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Learn to Close without “Closing” with Persuasive Selling

In my quarterly newsletter last week I mentioned I’m finishing up my second book. Persuasive Selling is written for people in the insurance industry and should be available on Amazon by year-end. The book looks at the application of the principles of influence throughout the sales cycle and how to apply the psychology to different buying styles. Below is an excerpt from the chapter I’ve called Closing without “Closing”.

Nobody Wants to be Closed

What’s the number one reason we hold back in relationships? The fear of rejection. Nobody likes that feeling so we do what we can to avoid that possible self-inflicted wound. This is why so many people struggle when it comes to dating. It’s why people rank the fear of public speaking over death. And without question fear is the biggest reason salespeople are reluctant to ask for the sale. It’s safer for the ego to let the prospect “think it over and get back to you.” 

Consider this: if you knew you would close every sale every time you would always ask for the sale! In fact, you’d probably look for every opportunity to get in front of as many people as possible. On the other end of the spectrum, if you didn’t give a darn what some stranger thought of you then you’d have no problem asking for the sale either. Obviously you don’t live in either extreme so what can you do?

  1. Separate rejection of your offer from you. When you realize a prospect is saying no to your offer it begins to remove the sting of rejection. Unless they really don’t like you (that would not be the case because you know how to leverage liking!) then it must have come down to something in your proposal.
  2. Get better at selling. The only way to move closer to 100% acceptance is by getting better at selling. I’m not so naive to think any price or protection plan can be sold but I do believe many more deals could be closed if salespeople did a better job incorporating the principles of influence when talking to customers. Why else do some salespeople close sales that you might never think possible? 

In their uncertainty, prospects generally do one of two things: 1) take the safe route and don’t change anything, or 2) go with the salesperson who fearlessly asked them if they could start on the paperwork.

The number one question salespeople ask is this: “What’s the best way to close?” When I’m asked about closing my standard response is, “The best way to close starts the moment you meet a prospect for the first time, look him or her in the eye and shake hands.” That sets the stage and from that point forward however easy or difficult closing the sale is depends on what you do. I believe closing the sale should just be a natural part of the ongoing conversation with a prospective customer. The best compliment a salesperson can hear from a client is, “I never felt like I was being sold.”

Early on in this book I quoted Jeffrey Gitomer, “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.” Tapping into liking early and often will make a big difference by the time you ask for the business. Always start your contact with a prospect on a social level bonding over things you have in common and looking for opportunities to offer genuine compliments.

The more you’ve done for the prospect and the more you’ve gone out of your way on their behalf, the more likely they are to look for some way to give back to you. If you’re unable to close the deal for some reason you might still leverage all you’ve done as a way to get some referrals because of reciprocity.

Of course, people want to know they’re doing business with an expert because it gives them more confidence in their decision. As you make your way through the sales process, show yourself to be professional and someone your prospects can rely on for answers when they need them. In short, tap into authority. Mentioning the clients who are like them, those that you already do business with, taps into consensus and makes you look like even more of an authority. 

All of these principles serve to reinforce why the prospect has made their way to this point with you. It’s very likely both of you have invested a lot of time and effort up to this point. Now it becomes especially important to tap into consistency and scarcity.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.

The Catalyst to Vegetarian

I’ve been reading The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Wharton Professor Jonah Berger. Good book, I highly recommend it. As I’ve been reading it’s caused me to consider why I made the switch to vegetarian last November.

My wife Jane has been a vegetarian for more than 25 years. She made that decision because she loves animals. She’s technically a pescatarian because she will eat fish. I tell people, if it walks or flies it’s off limits but if it swims it’s fair game. She must not have had goldfish growing up!

For most of those 25 years Jane has encouraged me to try vegetarianism. She was not overt, just subtle things as in, “Try this, you’ll like it,” or “I bet you’d like being a vegetarian.” My standard responses were, “I would never order that if I could get a steak instead,” and, This would be perfect if there were some chicken in it.”

I joked with people that we both loved animals: she loved saving them and I loved eating them. Knowing this, why would a guy who runs every day, lifts weights and does martial arts give up meat?

My catalyst for change was watching a Netflix documentary called The Game Changers. A UFC fighter was injured and looked into diet as a way to speed up his recovery. He was floored by what he learned about a plant based diet. He featured strength athletes, endurance athletes, mixed martial artists, football players and others who successfully made the switch.

I love my wife and I know she has my best interests at heart. During her years as a vegetarian she went through a pregnancy, ran two marathons, competed in triathlons and became an awesome golfer. But, there’s always that spousal rub. You know what I mean. Your spouse might suggest something and you contend with it but when someone else says the same thing, well it’s the best idea since sliced bread! Sad, but true.

Truthfully, the catalyst for me was the athletes. Because I had, or continue to participate in most sports I was intrigued by their results. When it comes to influence there was consensus, liking, authority and scarcity. A bunch of people (consensus) like me – athletes – (liking) had successfully made the switch. There was empirical data from doctors and other researchers (authority) to back up the claims. I wondered what I might be missing if I don’t at least give it a try (scarcity).

Believe it or not, I haven’t missed steak or chicken. You might think, “No way, I could never do that.” I’m with you because that’s what I would have said too. More importantly, what have I noticed since making the switch?

  • Although many people lose weight when they go vegetarian I’ve not lost or gained any weight. Mind you, I ate pretty good, much better than the average person to begin with, and worked out a lot.
  • I can’t say my athletic performance has improved but at 56 I don’t expect to run farther or faster than I used to because I don’t train like I did when I competed. The same goes for the weights. My goals are different now.
  • My annual physical was great! Cholesterol along with every other indicator were very good. Health, not athletic performance, is my number one goal now.
  • Jane’s life is much easier (that’s what I live for) because she no longer has to consider cooking meat or chicken when she makes dinner. I must say her cooking, which was very good to begin with, has gotten even better because she feels free to try new things.
  • When we go out we can split dishes now. This is particularly good because it seems like most meals these days can feed two or three people!

Bottom line for me, no big health or weight changes but given our lifestyle the switch has been good. That’s my diet and I’m sticking to it.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.

 

7 Deadly Sins When Trying to Influence PEOPLE

I just celebrated my 12th anniversary partnering with INFLUENCE AT WORK, the organization headed up by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. Cialdini, sometimes called “the Godfather of influence”, is the most cited living social psychologist on the planet when it comes to the science of influence. I have the privilege of being one of only two dozen people worldwide to have been personally trained and certified by Cialdini to teach his methodology when it comes to influence.

During my years working with people I’ve run into countless times where I’ve seen salespeople, marketers, leaders and many others incorrectly use the principles of influence. Here’s why it’s a big problem – when people use the principles incorrectly they don’t see the results they expect. That failure leads to, “Yea, it sounds good when he says it but it doesn’t work in real life.”

Trust me, used ethically and correctly, the principles of influence will move more people to act. There’s seven decades of research to back up that statement. To help you avoid that pitfall I want to share the 7 deadly sins – one for each principle – I see when people attempt to use the psychology of persuasion.

Liking

We all know it’s easier to say yes to those we know and like. Whether you’re in sales, coaching or leadership, the more someone likes you the more likely they are to follow your advice.

  • Mistake. Knowing this, people work too hard to get others to like them. They end up coming across like a desperate salesman who will say or do anything to close the sale.
  • Solution. Stop trying to get people to like you. Instead, try to like the people you’re with. As others sense you genuinely like and care for them, they will be far more likely to say yes to you.

Unity

Unity is about shared identity. We when see another person as one of us, saying yes to them is like saying yes to ourselves.

  • Mistake. People think this is the principle of liking on steroids. With that thought, they try harder than ever to connect on what they have in common.
  • Solution. Unity isn’t always available but when it is, tap into it. Do some homework to find out if you share something deep with the others person. It may be that you served in the same branch of the military, were in the same fraternity or sorority, or happened to share the same cultural heritage.

Reciprocity

From the time we’re young we’re taught that when someone does something for us we’re expected to do something in return. Help someone first and they’re likely to help you in return.

  • Mistake. I see marketers blow this one all the time. They encourage people to give a free gift after someone does something like sign up for a newsletter. That’s not reciprocity, that’s offering a reward as inducement and there’s a big difference.
  • Solution. Encourage people to take advantage of a free offer then, after they’ve done so, you can ask for something in return. “I hope you enjoy the free article! In fact, I hope you enjoy it so much you’ll want to sign up for our newsletter to learn even more. Click here to do so.”

Consensus

Humans are pack animals. Over the course of history, we’ve learned there’s safety in numbers and “everyone can’t be wrong.” Generally, it works well for us to follow the crowd.

  • Mistake. Thinking highlighting a big number is all that’s needed. For example, telling incoming college freshman 65% of students cheat (I made that up) in order to highlight the problem only encourages more cheating, making the problem worse.
  • Solution. Think about the behavior you want then emphasize stats that will encourage the desirable behavior. “College cheating has been on the decline each of the last five years,” would be a good message to encourage less cheating and get the behavior you’re hoping for.

Authority

People will listen to perceived experts, and follow their advice, far more often than they will someone whom they know nothing about.

  • Mistake. Don’t wait until the end of your talk or meeting to highlight your expertise. By that time people may have tuned you out.
  • Solution. Whether it’s a presentation or running a meeting, let people know your credentials up front. If possible, have someone introduce you for even more credibility. This approach causes people to listen more closely early on and likely throughout your presentation.

Consistency

People tend to feel better about themselves when their words and deeds match. As little pleasure seekers and pain avoiders this is a powerful principle.

  • Mistake. Too many people tell others what to do and think they’ve engaged the principle of consistency. When you tell someone what to do you’ve not triggered the psychology of wanting word and deed to match.
  • Solution. Stop telling people what to do and start asking. When you ask and someone says “Yes” they’re far more likely to follow through on their word because they don’t want to feel bad and look bad.

Scarcity

It’s a natural human tendency to want we can’t have or whatever might be going away. We hate the thought of having missed out on something.

  • Mistake. Manufacturing false scarcity will hurt your credibility. Don’t use the worn out line, “If you sign today I can save you 15% but I can’t offer you this deal after today.” Seldom is that true and people have learned to see through it.
  • Solution. If scarcity isn’t available, don’t manufacture it. If it is naturally available use it but don’t come across in a fear mongering, scare tactic way. “I’d hate for you to miss out on this opportunity,” is more effective than, “You really should take advantage of this deal.” It’s a subtle difference that can make all the difference.

BONUS! Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast isn’t actually one of the 7 principles of influence. It’s a psychological concept that’s always available because people are always making comparisons. Knowing this, it deserves mention.

  • Mistake. Too often people make the wrong comparison. In sales this happens when people try to “upsell” customers. The problem is, once you’ve seen a low number it becomes an anchor and all other numbers seem bigger by comparison as you try to upsell. Not exactly what you want when trying to close a sale.
  • Solution. Present your best solution, product or service first. You never know, the other person might just say yes. If they don’t, you have options to retreat to and when you do so, the price on those options looks better by comparison.

Conclusion

The principles of influence describe how people typically think and behave. Consider them communication tools and, like any tool, they’re only as good as the person who wields it. You may know how to use a saw and hammer but that doesn’t make you a carpenter. The same goes with the principles. Knowing and wielding them correctly (and ethically) are two different things.

To Do This Week

  1. Give these mistakes thought.
  2. Ask yourself if you’ve made any of these mistakes.
  3. Commit to keep learning and growing.

Do those three things and you will have more people saying yes to you more often.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 90,000 people around the world!

From Womb to Tomb Each of Us is a Persuader

From womb to tomb, each of us uses the skill of persuasion throughout our lifetime. As soon as babies come into the world they cry because they want to be held, fed, burped or changed. They don’t understand they’re engaging the skill we call persuasion, but they know they have a need and they want it met! Persuading others to act is one big way each of us seeks to get our needs met every day.

What is Persuasion?

Persuasion is more than changing hearts or minds, it’s ultimately about changing behaviors. Aristotle put it best when he said persuasion was, “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”

If someone is already doing what you want then persuasion isn’t necessary. However, if someone isn’t doing what you need them to do then how you communicate might make all the difference between yes and no. But doesn’t this border on manipulation?

Persuasion vs. Manipulation

Persuasion differs from manipulation in that manipulation is one sided. The manipulator doesn’t care about the other person. Manipulators only focus on what’s good for them.

Persuasion on the other hand carefully considers the other person, their wants, needs, desires and goals. Ethical persuaders focus on three very important things.

  1. Win-win. Ethical persuaders look to create mutually beneficial outcomes. I like to say, “Good for you, good for me, then we’re good to go!”
  2. Ethical persuaders tell the truth and they don’t hide the truth. By being truthful to a fault they build trust with everyone they interact with.
  3. Ethical persuaders only use psychology that’s natural to the situation. For example, if scarcity doesn’t exists they don’t falsely create it.

Relationships are the Foundation

It’s a well-established fact that people prefer to say yes to those they know and like. The mistake most people make in relationship building is focusing on getting others to like them. Getting others to like you can be effective and it’s not difficult to do. Two simple ways to make this happen are to focus on what you have in common and pay sincere compliments.

It’s very natural for us to like people we view as similar to us. For example, if you and I find out we grew up in the same hometown, went to the same college or cheer for the same team, you will like me more. Along the same lines; if I pay you a genuine compliment you’ll feel good about me and like me more. Nothing new here.

While there’s certainly benefit to that approach I’ve learned there’s a much better way. Cultivate the following mindset: I want to like the other person. And here’s some great news – the very same things that will make you like me will make me like you. In other words, when I find out we grew up in the same hometown, went to the same college, or cheer for the same team, I will like you more. If I pay you genuine compliments I will see you as a good person and I will like you more.

This is a game changer because when you sense deep down that I truly like you – and I do – you become much more open to whatever I may ask of you. Why? Because deep down we all believe friends to right by friends.

No More Manipulation

Here’s where manipulation is all but removed from the equation – the more I come to like you the more I want what’s best for you. Now my attempts to persuade you come from a place of wanting the best for you and you receive it that way. We have a virtuous cycle that’s good for you and good for me.

The subtle shift from getting others to like you, to becoming a person who likes the people you work with, naturally makes you the kind of person others want to be around and work alongside. In other words, you become the preferred teammate.

Keys to Ethical Persuasion

The following principles are scientifically proven to help you be more persuasive. The science is based on more than 70 years of research from social psychology and more recently behavioral economics. Let’s briefly look at each principle.

Liking. The principle of liking was just described in detail above. Coming to like others will cause them to like you and will make it easier to persuade them because you’ll want what’s in their best interest.

Reciprocity. When you give, people will naturally want to give in return. I help you, you help me and we’re both better off. Remember, because I’ve come to like you, my giving is from a place of goodness, wanting to help you in ways that will be beneficial to you.

Social Proof. The actions of others impact how we think feel and behave. It’s why we’re drawn to “best sellers” and “most popular” opportunities. If others like you prefer something, it’s a good bet you’ll feel the same and be willing to follow their lead.

Authority. We feel better following the lead of experts. The more you establish yourself as an expert or the more you bring credible expertise into your communication the easier it will be for someone to follow your advice.

Consistency. Most people feel better about themselves when their words and deeds align. Telling someone what to do is never as effective as asking because psychologically, once someone responds saying they’ll do something, they’re more like to follow through. That’s because they want to feel good about themselves and look good in your eyes.

Scarcity. It’s natural for us to want things more when we believe they’re rare or going away. But the key is knowing that. By honestly telling someone about an opportunity that might not be available soon, or what they may lose if they don’t follow your advice, they’re more likely to act.

Full Circle

I used the term “virtuous cycle” earlier. Ethical persuaders understand this and take the long view when it comes to working with people. They recognize it starts with relationship. The stronger the relationship the easier everything becomes thereafter.

I often ask people; is it critical to your professional success that you understand how to get more people to say yes more often? The answer there is always a resounding yes! They also recognize the importance yes plays at home. After all, things tend to be more peaceful and happier at home when those around you willingly say yes.

By studying the influence process and psychological triggers that lead to yes you will enjoy more success at the office, happiness at home and be the kind of person others want to work with.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling gAmazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 90,000 people around the world!

Take A Look At This Persuasive Marketing Piece

I still get lots of junk mail. I’m sure you do too. I usually glance at it mostly to see if any is effective. Most isn’t but every now and then I come across a persuasive marketing piece. A few weeks ago, I received something from Amica Insurance about auto insurance. The mailer did several things I’ll point out.

The Envelope

The envelope said only 1 in 25 drivers qualified for their special offer. That’s good use of scarcity. It feels good to be in an exclusive club and get benefits not everyone gets.

It then listed my potential savings of $596. That’s good and much more eye catching that saving $50 a month. Last but not least, I’m given a deadline – September 1 – to respond. Another application of scarcity.

Inside the Envelope

When I opened the envelope a yellow sticky note catches my eye. According to two independent studies the use of sticky notes doubles response rates.

In red it says there are important facts to review. Not only did I see facts, I saw how much I might save if I were currently with State Farm, Liberty Mutual or other well-known insurance carriers.

The Mailer – Page 1

When I open the actual mailer inside the envelope I’m immediately hit with the fact that American drivers overpay for auto insurance by an average of $368. More scarcity because people will take more action to avoid losing money than to save money.

I’m told I can get a free quote. Even though no insurance carrier will charge you to quote your insurance the word free is a big trigger for people. We love free stuff!

The Mailer – Page 2

The next page says at the top “Better drivers deserve a better value.” That appeals to the fact that we all believe we’re better than average. We believe we’re better looking, smarter, kinder and better drivers. If we’re better then we deserve better.

The box that follows lists four features of the policy. Most of the features are included with the majority of auto policies but, because people don’t read their insurance policies, the coverages stand out as novel. I also like that Amica limits it to four. More than five and people will forget them but fewer and people might feel like there’s not much that’s different with an Amica policy.

And Dinari DuPont personally signed the letter! Well, not actually but it looks like it.

Conclusion

Overall, I give Amica an A on their marketing piece. I think it has too much information but what it does share incorporates a lot of persuasive psychology.

Here’s my challenge for you over the next week. Don’t just toss the junk mail that makes its way to your mailbox and don’t delete all the spammy looking emails that hit your inbox. Take a few minutes to read some and see if you can pick up on the persuasive psychology that’s being used to try to move you to action.

Do this and two things will happen:

  1. You’ll become better at spotting how marketers, salespeople, politicians and others are trying to change your thinking and actions.
  2. You will begin to see opportunities you can use to ethically influence people.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – will be available for pre-sale then live sales in August 2019.

His LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalitiesthis fall.

The Madness of People – Our Irrational Selves

“I can calculate the motion of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” 
– Sir Isaac Newton

I came across this quote while reading Robert Greene’s latest book, The Laws of Human Nature. Greene has authored many books including The 48 Laws of Power and The 33 Strategies of War. All are excellent reads because they’re well written and Greene weaves history and interesting stories throughout to illustrate his points.

The quote from Isaac Newton came after Greene shared the story of the South Sea Company. In the early 1700s the South Sea Company was supposed to open trade in South America for England. Suffice it to say, their approach was similar to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme when it came to raising funds. It swept up people across England as they invested in what looked to be a sure-fire get rich quick opportunity. Even the brilliant, rational thinker Isaac Newton fell prey to the madness.

How did that happen? How did it happen again with Bernie Madoff? Why will it happen again? Three big reasons – recency bias, consensus and scarcity.

Recency bias

This is the distorted thinking where we give more weight to recent events than they deserve and we prioritize the present ahead of the future. Over the course of evolution giving immediate, focused attention to whatever was in front of us served humans well. That’s so because most dangers and opportunities were in the moment and needed to be acted upon right away to ensure survival.

Survival isn’t always at stake nowadays but our minds still focus far more on the present than the future. This is why so much importance is put on quarterly earnings by Wall Street. This pressure causes many companies to take actions to satisfy “the street” and investors in the short term but often at the expense of better long-term approaches.

In the case of the South Sea Company it was hard for people to resist investing when they kept seeing the stock price rise and people getting rich…even though the company never actually began trading in South America. Sounds a little like the dot com bust doesn’t it?

Consensus

We’re social animals so it’s natural for us to follow the crowd. This too served humans well when it came to survival. There’s safety in numbers and being part of the group felt more comfortable and safer than going it alone.

We don’t face the same kinds of physical dangers today that our ancestors faced so being part of the crowd shouldn’t be as important. But it is. Studies show exclusion from groups registers in the brain in the same region where physical pain is detected. In other words, there’s very little difference between physical pain and the pain we feel when we’re ostracized from groups.

We still see this mentality today with “hot stocks.” There are always those stocks that everyone seems to flock to which causes more people to flock to them. As this happens stock prices rise even if nothing tangible has been created yet. Sound a little like bitcoin?

Scarcity

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful motivator to act. Humans are wired to be more sensitive to loss than gain. In Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice he quotes social scientists Martie Haselton and Daniel Nettle:

“One prominent theory accounts for the primacy of loss over gain in evolutionary terms. If one has enough to survive, an increase in resources will be helpful but a decrease in those same resources could be fatal. Consequently, it would be adaptive to be especially sensitive to the possibility of loss.”

As people learned about the fantastic gains investors were making with the South Sea Company they couldn’t bear the thought of missing out on their chance to change their lot in life. Many dumped their life savings into the company in hopes of becoming fabulously wealthy.

It still happens today. Bernie Madoff’s stellar investment returns were an example. Smart, wealthy individuals and people with very intelligent investment advisors got sucked in. If those people and someone as rational and smart as Sir Isaac Newton can make the same mistake don’t fool yourself thinking you’re above it.

Conclusion

The wiring of your brain generally serves you well. However, we live in an unprecedented time of change and the pace of change is accelerating rapidly. Your brain on the other hand evolves very slowly and sometimes relying on old mental shortcuts can work against you instead of for you.

Next time something is consuming you, where you sense the pull of the crowd and feel like you’ll miss out if you don’t act quickly, take that as a cue to hit the pause button. If you’ll take time to slow down, consider why you’re feeling the way you are and take a long view, that might be enough for you to make a better, more rational decision. Sir Isaac Newton might not have done it but now you know a little more about the madness of human behavior than he did.

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses, Persuasive Selling  and  Persuasive Coaching have been viewed by nearly 65,000 people! His latest course, Creating a Coaching Culture, will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched them yet? Click a link 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.

A Wealth of Information Creates a Poverty of Attention!

Multi-tasking is a fallacy. Despite what you might believe, our brains cannot consciously focus on multiple tasks. Studies show when you try multi-tasking you’ll take longer and make more mistakes than you would have if you’d tackle one thing at a time. Sure, you can walk and talk but walking doesn’t take conscious thought most of the time. However, when something requires your attention, like avoiding stepping into the street into oncoming traffic, your ability to focus on the conversation, or anything else for that matter, is temporarily diverted.

In the world we live in some estimates say you’re bombarded with 3000 to 5000 marketing message a day. The late Herbert Simon, an economist, psychologist and Nobel Prize winner, said this about information overload, “…information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Your “poverty of attention” creates the inability to focus and is due in large part to the overstimulation of daily life. But it’s not just marketing that causes it. Your cell phone is part of the problem. Google “cell phone addiction” and you’ll get millions of results! According to an article on Health.com, smartphones have lots in common with Vegas slot machines and they’re altering our brains.

As a persuader you’re competing against this overstimulation and lack of attention. What can you do? By thoughtfully incorporating the principles of influence into your communication you can bypass a lot of the noise.

One big reason using the principles work so well is due to human evolution.  Over the course of history, the principles enabled humans make better decisions faster which increased our survival rate. Travel back in time and consider:

  • Someone who looked, sounded and acted like you could probably be trusted without giving it much consideration (liking).
  • There’s a rustling in the woods so everyone takes off running…and you do too, with very little thought (consensus).
  • There’s not much Wooly Mammoth left so you quickly get some because you don’t know when the next kill will be (scarcity).

These are just a few examples where the psychology of persuasion prompted actions that generally led to good results. Our world is vastly different than the one our ancestors occupied but we still face psychological threats and the wiring of the human brain hasn’t changed.

  • You get a new boss and you have many things in common. You immediately like your boss (liking) which makes working with her easier and less threatening.
  • You’re in new job and realize on day one that you’re not dressed like everyone else. That night you head to the store to make wardrobe adjustments so you’ll fit in a little better (consensus).
  • Things are changing at work but despite the fact that you’re not in agreement with everything you don’t speak up (scarcity).

We face a different environment than our ancestors but we’re using the same brain. The more you look for opportunities to tap into the principles of persuasion the easier it will be for your message to cut through the information overload.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 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.