Monday, September 15, 2014

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”.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Influencers from Around the World: The Importance of Preparation Before the Sale

This month our Influencers from Around the World post comes from Marco Germani by way of Italy. Marco has been a guest writer for Influence PEOPLE from the start. He combines great knowledge (he wrote a book about persuasion in Italian) with real world experience (he travels the world selling wine). This month's post is excellent because I can attest to the need for preparation in sales, or any endeavor in life, if you want to succeed. Read Marco's words of wisdom and enjoy!

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

The Importance of Preparation Before the Sale

A professional athlete would never dream of starting a major competition without any warm-up. This would increase the risk of getting injured and, in the best scenario, drastically reduce the possibility of delivering a great performance. Similarly, a professional salesperson should never approach an important sales call, without the proper “warm-up.”

What you do in the 10-15 minutes prior to a face-to-face or telephone conversation with a potential customer may determine the outcome of your presentation. It is therefore surprising how most salespeople completely ignore this principle and too often enter a meeting with a client having no strategic preparation of any kind. Far too many people just listen to the car radio on the way to the appointment filling their brain with commercials, low quality music and what I like to call “chewing gum for the ears.”

Let us instead summarize, in three points, what a professional salesperson should do in the minutes leading up to a sales appointment.

The first – and Golden Rule – when we are in front of a customer is not to ask any question where the answer can be easily found somewhere else. For example, if I ask my customer information about his company, which I could have found on his company’s website, I am just showing him I didn’t care to do my homework before the meeting. This is a very bad start for any salesperson. If, on the other hand, I say to the customer, “I understand your company has manufacturing facilities in three countries, sells about 80% of its production outside the U.S. and is one of the top three players in the market,” I’m showing my potential customer I’m a professional, serious and committed person who cared enough to learn as much as possible about his business. In addition to showing concern it also prevents wasting the prospect’s time. This is a very good start, which builds trust and opens the door to the possibility of starting a partnership.

In the minutes immediately prior to the meeting, it is also a good rule to briefly review your marketing material (presentations, any samples to show, etc.) to make sure everything is in order. Mentally summarize the objectives of the meeting, recall any previous contact with the customer and how you initially met. This is necessary in case you need to refer to past details and it gives you a clear, ideal picture of how you wish your perfect meeting would unfold.

Shortly before the meeting put yourself in an upbeat mood and be sure to establish a positive winning attitude. Picture in your mind’s eye the best possible scenario, in which everything goes as planned, and the sale ends in the best possible way, with great benefit to all parties involved. This positive attitude will be perceived by the customer, who will understand he is dealing with a sales professional, who is prepared, confident and ready to help him make the decisions that are in his best interests.

These three simple steps, if carried out diligently before a sales appointment, can greatly influence the final result. Often I hear salespeople complain about how hard it is to “bring home” a sale, or how customers are difficult and never seem ready to make a buying decision. If they do not do the preparation I’ve described, or preparation of any kind, then they’re the ones to blame, not the customers! Preparation is 80% of success; let us never forget about it!


Monday, September 1, 2014

James Bond needs no introduction, but you do!

I read an article not too long ago that a friend passed along and felt compelled to share my thoughts about it. The article appeared in and was titled “Why Public Speakers Need To Copy James Bond.” That's a compelling title for Bond fans and speakers alike – of which I'm both – so I got sucked in and read. The author's piece was well written and compelling...unless you know something about the psychology of persuasion.

The gist of the article was this – Bond movies open with compelling action-packed scenes, not the credits, to immediately hook moviegoers.  Speakers should do the same by starting immediately with a compelling story.

I wholeheartedly agree that a speaker starting with a good story hooks the audience but foregoing a brief introduction misses out on a golden opportunity to utilize the principle of authority which will make you more persuasive, according to the science of influence.

Imagine going to a conference and getting ready to listen to a speaker you've never heard of before. Will you pay more or less attention if you quickly learn beforehand the speaker was the top salesperson in their organization, or had a doctorate, or was one of only a handful in the world who does what he/she does, or had some other fact that established him or her as an expert? I’m willing to bet you’ll be more interested to listen after learning something compelling about the speaker.

Several years ago, Joshua Bell, one of the most accomplished violinists in the world, was playing a million dollar Stradivarius violin in a public subway. Despite the fact that people pay several hundred dollars to hear him in concert, hardly anyone paid attention that particular day in the subway. His beautiful music was the equivalent of a compelling story but it wasn't enough to grab people’s attention. Do you think people would have stopped to listen if they knew he was one of the greatest violinists in the world and that he was playing a million dollar instrument? I'd bet you any amount of money that many, many more people would have paid attention to him and his music.

James Bond enjoys a brand very few individuals can claim. Warren Buffett, Bill Clinton and a few others would need no introduction before giving a speech, but you and I do, so here are six tips for your intro when presenting to a group of any size: 
  1. You write the introduction. Don't leave this to chance because nobody knows you and your expertise like you do.
  2. Keep it short. An intro of 100-200 words is plenty because too long and it's boring, but too short and you may omit something important.
  3. Make sure it's audience-appropriate. There may be interesting things you've accomplished that have nothing to do with the talk so leave out those things.
  4. Include something personal. This allows audience members to connect with you on a personal level which invokes the principle of liking.
  5. Have a third party introduce you. You do this because someone else can say things about you that will sound like bragging if you say them.
  6. Make sure the introduction happens before the talk. Unlike the movies where the credits come later, you want people to feel compelled to listen before you even open your mouth.
Talking about Bond as a model for speaking makes for a compelling headline but not everything he does will work for you and me. That's the difference between movies and reality. So my advice is this; find out what the science says then diligently apply it and you're sure to give a more persuasive presentation.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

As noted last week; Dr. Cialdini has a new book coming out that he's coauthored with Steve Martin and Noah Goldstein, Ph.D. The book is called The Small Big and can be pre-ordered here.

Monday, August 25, 2014

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-know 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 consensus 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 similar to 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 take action 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 have to 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.

P.S. Dr. Cialdini has a new book coming out that he's coauthored with Steve Martin and Noah Goldstein, Ph.D. The book is called The Small Big and can be pre-ordered here.

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