search in Google, by reading press releases and other material such as presentations and white papers, and more importantly by “listening” to that person on social media. This gives you an advantage because you’ll understand what motivates that person.
We all have fears, whether it’s fear of putting on weight, missing deadlines, death, inflation, debt, the unknown, and growing old. From a young age, we’ve been coached into making prejudices about our decisions by making cross-references between our past and current experiences. Fear, uncertainty and doubt make us think irrationally and can be powerful enough to drive us into making decisions that are negative as well as positive. If we make negative decisions such as taking up smoking, there is usually a positive intention behind the original decision, and that positive intention could be to help us get some relief from stress. This is what’s known as secondary gain.
If we go back to our fears just for a moment, think about the decisions to buy life insurance and invest in pension funds. We buy expensive gym memberships because of a fear of putting on weight; we buy home security products because we fear for the integrity of our home and possessions. Our first lesson here is to think about the underlying motivators that cause us to make decisions because a lot of our decision-making isn’t logically grounded but rather, can be very irrational.
One way of looking at this is to view your decisions in two groups: away from and towards. For example, we move away from our fears and we move towards things we love. But think about why we either fear or love. This is a huge motivator and can wreak havoc on unsuspecting customers and cause great profit from vendors.
How do you perceive value and ask yourself what does value mean to you? When you’re selling or trying to get a friend or associate to buy into your idea, think in terms of what value you can offer to help sweeten the deal. Value comes in two different types: personal value and business value. Let’s take a look at personal value first. Think about all those times when you volunteered information nuggets gratis (or free). What happened? More than likely, the recipient profited in some way. This is called personal value and most of the time, you give this away too cheaply. As a law abiding and decent citizen, your mother brought you up to share things with other people. This is a lovely gesture but charitable acts such as sharing in the business world will leave you feeling punished and dejected. Never share your candy too soon.
Business value is slightly different. You show this type of value by demonstrating your capability in a way that is unique to you. This differentiates you and lessens the likelihood of being commoditized by a buying officer. You can offer business value by selling a $10 lunch for $ 7.99 but is that going to be enough? Certainly not for everyone. Real business value is doing something utterly different that allows you to create your own rules and profit from them because no one else can offer the same product or service as you. For example, Apple rode out financial turbulence by moving away (think of motivators here) from debt and making profit by creating remarkable products that weren’t available anywhere else. Or were they? Similar products were available but Apple went a step further, they created unique enhancements to increase the user experience, which increased its products’ value exponentially.
Finally, think of our motivators again back at the beginning of this post. This time let’s turn those inside out. This is called expectation. When we buy expensive gym memberships we expect to receive help in getting fit and losing weight. When we buy life insurance we expect to insulate ourselves against our loved ones being left high and dry financially. You get the picture.
This is yet another way of thinking about benefits, those by-products we experience positively via our purchases. We want results and solutions to our problems and that’s exactly what we expect when make those purchases. Whenever you’re embarking on a persuasion process with someone, think about how the other person can benefit from your idea and tell him or her exactly what he or she can expect. If you find this tough to do, ask that person a series of questions to find out what they want, then match what you can deliver that gives them a solution and then tell them precisely what they can expect.