Tag Archive for: consensus

Ironing out the Buying Thought Process

I’ve been on the road a lot lately. In a recent stretch I was gone Monday through Thursday or Friday four weeks in row. When I returned from a recent trip, my wife, Jane, had gone to Myrtle Beach to spend time with her family. I was left with a daunting task: two-dozen shirts to iron!

But there was a problem; our iron was ruined not long ago when I dropped it on the floor. Before I could start ironing I needed to buy a new iron, something I knew nothing about. I’d like to let you in on my thought process as I made the purchase. I don’t think I’m much different than any of you reading this so perhaps it will help you understand why you do what you do when it comes to certain purchasing decisions.

Let’s start with this fact – the vast majority of our decision-making takes place at the subconscious level. Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology (yes, I spelled it correctly) contends non-conscious forces drive upwards of 85% of our decision-making. People who’ve been in sales for any length of time understand this and that’s why it’s often said, “People buy based on emotion then justify with logic.”

My first decision was where to go to get the iron. I ended up at Target. I guess I could have stopped by Sears, Wal-Mart or some lesser-known stores but I didn’t even consider them because prior experiences at Target have been good, their prices are reasonable and Target is burned into my subconscious more than the other stores because of their advertising.

After asking a clerk where I could find irons I ended up in front of shelving full of irons ranging in price from $12.99 to

$89.99. Immediately I knew I would not spend anywhere close to $12.99 because having some cheap irons in the past and using them at hotels is frustrating. I also knew there was no way I’d pay anywhere near $89.99 for an iron because ironing as little as I do doesn’t necessitate one that would be used in a laundry mat.

As I looked at all the different the models I saw several options from Shark. I’d heard of Shark and seen some commercials and remembered their products seemed unique although I couldn’t recall specifics. Other than glancing at some other brands I really gave all my attention to the Shark models.

As I looked at the Shark irons they did look different than all the others and the price range was reasonable with the low-end model for $29.99 (Lightweight Professional) and the top of the line model for $49.99 (Ultimate Professional). There was one other model for $39.99 (Professional Steam Power).

At this point I did what most discriminating shoppers do – I compared. Did I need 1800 watts, 1600 or 1500? Was the 9.5 inch base, 9.0 or 8.5 best for me? Does it matter that one is 3.6 lbs., 3.3 lbs. or 2.0 lbs.? Decisions, decisions, decision, all of which I knew nothing about.

That led me to one more decision criteria; what do people say about each model? That was easy enough to look up on my phone as I stood in the aisle. Each iron had 4.5 stars, some with more than 100 reviews. I felt comfortable because people just like me (principle of consensus) thought highly of each model so I felt better and better about my potential Shark decision.

With all that going on in my head which model did I buy? I bought the $39.99 model, which is what most people would do. I remember thinking, “Do I really need the top of the line and will those subtle feature differences be worth it?” I also thought, “If I buy the low-end model will I regret it because maybe it turns out a be a little cheap?” The middle seemed to be a safe alternative.

Most companies offer three product models (cars, shoes, bread makers, etc.) exactly because of the thinking I outlined above. Some people will want the top of the line, some will default the cheapest but most people will buy in the middle. If a company removes its high priced model the average sale will drop because some people buy the top of the line but also because more people will shift from the mid-range product down to the lowest priced model. Pay attention next time you’re in a store and see if you begin to notice the three choice offerings.

Although I’m in tune with buying, selling and psychology, I must admit, it was an interesting exercise to really pay attention to what was driving my purchasing decision. I got home and used that iron for three hours as I knocked out all the shirts at once. I must say, I was pleased with my purchase – at least that’s what my mind told me.


Influencers from Around the World – Paradox of “The Bridge of Life”

Hoh Kim has been a guest blogger for Influence PEOPLE since I began the Influencers from Around the World series more than five years ago. I met Hoh when we went through the Cialdini certification training together. At the time Hoh had his MA but it’s with great pleasure I can now say Hoh now has his doctorate, as well! Hoh received his Ph.D. in

Culture Technology from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; his dissertation title was “Psychological and neural influences of public apology on audience responses in corporate crisis situations.” I know you’ll enjoy his post on the paradox of “the bridge of life.”

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


Paradox of “The Bridge of Life”

On September 1, 2015, Seoul city metropolitan government announced that they would discontinue “The Bridge of Life” which was established in August 2012 by cooperation between Seoul city metropolitan government and Samsung Life Insurance. Cheil Communication, the largest advertising agency in Korea, a subsidiary firm of Samsung Group, developed the idea. The idea and project received positive spotlights from both local and international media. “The bridge of life” received more than 30 international awards including Titanium Lion winner at Cannes Lions and Clio Awards in 2013.

What is the bridge of life? It is an interactive storytelling bridge and as you walk across the bridge, the bridge talks to you. Click here to watch a short video.

For your information, Korea has unfortunately been the number one country among OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) in terms of the number of suicides for more than a decade.

Mapo Bridge is one of the 31 bridges crossing Han River in Seoul, and it has a notorious nickname — “the bridge for suicide” — as more people tried suicide on this bridge than any other in Seoul. That’s why city government made the bridge of life. What were the results? In 2012, 15 people “tried” suicide on the Mapo Bridge. Then, “the bridge of life” was established. Surprisingly 93 people “tried” suicide on the bridge. There is an argument. In 2012, 60% of the people who “tried” suicide on the Mapo Bridge were saved, but in 2013, 94.6% (85 out of 93) was saved from the suicide attempts. In 2014, 184 people “tried” suicide on the bridge (I don’t have the number of people who survived in that year). Regardless, the survival rate, it was clear that many more people tried suicide in “the bridge of life.”

What was the problem? A possible explanation can come from “side effects” of social proof principle. When Dr. Cialdini explained the principle of social proof – i.e., people follow the lead of many/similar others – he warned to be careful not to use it with negative information. Even though I have lived in Seoul for more than 40 years, I came to know the fact that more people tried suicide on the Mapo Bridge than any other bridge in Seoul through the “Bridge of Life” campaign. I think the side effect of social proof influenced the surge of suicide trials on the bridge. However, to be honest, when I first heard about the campaign around 2013 from TV News, I thought the idea of the bridge was fascinating, and could not predict the side effect of the social proof principle.

What are the lessons out of it? Two things. First, when we design a campaign, we have to look at closely at whether there are any side effects of the campaign. How can we do that? The “red team” from the American soap opera “Newsroom” might help. Red team is a sort of Devil’s advocate. Red team intentionally attacks an idea so that we can cross check whether there is any downside of a project.

Second, the Bridge of Life project was a persuasion project where the campaign tried to influence to reduce actual suicide and suicide attempts. When there is any persuasion project, the best reference would be six principles of influence by Dr. Cialdini as he reviewed influence psychology of more than 60 years and found six universal principles.

By applying and checking against the principles, you can create a better persuasion campaign and avoid any pitfall of the campaign. When I first heard about the Bridge of Life, I should have carefully thought about the campaign against the principles, both their applications and side effects.

Hoh Kim, Ph.D.
Founder, Head Coach & Lead
Facilitator, THE LAB h
E-mail: hoh.kim@thelabh.com
Home: www.THELABh.com


The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Objections

“Let me think about it” and “Your price is too high” are two phrases salespeople dread. They’re perhaps the most often cited objections put out by prospects during the sales cycle. As I noted in closing last week, it’s not often a sale is made without resistance. Objections might come after your presentation or they could be peppered throughout. This week we’ll look at some principles of influence that can be very helpful in overcoming objections.

Two principles that are particularly useful are consensus and authority. They’re the ones to focus on because more than any other principles they help people overcome uncertainty and that’s the root of most objections. We’ll also touch on the contrast phenomenon because it’s particularly useful to demonstrate your offering is actually a better deal than the prospect might believe.

You may have heard the old saying, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” What that means is, as bad as things may be sometimes, there’s always the chance they could be worse with change. That fear of change is always in the back of the prospect’s mind, especially with big-ticket purchases. Below are a few thoughts prospects may have as you present. In fact, you may have held some of these very thoughts last time you bought something expensive.

  • Will it last?
  • Will it perform as advertised?
  • Will it be worth the extra money?
  • Will I regret this decision down the road?
  • Can I really believe the salesperson’s claims?

The challenge for the salesperson is to uncover the real objection. For example, when it comes to, “Let me think about it,” there may be something underneath that statement. Perhaps the prospect met with another salesperson and kept their appointment with you only because they said they would. It’s okay to ask, “What specifically will you be mulling over? I ask because I might be able to answer some questions for you right now to make the decision easier for you.” People generally don’t like confrontation so it’s easier to avoid it by saying, “Let me think it over.”

Let’s start with price. When it comes to price I tell people, “There’s nothing high or low but comparing makes it so.” If someone says your price is too high it’s because they are comparing it to something else. Your challenge is to find out what they’re comparing your price to and then to reset the comparison point so they’ll see your offer is actually a better value. The contrast phenomenon comes into play because what you present first will make the difference in how they perceive the next item presented.

The principle of consensus, that desire we have to move with the crowd, can help deal with objections. You never want to tell someone they’re wrong because that will only produce resistance. A better approach would be to incorporate consensus through the “feel, felt, found” approach. An example might go like this:

“I understand how you feel because other customers have felt the same way initially. However, here’s what they found…” Then you go on to show them what others discovered. It might be the realization that a higher price, say 10%, is worth it because the product life is 20% longer. Getting 20% more product for only 10% more money makes for a better value!

When we’re in a state of uncertainty making a decision is a lot easier when an expert tells us what to do. Establishing your expertise early on in the prospecting phase makes this much easier. That’s using the principle of authority. You can defer to this casually:

“Ann, as I told you when we first met, I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I can tell you…”

Maybe you don’t have that much experience or the credentials just yet in order to be viewed as an expert. You can still refer to others who are experts and you can share various facts to support your case.

“Bill, there’s a reason Consumer Reports has rated this product #1 for the past three years.”

“Sarah, several independent studies show…”

Dealing with objections isn’t something most salespeople look forward to but there’s good news. First, most of the time people who throw up objections are engaged in the sales process and that means you still have a shot at making the sale.

Second, if you’ve been in your role for any length of time you probably know 80% or more of the objections you’ll face. That being the case, you should be ready to answer those objections each and every time. Give thought to the proper responses, utilize the psychology or persuasion, then drill on the proper responses until they roll off your tongue in a very natural way.

Even if you successfully handle all the objections and the prospect clearly wants to do business with you the sale might not be a foregone conclusion. It’s very likely you’ll find yourself negotiating over price, terms, conditions or other items related to your product or service. The next post will look into which principles of influence will help you negotiate most effectively.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Qualification

You made it through the first meeting with the prospect, rapport was established and he/she liked you enough to allow you to come back and continue the sales process. And you enjoyed the prospect enough to want to pursue the business. Now it’s time to determine if you can do business with the prospect. By that I mean, after you do your fact finding, you have to honestly assess whether or not what you have to offer can help him/her.

On the flip side, you also want to figure out whether or not you want to pursue the prospect any further because not all business is good business. If you get sense that prospects’ demands will be more than you want to take on, or if you begin to get the feeling you might not like working with them, this is the time to politely back out of the process. Better to not take on a customer than to have to end up “firing” him/her.

As you qualify the prospect through a series of well-planned questions the principle of consistency becomes very important. During the follow up meetings after the initial contact, you want to ask LOTS of questions. A rule of thumb is that a good salesperson should talk no more than 25%-30% of the time. That might be contrary to what you’ve experienced with salespeople in the past because a misperception about salespeople is they have to have “the gift of gab” to talk people into anything. Nothing could be further from the truth! Excellent salespeople talk so little because they ask good questions that allow the prospect to do most of the talking. Excellent salespeople are also good listeners because it doesn’t do any good to ask the right questions if they don’t care about the answers.

  1. Here are some benefits of asking good questions:
  2. They allow the prospect to feel in control of the situation.
  3. They help you gather information so you can understand the prospect’s needs.
  4. They will let you know whether or not you should go forward. If you can’t meet the prospect’s needs or requirements then be honest, remove yourself from the sales process and go work with prospects you can help.
  5. They help you tailor your presentation or demonstration.

You will be able to tie back what you ultimately propose to what the prospect told you in earlier meetings. This is where consistency becomes a powerful principle to leverage the sale.

One more point about questions. Whether you win or lose an account, you should always try to understand why. Replicate your winning behaviors and change whatever led to you not making the sale. When you lose, you need to see if there’s a question or two you can add to your qualification process to avoid that from happening again. For example, if you find out the prospect’s brother-in-law works for the company the prospect is currently doing business with then add a question in your qualification process to uncover that next time. Refining your questions over time will make you more efficient and successful.

Last, consider scarcity as you go through the qualification phase. People naturally want more of what they don’t have, can’t have or perceive as going away. By asking the right questions you can start to highlight what prospects might be missing currently and they’ll want it more.

An example from insurance might be the following:

Agent – “If you’re like most customers I work with you probably want to make sure your building is fully covered in the event of a total loss, correct?”

Prospect – “Of course. I can’t get stuck paying tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket if the building burns or a tornado takes it down. That’s why I buy insurance.”

Agent – “How about your employees? If your business was shut down for six months or longer would you want them to come back when you reopen?

Prospect – “Sure. Without them I have no business.”

Agent – “I thought so but right now you don’t have business income coverage. If you can’t pay them while the rebuilding is going on they’ll end up looking for other jobs so they can pay their bills and feed their families. Should I include this coverage in your quote?”

Prospect – “I never thought about that. I couldn’t afford to hire new people, retrain them and do all the other stuff you have to do with new employees. Yea, include it so we can see what it will cost.”

Tom Hopkins, a well-know sales trainer and author regularly tells audiences, “If you say it, they doubt it. When they say it, they believe it.” Telling prospects what they need is never as effective as them seeing the need themselves and verbalizing it. This comes about more easily when you know you product or service and ask the right questions.

Next week we’ll delve into the presentation or demonstration with a prospect looking to leverage certain principles of influence that will help that go smoothly.

Influencers from Around the World – Consensus + Scarcity = FAIL!

This month, our Influencers from
Around the World guest post comes from Anthony McLean, a long-time contributor
to Influence PEOPLE. Anthony is Australia’s one and only Cialdini Method Certified
Trainer (CMCT®). He started the Social Consulting Group where he teaches people and
organizations the principles of influence. Reach out to Anthony on LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more from him.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Consensus + Scarcity = FAIL
Recently I have noticed a very
interesting phenomenon. Consensus is failing to have the impact it is intended
to have. In our time,  the cues to guide
our behaviour are more prevalent and appreciated than ever before. For example,
when I land on an online shopping page, the reviews, ratings, and testimonials
provide me with vitally important information such as others like me have been
here before; this vendor can be trusted; the products are as they are
described; and so on.  In the traditional
sense it is these cues that help me overcome my uncertainty and help me make a
Therefore when I am not sure of
what I should do, I look to the actions of others; especially in unknown and
untested situations. And not just any others, I look to those most like me to
guide my behaviour. 
Rest assured my friends, Consensus
is truly a principle that, when used well, saves time, promotes sales, and
builds communities. It’s a cracker (Australian for really good, awesome, etc.)!
What then, I hear you say, does
the title of this post mean? Let me tell you, but first let me pose a mystery.
Why would a leading publically listed company make a wrongheaded decision and
turn away from the actions of others?
In the delivery of the Principles
of Persuasion Workshops, my keynotes and in my consulting and coaching, I
continually stress to my audience that not all testimonials are same. We know
that by distilling the testimonial data, drilling into the case studies, and
sharing what people most like you are doing now or have done in the past, will
have a great impact on your “persuadee’s” behaviour.
However, recently I have been
working in a space in which the products on offer between companies are very
similar. Many industries have been through a phase in which they have competed
on price. However to cut prices they must cut margin and then services and
ultimately their perceived value. Those industries then got to a point where
price was no longer a determining factor. While they could have continued to
compete on price, at some point there needed to be platform based on value, relationships,
and/or loyalty. The change had to come because buying customers through discounts
was bringing about the wrong type of relationship, where every dollar was held
tightly. Dishonesty between provider and customer was rife because of the
perception that every dollar mattered and after all it was just a transactional
relationship; those who got or saved the most money won!
It is at this point a nuance of
Consensus kicks in; the suppliers are all in the same industry, they offer
similar products, they compete for the same customers, staff and leaders, but
they do not see themselves as the same as each other. How do I know? 
If you present to an organization
evidence of what others in the industry are doing, rather than move toward your
ideas, they immediately repel, back away and dismiss what others in their
industry are doing. Showing them what many others in their industry are doing,
creates a drive in initiative to be different and cut a new path, one less
travelled, in an effort to attract disgruntled and disenfranchised customers
looking to leave their current provider in search of something better. The
competition is so great in this industry that the drive to be unique, to be
something truly valuable, outweighs the power of Consensus.
Now I am not saying Consensus will
not work in this industry – quite the contrary. However, , Consensus can fail to
influence behaviour because of Scarcity – if the competition is doing it we
must do something different and  be seen
as unique. We must have a clear USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and can’t be
the same because then the consumer will not be able to tell us apart. 
In this instance Scarcity was
trumping Consensus.
So what are you to do? Firstly
don’t get caught up in labels and demographics. Just because Company A and
Company B are in the same industry they may not see themselves as the same. Therefore
ask the decision makers you are seeking to influence about their values, their
vision and whom they think across the business world is most like them.  Then start to research, dig into those
companies that your persuadee sees themselves like and show them what those
companies are doing in similar situations. 
Therefore why did a publically
listed company turn away from the crowd and make a decision that seemed at odds
with their industry? Because they did not see themselves as the same as others
in their industry. They were different. They were unique. They were
competitors. Therefore they would do things differently, cut new directions and
be innovative – they wanted to be Apple. So we showed them what Apple did and
low and behold they sat up and took notice. 
By the way they were not in the
same league as Apple but it didn’t matter – in their eyes – they were, so
that’s what we showed them to change their thinking.

Anthony McLean, CMCT®

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Prospecting

Dictionary.com defines a prospect as “a potential or likely customer.” By extension, prospecting is the act of searching for potential or likely customers in hopes of setting up an initial meeting.

How salespeople go about prospecting varies by industry, product or service, and personality. Here are just a few ways in which salespeople tackle prospecting:

  1. Cold calls – Getting on the phone and asking to speak to a decision maker.
  2. Mailings – We all get marketing fliers and brochures in the mail where businesses hope we’ll respond.
  3. Email blasts – It’s easy to find email addresses to build a database. This approach is more effective than mailings because you can send the same message to hundreds or thousands at a time with little effort or cost.
  4. Door hangers – Bypass the mailbox and go door-to-door leaving marketing material.
  5. Door-to-Door – It used to be the case that salespeople simply knocked on doors to meet people and sell their wares. This is a very time consuming and expensive approach!
  6. Internet – You can search by various criteria to see who or what businesses in a geographic area fit your customer profile with a goal of target marketing.
  7. Conventions – Going to some event where you set up a booth and interact with customers.

The list could go on and on and I’m sure you’re thinking of a way or two to prospect that I’ve not touched on. Creative prospecting means doing something to stand out from the crowd, something that makes people take note and listen to you when they’re not paying attention to others.

The focus of this article is not to cover the different ways of looking for customers. The purpose is to talk about the principles of influence that will give you the best chance to stand out using whatever approach is best for you. You have one overriding goal when you’re prospecting – to get an initial meeting with a potential decision maker.

When you’re requesting time with someone, did you know they’re listening to their favorite radio station? That’s right, they’re tuned on to WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? In other words, with all the other salespeople who would like their business why should they meet with you?

First and foremost, and this can’t be emphasized enough, you have to believe in your company and product. Will doing business with you make the prospect better off in the long run? If you don’t believe it will, if you doubt your company or product, prospects will sniff you out like an animal smells fear. It’s a survival instinct. For the sake of this series I’m going to assume you have that belief in your company, product and your potential to help the customer.

Knowing the prospect is uncertain about whether or not to give you consideration, the three principles that come into play most prominently when prospecting are consensusauthority and scarcity.It’s natural for the vast majority of people to feel comfortable going along with the crowd. That’s the principle of consensus at work. It’s natural because we look to others when we’re not 100% certain of the course of action we should take. Just remember the old adage, “There’s safety in numbers.”

In your marketing material, emails, phone calls, etc., can you tap into this principle by talking about all customers you already serve? The more you have, the more that consensus comes into play. Allstate Insurance did this effectively many years ago when its spokesman Dennis Haysbert stood in the Rose Bowl and said 100,000 people would watch a game there on Saturday. He went on to say Allstate filled the stadium ten times with the number of people who made the switch last year. When more than one million customers switch insurance companies you can bet many viewers called an Allstate agent or went online to compare!

If you don’t have a huge number, or even of you do, it’s always more effective when you can point out customers or clients who are just like the prospect you’re talking to. After all, dealing with a restaurant owner can be very different than dealing with a grocery store owner, or hotel manager for example. When talking to one of those business owners, if you can refer to other restaurants, grocery stores or hotels you do business with, the prospect will feel more comfortable and you’ll gain much more credibility.

Speaking of credibility, the other principle of influence that comes into play is authority. When people are unsure what to do, quite often they want to defer to an expert, someone they view as having superior knowledge or wisdom. This can be conveyed through your title, years in business or years of experience, awards you’ve won, degrees you’ve earned, credentials and designations. Any opportunity to get this information in front of a prospect conveys you have expertise. It’s a strong reason for them to consider meeting with you as opposed to someone who lacks expertise or has not conveyed their expertise.

The last principle that could come into play is scarcity. It’s a natural response to want things more when we believe we can’t get them anywhere else. Does your company, product or service have something unique or a combination of features that make it unique? This is important because you want the prospect to see he/she can’t get something exactly like what you’re offering anywhere else. If so, and you point it out so they understand what they might lose by not considering you, that might be enough for them to give you that initial meeting.

So the three principles to thoughtfully consider as you approach potential clients during the prospecting phase of the sales cycle are: consensus, authority and scarcity. Engage any or all of these ethically and correctly and you should land more initial meetings with prospects.

Next time we’ll look at the initial meeting with a prospect and how to leverage that opportunity using the principles of influence.

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.

A Better America for Ferguson and All Americans

By now everyone in the nation and most people around the world have heard about Ferguson, Mo. The death of Michael Brown and the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson touched off protests that quickly turned into violent riots. Whether or not officer Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, one thing is certain, the events of that day and the grand jury decision blew the lid off of racial tensions that have been simmering for decades.

Unfortunately for those who want to see real societal change when it comes to race, their efforts have only been set back by the riots, violence and looting that have occurred in the aftermath in Ferguson. It’s unfortunate because those who committed the acts, predominantly teens and young adults, probably don’t care about change as much as they did an opportunity to cause mayhem and steal.

When significant change took place regarding race in this country a few notable things occurred. First, in the 1960s, Americans were horrified at the treatment of blacks in the South as they watched the news and saw non-violent protestors attacked by police dogs and sprayed with fire hoses. The key was the protests were non-violent and the people didn’t deserve that kind of treatment and it repulsed most Americans.

A second, and more powerful change agent was the leader of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King had a vision and a strategy that moved people to action that couldn’t be ignored. And like Mahatma Gandhi, he knew non-violence was the key.

Those two things are needed today for real change to take place. African Americans need the entire country to see the mistreatment that routinely takes place and to understand how their opportunities are much more limited than most Americans because of racial bias.

Most importantly they need a leader who can rally them as Dr. King did. Without a respected leader their movement will fail. Despite using social media to rally people, the March on Wall Street and We are the 99% movements ultimately failed because of lack of leadership. Couple that with the reality that news cycles are so much faster and people quickly forget the latest “big” story. Think about it for a moment; when was the last time you heard about the March on Wall Street or the We are the 99% movements? I can’t think of the last time either was in the news. More importantly, did any substantive change take place? No.

My personal opinion is current leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson can’t fill the leadership role because of their contentious pasts and current public perception. Even President Barack Obama will be too polarizing to lead this cause when he leaves the White House, in my opinion.

Someone who I believe could fill that role is former General Colin Powell. He has the admiration of all Americans because of his long service to our country and his conduct as an individual. He knows how to lead, strategize, compromise, and deal with the media. He commands the kind of respect that makes people in this nation and around the world listen.

And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the violence is only a black issue. A brief scan of history will show other groups have been involved in violent protests. For example, in New York City, the Irish (my ancestors) rioted during the Civil War when the draft was instituted. They didn’t want to go to war to free the slaves and felt the influx of blacks moving to the North would hurt their employment opportunities. One hundred people died during the New York riots. Another example comes by way of sports where we see people of all color celebrating then rioting in the streets after their teams win National Championships, World Series and Super Bowls.

But Ferguson was different because the violence we witnessed not only hurt the cause in Ferguson, it hurt the community and ultimately its citizens. Looting, damaging and destroying local businesses will put many in the community out of business for good and some jobs will be permanently lost. In an area with high unemployment they simply can’t afford that.

So, what are some influence tips to bring about change? Here are a few quick thoughts.

Rather than focus on differences, African Americans could focus on what they have in common with the rest of the nation, which is an application of the principle of liking. They need to talk about how they are mothers and fathers like many of you reading this. They’re also sons and daughters. They must remind America they want the same thing we all do – a chance at the American Dream. This should be the norm, not the exception in their communities.

Look for ways to give instead of just asking for change. By giving you engage reciprocity and people will be more inclined to give when you ask. Perform acts of kindness, volunteer in the community and encourage people to go out of their way to help others, especially those who are difference. Kindness is hard to ignore.

A strong leader like Colin Powell would engage the principle of authority because he possesses both expertise and trustworthiness when it comes to leading. Neither Al Sharpton nor Jesse Jackson has the trust of enough Americans to qualify to lead at this time.

The cause has to be bigger that just African Americans. According to U.S. Census statistics, African Americans make up slightly less than 13% of the population. Hispanics and Latinos are more than 16%. Together 30% of the population can’t be ignored. By focusing on change for all minorities and reaching out to sympathetic whites they can engage consensus. The more the average American sees the groundswell of support, similar to what’s happened with gay marriage, the more will get onboard.

Consistency is engaged by reminding all of us about the truths we hold to be self-evident in The Declaration of Independence; that all people are created equal and deserve equal opportunities. By pointing out where the system fails in this regard, it reminds us of our duty as Americans to make this a reality for all people.

The last principle to engage is scarcity. What does this country stand to lose by not affording more opportunities and fair treatment for all? We’re a nation of immigrants. Without people of all races, both genders and each nationality, we would not be the great country we are. If we limit those opportunities we limit ourselves.

Let me conclude with this. A big part of my desire to use this forum for this message comes from the fact that my best friend for nearly 40 years is African America. Russell Barrow was my best man when I got married and again when I renewed my wedding vows. You would be hard pressed to meet a nicer, more caring, giving individual than Russell. My daughter Abigail has always called him “Uncle Russell.” I’ve heard his stories of dealing with racism and seen some firsthand. In addition to Russell, I’ve had the opportunity to befriend many other African Americans through work. They’re wonderful people! For them, their families and future generations I want to see a better America and that won’t come about without change.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


The 7 Most Common Persuasion Mistakes


When I work with students in the Principles of Persuasion
workshop we talk about three kinds of persuasion practitioners: bunglers,
smugglers and detectives. Here’s a quick synopsis of each:
Detectives are
folks who understand the principles of influence and look for genuine
opportunities to use them in order to create a win for themselves as well as
the person or people they seek to influence.
Smugglers are individuals
who also have some understanding but they look for shortcuts through
manipulation. They find it easier to distort the truth or lie outright in their
use of the principles of influence so they can get what they want no matter the
cost to others.
Bunglers are
people who don’t understand the persuasion process or principles and therefore miss
opportunities to be more effective when it come to persuasion. Or, they might
intuitively know a few things about the principles but don’t understand how to effectively
use them. Unfortunately the vast majority of people fall into this category and
they make predictable mistakes.
In this post we’ll look at some of the most common mistakes people
make when trying to persuade others. No offense, but if you find yourself doing
these things, you’re bungling away persuasion opportunities.
  1. Validating undesirable behavior. There’s a lot
    of bad stuff that happens in society. For example; too many kids try cigarettes
    and cheat in school; far too many people don’t vote; violent behavior seems to
    be on the rise, etc. When you talk about what many people are doing – consensus – you tend to validate the
    bad behavior. This can cause more people to do the very thing you’re preaching
    against! Instead, you want to point out good behavior you want people to emulate.
    This approach was validated in the last two presidential elections where people
    were told to get to the polls early because record turnouts were expected. Those
    turnouts materialized.
  2. Highlighting gain instead of loss. I’ve shared
    in recent posts about homeowners who, when told about energy saving
    recommendations, were informed they would either save $180 by implementing the
    energy saving ideas or that they would lose $180 if they failed to implement
    the ideas, the latter of which is an application of the principle of scarcity.
    Everyone I share that study with correctly guesses more people in the “lose”
    group made the necessary changes. And they’re correct — 150% more people in
    the lose group chose to incorporate the energy saving ideas. Despite intuitively
    knowing this, most people still go out and talk about all the things someone
    will gain, or save, by going with their idea. Perhaps they fear coming across
    as negative but they’re failing to apply the most persuasive approach and they
    won’t hear yes as often.
  3. Confusing contracts with reciprocity. Reciprocity explains the reality that
    people feel obligated to return a favor. In other words, if I do something for
    you you’ll feel some obligation to want to do something for me in return. An
    example would be; I’ll do A and I hope you’ll do B in return. This is very
    different than entering into a contract – I’ll do A IF you’ll do B. Quite often you can engage reciprocity by doing or
    offering far less and still get the same behavior in return.
  4. Mixing up positional authority with perceived
    authority. Believing you’re an authority
    is far different than other people perceiving you to be an authority. Sometimes
    others need to know your credentials. When people rely solely on their position
    to gain compliance it will never be as effective as it could be if they engaged
    people in the persuasion process by highlighting their credentials. It’s one
    thing for me to do something because the boss says so versus doing the very
    same thing because I see the value in doing so because an expert convinced me.
  5. Failing to connect on liking. Effective
    persuasion has a lot to do with relationships built on the principle of liking. It’s not always enough that someone likes your
    product or service. Quite often the difference maker is whether or not they
    like you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a salesperson, manager or someone else, spending too
    much time describing ideas, products, services, etc., without getting the other
    person to like you is going to make persuasion harder. And here’s the gem – make sure you create
    time to learn a bit about the other person so you come to like them and you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make!
  6. Telling instead of asking. Telling someone
    what to do isn’t nearly as effective as asking because asking engages consistency. This principle tells us
    people feel internal psychological pressure as well as external social pressure
    to be consistent in what they say and do. By asking and getting a “Yes” the
    odds that someone will do what you want increase significantly. In the POP
    workshop we talk about a restaurant owner who saw no shows fall from 30% to
    just 10% by having the hostess go from saying, “Please call of you cannot make
    your reservation” to asking, “Will you please call if you cannot keep your
    reservation?” The first sentence is a statement but the second is a question
    that engages consistency.
  7. Failure to give a reason. When you want
    someone to do something, giving a reason tagged with because can make all the difference. As I’ve share with State
    Auto claim reps, “Can you get me your medical records?” will not be as
    effective as “Can you get me your medical records because without them I cannot process your claim and pay you?” This
    approach was validated in a copier study where 50% more people (93% up from 60%)
    were willing to let someone go ahead of them in line when the person asking
    gave them a reason using the word “because.”

So there you have some of the most common persuasion
mistakes. By pointing them out hopefully you’ll change your ways if you’ve made
these mistakes before. If you’ve not bungled like this then hopefully you’ll
avoid these mistakes now that you’re aware of them.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer


Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Which Restaurant to Choose in Boston…or Anywhere Else

About a month ago, Jane, Abigail and I enjoyed a long weekend in Boston. Boston has been one of my favorite cities ever since I ran the Boston Marathon in 2004 and 2005. If you’ve never been there, I highly encourage you to go! The mixture of old and new architecture, interesting pubs and restaurants, Boston Commons, Cheers, and the Freedom Trail are just a handful of cool things to do.

We spent a good bit of time at Faneuil Hall, a well-known market where there are street performers, historic sites, interesting shops and lots of restaurants to occupy your time. While we were enjoying an unusually cool, beautiful summer afternoon walking through the market, I overheard a young man say to his girlfriend, “When you see a restaurant without a line and the others are crowded you don’t want to go there. There’s a reason it’s not crowded.”

I doubt someone had to teach him the psychology of persuasion for him to understand the reality that crowds usually signal a good place to eat whereas empty tables typically mean the food and/or service must not be so hot. What he described was the principle of social proof in real time – we look to others when trying to decide on the best course of action. We can be influenced by what many others are doing or smaller groups who may be like us. Either way, to a great degree, we base our actions on the observation of others. And this is only heightened when we’re unsure what to do.

It’s not uncommon at all for us to make quick decisions based on the principles of influence just like that young man. That shows how easily, and quite often unconsciously, we’re influenced by the principles. Here’s another example. Several weeks ago, I wrote about a study by the University of California. Homeowners were given energy saving ideas and one group was told if they implemented the recommendations they would save about $180 on their electric bill in the coming year. Another group was told they would lose $180 over the next 12 months if they didn’t adopt the recommendations because they would overpay on their electric bill.

Whenever I share that study and then ask people which group they think was more likely to implement the energy saving ideas, everyone says the group that was told they’d lose the $180. And they’re correct! The “lose group” had 150% more people act than the “save group.”

Again, like the young man in Boston they intuitively got it. Yet time and time again we see people highlighting the benefits of some change rather than pointing out what people might lose if they don’t go along with what’s being asked or recommended. They’re bungling away an opportunity to effectively persuade using the principle of scarcity!

I’m guessing you’re reading this blog because you want to be more effective when it comes to persuasion. So, the real question for you is how you will use your knowledge of the principles. It’s not enough to understand the principles (head knowledge); you must put them into action ethically and correctly.

For example, some people respond to “thanks” by saying, “That’s how we treat all of our customers.” That’s a major bungle because that’s not effective use of consensus. Telling someone you’re treating him or her just like everyone else after you’ve done something to help him or her only diminishes the special feeling we all want. Better to say, “We were happy to do that. We appreciate your business.”

Back to our young couple. If they were like most people milling around Faneuil Hall, they were probably tourists and in the absence of a recommendation from a local they didn’t know the best spots to go for dinner. I don’t know where they ended up dining that night, but odds are, if they were willing to wait for a seat at one of the more crowded restaurants, they probably had a better experience. And that goes not only for Boston but anywhere you’re looking for a good spot to eat.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.