Give Them Reasons to Listen to You

If you’re on Facebook then you might have seen the following post recently. If you’re not a Facebook user you might have heard the story in one form or another:

A man sat at a metro station in Washington D.C., and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. Only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100. This was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
I viewed this not from the angle of failing to appreciate beauty but through the lens of influence. I contend a big reason people didn’t stop is because they had no frame of reference for what was taking place. After all, how many of us could tell the difference between a very good violinist and a great one? Probably very few of us. And how many of us could tell the difference between notes played on a $1,000 violin and one worth millions? Even fewer I might guess.
Had there been something to let people know in advance that one of the world’s most famous musicians was playing a multi-million dollar instrument it’s a sure bet people would have stopped if for no other reason than curiosity. This goes to the principle of authority and its proper use in the persuasion process.
This principle of influence tells us people look to experts when they’re unsure of the right course of action to take. The more uncertain they are the more they depend on the other person’s expertise. The problem however is this; sometimes people have no clue who the person is they’ve encountered and have no idea about their expertise.
This is why it’s critical in the persuasion process to let people know  your credentials up front; it gives them a reason to listen. After all, if someone is giving free advice on money matters you may or may not listen to them.  But if you find out it’s Warren Buffet, one of the richest people in the world, you’ll probably stop what you’re doing and give him your full attention because his advice might make you a lot better off financially.
Each of us engages the persuasion process daily because we ask people to do things and hope to hear them say, “Yes.” My question for you is this; do you let those you deal with know about your expertise? If not, you should; you could become a much more effective persuader.
It’s actually pretty simple to do this most of the time so I’ll share two things I regularly do. First; when I speak to an audience about influence I make sure the event host reads my bio. I want to make sure the audience knows before I speak that I’m one of only 27 people in the world certified to train on behalf of Robert Cialdini, PhD., when it comes to psychology of persuasion. I also want them to know my blog has been viewed by people in more than 175 countries around the world. Both of those facts give me instant credibility when people might be uncertain initially as to why they should give my words more weight than some other sales trainer.
A second simple way to convey authority is through the letter of introduction. Whenever I accompany a State Auto associate on a sales coaching call to an insurance agency I make sure my boss sends an email to the agency owner before I ever step foot inside their business. This is easily accomplished because the email is just a variation of the bio I use when doing public speaking. This removes the “who’s the home office guy” thought that might cross the mind of the agency owner and helps to establish my credibility before I arrive.
So here’s my persuasion advice: next time you go to an important meeting or speaking engagement, take advantage of the principle of authority by making sure those you interact with know who you are and what your credentials are beforehand. Establishing your expertise upfront will make them pay more attention and give you an opportunity to shine when you build your case and make your presentation.
If you’re viewing this by email and want to listen to the audio version click here. If you want to leave a comment click here.
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
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