The Trappings of Success

Ever heard of Marc Dreier? Probably not because he was overshadowed by someone I’m willing to bet you have heard of, Bernie Madoff. What a great name – Madoff – because he made off with everyone’s money! Madoff captured headlines about the same time Marc Dreier was being apprehended because Madoff’s billion dollar Ponzi scheme finally blew up. Marc Dreier was involved in his own fraudulent activity, to the tune of $700 million! No small potatoes but not quite the billion dollars Madoff was bilking people out of so Dreier flew “under the radar,” so to speak.

As I watched the 60 Minutes rerun in which Dreier was interviewed something he said caught my attention. When Steve Croft asked about his $18 million yacht, $10.5 million condo and other expensive possessions, Drier said, “Having the trappings of success was an important part of the plan.” The plan he was referring to was getting people to invest in his bogus business deals. When you’re courting millionaires you better look the part yourself if you want their confidence and their money.

All this leads to an important principle of influence – authority. This principle tells us people look to those they view as more knowledgeable than themselves, experts if you will, when they’re not sure what to do. The question is; how do you establish your authority get people to view you as an expert?Dreier was absolutely right when he talked about the trappings of success being necessary. You might be amazed at the difference they can make. And what are these trappings? Let’s look at a few, starting with appearance.Dress for success is more than just a slogan. Believe it or not something simple like a suit can make a big difference because a suit conveys authority. In his book Influence Science and Practice, Robert Cialdini details a study that proves this point as three and a half times more people follow a man in a suit when he crosses the traffic against the light than they followed a man in slacks and a t-shirt. Speaking of dress; wearing a uniform can make all the difference depending on the situation. For example, John Doe telling you to do something might not cause you to act. However, police officer John Doe giving the same instructions in his uniform, would probably elicit action from people.Jewelry, as long as it’s not flaunted in an over the top way, makes a positive difference too. When someone is seen with an expensive designer pen, wearing a Rolex watch or having gold rings, an air of wealthy is conveyed, and wealth usually comes from success.While these can also be false signs of success, too often they’re overlooked by people when they could really help. This comes to mind because not long ago we walked by Radio Shack and I commented about a salesman who’d helped us. Jane said the young guy was nice and helpful but he ought to invest in getting his shirts and pants pressed. Most times we’ve seen him he looks kind of messy and disheveled. A few simple adjustments to his appearance would make a very positive impression and give confidence to potential customers.Like it or not, it’s a fact that people do judge a book by its cover and every person you meet for the first time is assessing you. Sometimes it’s a very conscious act but most of the time it registers in the subconscious. I’m willing to guess there have been times when you met people and instantly liked or disliked them. If you were asked why you might not know the reasons but if you took the time to dissect the situation and your interaction with the person I’m sure you’d piece together all those things your subconscious registered in seconds.So here’s your takeaway – next time you go into a situation where you know you need to be persuasive, give thought to your audience and the environment you’ll be in. Make sure you have the trappings of authority in addition to a persuasive presentation and the odds of hearing “Yes” will increase significantly.Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
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