Journey of Life

the place formerly known as control your destiny

The Art of Persuasion

The Art of Persusaion.
I suspect the title may conjure up a mix of reactions, some positive, some negative. Let me just clarify that this is not a post teaching you this art (I am not qualified to do that) nor am I trying to persuade you to anything, other than to hopefully read the rest of the post.
Let me give you an idea of what the post is about and why I decided to write it.
During my career, I have been through numerous training causes in the art of selling. Some have been very good and some have been pretty awful.
In addition, I have read countless books on the subject of selling and persuasion, because back then I wanted to become a super salesman, probably to feed my need for approval and reckognition. I still read this type of material, but now it’s because I find the subject of persuasion and human behaviour extremely fascinating!
In all honesty, I never really became very good at it and I still don’t classify myself as a good salesman. There is something about the word that always make me cringe. It has a kind of negative meaning for me. One associated with dishonesty and sleazy sales pitches.
Conceptually, I don’t have a problem with selling.
We all do it every single day. Right now I am effectively trying to sell you on the fact that I may have something useful to say, the price being your time(if you are still reading that is!!)
I do it every time I communicate with someone. I don’t mean that I consciously have a specific outcome in mind with every communication, but subconsciously I think I do. It could be nothing more than wanting to tell a group of friends about an experience or a joke even. But in order to do that I have to convince them that it will be worth their while spending time listeneing to me.
Granted, my job is mostly a sales job and as much as I hate to admit it, I have, in the past, used some of the sales techniques I have been taught with different degrees of success. I don’t regret this because it taught me some invaluable lessons along the way and I think it was meant to be part of my journey. I always felt uncomfortable if I was forced by a sales target or sales manager to just sell for the sake of it with no regard to the client. I also know that these methods is exactly why people generally respond negatively to sales people.Furthermore, I think a lot of people are less naive when it comes to being sold something, but there are still people out there who have perfected the art of selling or persuading you to buy their product or service, or in the political arena get you to vote for them.
How many times have you bought a product or a service and not really understood why you signed on the dotted line or parted with your cash? Even if it was a product or service you were actively looking for. Why did you buy from this particular person as opposed to the competetion?
I have been in that situation more times than I care to remember and every time I was sold to without even knowing it. The reason why I never realized I was being sold to was because the techniques are so subtle that it is difficult to notice. I am not referring to the hard sell methods, they are easy to spot. It’s the methods used by the people at the top of their game, who are so good at getting you to buy from them.
The motivation for this, was to share some of these techniques, so that you may be better equipped to spot them in future. Before I do, I just want to clarify that the techniques I will share with you are my interpretation of them and based on my experiences. If you want to dig deeper into the subject I will provide you with a list of further reading material.
One person who has covered this subject extensively is Robert Cialdini.
All of my sales training has been geared around the financial services industry, heavily focused on the selling of insurance products, but the techniques are used everywhere.
Getting you to like me
The first part of any sale involves the sales person getting the prospect to like him/her. Building rapport with the prospect is crucial as generally you do not have very long to create a good first impression. It is done by obviously being nice and friendly to the prospect, but the sales person will try to find some kind of common ground with the prospect. Something that makes the prospect think that they are similar in nature. Let’s imagine I came to your house to sell you something. Even before knocking on your door, I would have looked at your front garden to see if you were a keen gardener, I would have looked at what car you were driving, looked for any sign of toys laying around. I know this may sound a little creepy, but that is literally what I was taught to do. When inside, I would do the same thing, obviously while trying to make a good impression. It is a hunt for something to talk about. Now a lot of sales people will just pick something and pretend to be interested in that particular subject, but if I was to find a genuine shared hobby or interest, then that is half the job done already. I could be the most knowledgable person on that particular product, but if the prospect doesn’t feel that there are any similarities between you then it’s not going to happen!
Gaining trust
Next the sales person will ask questions around the prospect’s life, ambitions, dreams etc. Again this works because we like talking about ourselves, especially when we have full an undivided attention from a complete stranger, who seems very interested in what we have to say. Also we are slowly beginning to forget that this person may try to sell us something. We may even begin to trust him/her a little bit!
The “Yes” Habit
Then during the actual sales process the sales person will try to get the prospect into the habit of saying “yes” by asking questions that will make you by default say “yes”. Questions like, “are you happy for me to continue”, “Do you understand what I have explained” etc.
The idea is that the more often a prospect says yes the harder it becomes to say no when it is decision time! I have observed another sales person take this a step further. After a series of “yes” answers he basically asked the following question: “You would be stupid not to go ahead, wouldn’t you agree” the answer to which of course was “yes”. There is no going back now. Either the prospect goes ahead or admits he/she is stupid.
I have simplified this a little as you would have had to build upa lot of rapport and trust with this prospect in order to achieve this result.
The risk of losing out.
I see this a lot in online marketing but it happens all the time in all kinds of marketing. It’s the scenario where if you do not buy now you may just lose out as the offer is only valid today or the offer expires as soon as you walk out the door etc. There has been a number of studies into this and all of them suggest that we are more motivated by the loss of something than by the gain of the same thing.
There was a study done, in Santa Cruz, California. Researchers went door to door in certain neighborhoods with an official from the local power company who did an energy audit on each of the homes, telling homeowners where they should use weather stripping and insulate, and so on. And at the end of this audit, the official gave them a figure, let’s say it was $.75 and said if you will insulate your home fully, you will save $.75 a day every day. That was for half of them, the other half were told, if you fail to insulate your home fully, you will lose $.75 a day every day. Significantly more people insulated their homes under the loss instruction then under the gain instruction, even though it was the same thing. Excerpt from an interview with Cialdini – click here for the full interview!
These are just a few of the techniques that are being used to get us to buy something.
I

I suspect the title may conjure up some negative reactions!

Let me just clarify a few points; I am not qualified in the art of persuasion nor am I trying to persuade you to buy or do anything, other than to hopefully read the rest of the post.

Let me give you an idea of what the post is about and why I decided to write it.

During my career, I have been through numerous training causes in the art of selling. Some have been very good and some have been pretty awful.

In addition, I have read a number of books on the subject of selling and persuasion, because back then I wanted to become a super salesman, probably to feed my need for approval and reckognition. I still read this type of material, but now it’s because I find the subject of persuasion and human behaviour extremely fascinating!

In all honesty, I never really became very good at it and I still don’t classify myself as a good salesman. There is something about the word that always makes me cringe. It has a kind of negative meaning for me. One associated with dishonesty and sleazy sales pitches.

Conceptually, I don’t have a problem with selling. We all do it every single day. Right now I am essentially trying to sell you on the fact that I may have something useful to say, the price being your time (if you are still reading, that is!!)

I do it every time I communicate with someone. I don’t mean that I consciously have a specific outcome in mind with every communication, but subconsciously I think I happens. It could be nothing more than wanting to tell a group of friends about an experience or a joke even. But in order to do that I have to convince them that it will be worth their while spending time listening to me.

Granted, my job is mostly a sales job, and as much as I hate to admit it, in the past,  I have used some of the sales techniques I have been taught with different degrees of success. I don’t regret this because it taught me some invaluable lessons along the way and I think it was meant to be part of my journey. I always felt uncomfortable if I was forced by a sales target or sales manager to just sell for the sake of it with no regard to the client. I also know that these methods is exactly why people generally respond negatively to sales people. Furthermore, I think a lot of people these days are less naive when it comes to being sold something, but there are still people out there who have perfected the art of selling and persuading you to buy their product or service without you realizing it, or in the political arena, get you to vote for them.

How many times have you bought a product or a service and not really understood why you signed on the dotted line or parted with your cash? Even if it was a product or service you were actively looking for. Why did you buy from this particular person as opposed to the competition?

I have been in that situation more times than I care to remember, and every time I was sold to without even knowing it. The reason why I never realized I was being sold to was because the techniques are so subtle that it is difficult to notice. I am not referring to the hard sell methods, they are easy to spot. It’s the methods used by the people at the top of their game, who are very good at getting you to buy from them.

The motivation for writing this, was to share some of these techniques, so that you may be better equipped to spot them in future. Before I do though, I just want to clarify that the techniques I will share with you are my interpretation of them and based on my experiences. If you want to dig deeper into the subject I will provide you with a list of further reading material.

All of my sales training has been geared around the financial services industry, heavily focused on the selling of insurance products, but the techniques are used everywhere.

Getting you to like me

The first part of any sale involves the sales person getting the prospect to like him/her. Building rapport with the prospect is crucial as generally you do not have very long to create a good first impression. It is done by obviously being nice and friendly to the prospect, but the sales person will try to find some kind of common ground with the prospect. Something that makes the prospect think that they are similar in nature. Foot in the Door

Let’s imagine I came to your house to sell you something. Even before knocking on your door, I would have looked at your front garden to see if you were a keen gardener, I would have looked at what car you were driving, looked for any sign of toys laying around, basically anything I could use to make you think we had things in common. I know this may sound a little creepy, but that is literally what I was taught to do.

I still do build rapport with people, but not as described above. Now it is a case of me being genuinely interested in people’s journeys. I generally learn something from pretty much everyone I meet and it is a nice feeling being thanked for being honest and not trying to sell!

Anyway, when inside, I would do the same thing, obviously while trying to make a good impression. It is a hunt for something to talk about. Now a lot of sales people will just pick something and pretend to be interested in that particular subject, but if I was to find a genuine shared hobby or interest, then that is half the job done already. I could be the most knowledgeable person on that particular product, but if the prospect doesn’t feel that there are any similarities between you then it’s not going to happen!

Gaining trust

Next the sales person will ask questions around the prospect’s life, ambitions, dreams etc. Again this works because we like talking about ourselves, especially when we have full an undivided attention from a complete stranger, who seems very interested in what we have to say. Also we are slowly beginning to forget that this person may try to sell us something. We may even begin to trust him/her just a little bit!

The “Yes” Habit

Then during the actual sales process the sales person will try to get the prospect into the habit of saying “yes” by asking questions that will make you by default say “yes”. Questions like, “are you happy for me to continue”, “Do you understand what I have explained” etc.

The idea is that the more often a prospect says yes the harder it becomes to say no when it is decision time! I have observed another sales person take this a step further. After a series of “yes” answers he basically asked the following question: “You would be stupid not to go ahead, wouldn’t you agree” the answer to which of course was “yes”. There is no going back now. Either the prospect goes ahead or admits he/she is stupid.

The risk of losing out.

I see this a lot in online marketing but it happens all the time in all kinds of marketing. It’s the scenario where if you do not buy now you may just lose out as the offer is only valid today or the offer expires as soon as you walk out the door etc. There has been a number of studies into this and all of them suggest that we are more motivated by the loss of something than by the gain of the same thing.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Robert Cialdini:

There was a study done, in Santa Cruz, California. Researchers went door to door in certain neighborhoods with an official from the local power company who did an energy audit on each of the homes, telling homeowners where they should use weather stripping and insulate, and so on. And at the end of this audit, the official gave them a figure, let’s say it was $.75 and said if you will insulate your home fully, you will save $.75 a day every day. That was for half of them, the other half were told, if you fail to insulate your home fully, you will lose $.75 a day every day. Significantly more people insulated their homes under the loss instruction then under the gain instruction, even though it was the same thing.

If you want to read the full interview click HERE

Mirroring

This is about the sales person mirroring the prospect in terms of body language, tone of voice, speach patterns etc. Again, in order for this to work successfully it has to be subtle.

The “What If”

This is very often used in trying to sell insurance, where the sales person will ask the prospect to imagine various “what if” scenarios and then lead them down a path of despair and fear that if this particular thing happened the kind of problems they would the be faced with would be devastating. The fix obviously being paying the premium on an insurance policy! Don’t get me wrong here, I am not suggesting that insurance is a waste of money and that you should not have it. Far from it. I have seen the effect of not having insurance in place and I do not want to ever experience that myself. What I do have a problem with is dishonesty and selling purely to satisfy a sales target.

Make the SaleLike I said before, I have used all of these techniques in the past but I never became very good at it, which meant that I had to find a different approach. I never actually consciously created a different approach, it just kind of developed over time to where I am today.

Now, I operate from the viewpoint that if my clients leave my office with something of value then it is a win win situation, sale or not! It is extremely satisfying and rewarding to focus on helping someone as opposed to just closing a sale, which incidentally seem to close themselves these days!

I am not so sure that the sales managers agree!!

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2 responses to “The Art of Persuasion

  1. viv66 August 13, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I am very hard to sell to; we had a double glazing salesman who found this out to his cost.
    My Achilles’ heel is feeling sorry for the salesman, if I know they will earn nothing if they don’t clinch the sale.
    I also feel that if I believe in a product I can sell it; I have corrupted a number of friends and family regarding a variety of my own favourite shops etc by introducing them to them. I even got told that i MUST come and work for one company after I’d done the sale pitch better than the actual employee. Scary. Am hoping a job will come up there on day.

  2. Brynn August 16, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Glad to see you have evolved into the type of ‘salesman’ we need more of. Focusing on the needs of your clients rather than the sale must be extremely rewarding, and the universe will ‘reward’ you for doing it. I believe you will become incredibly good at what you do if you follow your current path.

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