Banking Your Influence With Quirky Facts About Friends And Associates

“Hey Steve, I saw this video on YouTube and it reminded me of your collection of antique license plates. Thought you would enjoy. “

Can you identify the persuasion tactic hidden in that short sentence? It’s another one of my “secondary” tools I use on a selective basis. It only works when you communicate in a one-on-one situation. It takes some effort on your part to do this right. If you misuse it, you may come across as scheming. Use appropriately, your recipients appreciate the kind gesture.

It takes some preparation on your part to make it work, but it wins you tons of goodwill points. Most important, the recipient benefits from it.

Here’s how it works:

  • Find out the most trivial or quirky things about your friends, acquaintances and associates.
  • Keep track of these somewhere so you don’t forget
  • Show them (at a future date) that you remember these trivial or quirky things. Better yet, show them that your remember these things but also provide some additional value (like the YouTube video example above)

By remembering seemingly mundane facts about people, you show how important they are to you. It’s the difference between telling someone they are important to you and showing them how important they are to you. A gesture that takes effort always yields superior results.

Wow, I can’t believe he remembered I had a Barbie doll birthday party when I was 9 … or…

Wow, she actually remembered my mother wouldn’t let me eat blueberries because she thought they were poison”

The recipient of these comments feels flattered that they were important enough for you to remember these insignificant facts.

Providing a small piece of additional value amplifies the power:

“Hey Susie, I remember you telling me that you had this amazing Barbie doll party when you were 9. I saw this story about a new trend of Barbie Doll parties. Isn’t your daughter 9 years old now.”

“Holy crap, Jane, I can’t believe you remembered that and thanks for sharing. Didn’t realize it was a “thing” again. Maybe I can convince my daughter…”

Don’t Fall For The “Gotcha”

Finally, we get to the obvious warning. Don’t do this and then ask for a favor. It comes across as disingenuous and scheming. Just use it as part of normal communication and don’t ask for anything in return. When the day comes that you do need to ask something of them (if ever) they’ll be more likely and eager to help you.

Remember, when it comes to persuasion, play the long game. It’s not always about getting an immediate sale. Lay the groundwork and build relationships and establish trust. It’ll make your job that much easier later.

Putting It Into Action

Want a quick way to get started?

Make a list of ten people in your life (not including family). Put their names in a spreadsheet. In the next column, list an insignificant or quirky fact about them. Something they wouldn’t expect anyone to remember. If you don’t know any, find something out. Keep your ears open. It’s often more about paying attention and listening for these facts to present themselves rather than asking directly.

And remember the most important piece. Ask for nothing in return when you do this. Position yourself as the giver. There should be no pay it back mentality.

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How A Tiny Pacific Island Can Spark A Constitutional Amendment To Elect Presidents By Popular Vote

With all the talk about a constitutional amendment to change presidential elections to a popular vote, one opinion stands out among liberals and conservatives. It would be impossible for a constitutional amendment to pass two thirds of both houses and three fourths of the state legislatures.

What drives this belief?

  1. The math problem. Two thirds of both legislatures and three fourths of the states feels like an impossible climb
  2. Opposition from small states due to the loss of perceived power
  3. It only benefits democratic candidates

If we (Republicans and Democrats) stick to the typical political strategies of attacking, scolding and intimidating anyone who opposes our beliefs then they’re right. However, with the right strategy and pulling the appropriate persuasion levers, a window of opportunity exists.

Mathematical Hurdles

The task seems ominous, getting two thirds of the legislatures and three quarters of the states to agree on a constitutional amendment. We can’t even get them to agree on the color of the sky, let alone a constitutional amendment. How do we compel them to get behind the same cause?

Let’s pull out our persuasion toolkit and pick out the right angle to attack this. How do we break the ice on constitutional amendments? The foot in the door technique seems like the ideal fit. Using this strategy, we start with a small commitment and then move onto a bigger one. We get the public and elected officials comfortable with a less divisive constitutional amendment.

This accomplishes two things. First, it provides real proof we can do it. The hurdle feels a lot smaller after we shatter the belief that it’s impossible. Second, it creates a shared victory, something all Americans can rally behind and facilitate an “in-group” dynamic (we’re all Americans instead of Democrats and Republicans).

Our initial constitutional amendment would have to be a no-brainer. It must not threaten either party or the puppet masters who fund campaigns. Here’s the perfect solution.

The Samoan Secret

We raise a constitutional amendment to give American Samoa one seat in the house of representatives and one electoral college vote in presidential elections.

Huh?

Before you laugh, consider this:

  1. American Samoa  rates the highest participation rate of military service in the country.
  2. American Samoa has around thirty NFL players, making an American Samoan male about fifty times more likely to become an NFL player than a mainland state

Military service and Professional Football. What could be more American than that? Yet, they have no representation in Washington. The marketing campaign almost writes itself.

With a population of only 55,000 making them a state and giving them two Senate seats won’t fly. A single representative in the house and one electoral college vote might be non threatening enough for both parties.

Democrats will vote for it because they typically vote for minority interests. Republicans will vote for it because it provides them an opportunity to show that they too support minority interests without offending any of their core supporters. Both parties desire the perception of supporting the military. Given their astounding record of volunteer military service, it serves as a perfect opportunity. The insignificance of one house seat and one electoral vote should make it easy for both parties to swallow.

American Samoa becomes our foot in the door play to open a path for the tougher constitutional amendment. Plus, it brings democratic representation to an Island that gives a lot to this country.

What about the next challenge? How do we convince small states to give up their power?

Small State Opposition

Market research saves the day here. Admittedly, I haven’t done it but I’m sure someone could. I don’t buy the small state argument. Did Clinton or Trump visit Wyoming or Montana? Did any candidate in the last twenty years? The small states aren’t the ones who lose power in a popular vote format. The battleground states lose.

If we convince all the non-battleground states to get on board we have a shot at getting thirty-eight states to approve. If I could design a campaign, I would look at how much funding these battleground states get from winning presidents due to their status.

I would also target small states and how campaigning could change. Maybe a presidential candidate will now visit Cheyenne, Wyoming or Helena, Montana or Boise, Idaho. Maybe Rhode Island gets their visit from a Republican candidate now that he needs the popular votes. Or, maybe a Democrat goes to Nebraska or Alabama.

Do it right and you create the us versus them dynamic where them refers to the handful of battleground states. The non-battleground states rally behind fairness. This crosses party lines and changes the dynamic of the challenge. Why should battleground states get all the goodies just because they happen to produce close votes in presidential elections?

It Only Benefits Democratic Candidates

Ah, the easiest of the three to attack. Yes, two of the last five would have benefited the Democratic party. In 2012, however, Mitt Romney nearly took the popular vote. Plenty of Republicans criticized the Electoral College while it appeared Romney would take the popular vote tally.

You can easily imagine how Republicans would pull in a higher overall vote if their candidates campaigned in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.

That’s (the start of) my plan. Let’s do it!

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Shoes Covered In Beer Gone Viral

Last week I wrote about the seemingly boring subject of nostalgia and how to tie into persuasion. A five word Facebook post reminded me of the power of this tool.

The post won’t mean anything to you unless you went to the University of Maryland but it went viral within a Facebook group. I’ll reveal the post and why it was so powerful shortly but first…

Here’s the backstory:

I went to the University of Maryland for my undergraduate degree. In the town there was a bar called “The Vous.” It existed from the early 70’s through the late 90’s (give or take a few years). If you went to Maryland during those years and lived on campus, “The Vous” was your second home. They served only beer… and a lot of it. By the end of the night a layer of beer covered the floor and any shoes that happened to be on it. The phrase, “Vous Shoes” emerged. Our “Vous Shoes” referenced that special pair of shoes we always wore to this bar.  What made them special was the shell of beer that covered them after countless nights of partying.

There is a Facebook group dedicated to “The Vous” where people post about their nostalgic memories. The group boasts a membership of seven thousand, most of whom are inactive. Recently, someone posted the following headline:

Who Else Had Vous Shoes?

To date, there are over 900 likes and over 150 comments. Over 13% of the entire group liked that post. A quick inspection of the site shows that number to be more than triple the number of likes of any other previous post and more than double the number of comments.

Five simple words that dredge up fond memories. Those memories inspired the most popular post in the seven or so years the group has been in existence.

What made it work? The nostalgic feel and romanticizing of the past. Not a single mention of the long lines to get in, the nasty hangovers from cheap beer or the questionable decisions made at 2am penetrated the comments section. Only the happy memories remain.

Plus, the “in group” dynamic strengthens the camaraderie. We bonded over the shared experience.  Whether you attended in the 70’s or 90’s we all shared the experience. We all owned Vous Shoes, so we’re all part of that same group.

Powerful stuff, right? Five simple words. It just goes to show you don’t need to find some way out there clever hook to get people’s attention. Find something that’s common to your audience and evokes positive feelings or memories and you may have your own Vous Shoe headline.

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When “Tim” invested in our fund he not only generated a 6.2% return for his investors but he slept better than he had in seven years on the job. His doctor of fourteen years told him that his blood pressure and stress levels were the lowest he’d seen for as long as he was a patient of his.

Our [name] investment strategy truly hedges against rollercoaster like swings in returns. You won’t make 20% in a year but you’ll never lose more than 1.7% in a year, even if the market crashes.

While you may not find yourself on the cover of Forbes magazine, you won’t find yourself in a conference with the Chairman or regulators asking you to explain yourself.

Upping The Stakes

That crude, made up story is an example of upping the stakes. Promising kick-ass returns is one thing. Anyone can do that.

When I wrote about how Tim’s health had improved after investing in our fund I never specifically stated it was because of our investment strategy. I left it up to you the reader to connect the dots.

Also, I never made a claim to the reader that their health would also improve. It was more of a side-story about a peer who got these great results. Readers are smart enough to think: “well, if he got these nice ancillary results then maybe I could too.”

Here’s Where Everyone Fails

You don’t need to explicitly make the connection. That only ruins the effect. You want to lead the audience down the path but let them draw their own conclusion. It gives your audience more pleasure to figure it out.

Screenwriters do this all the time. You’re watching a dramatic t.v. show and all of the sudden a character dies. Now you realize that the remaining characters are in a life or death situation. The stakes are upped.

As writers we can and should do the same thing, sparingly. We do need to consider that we’re not only entertaining but we’re also selling and leading the reader to make his own conclusions is more important than it is on a t.v. show.

Take out a recent lead generation piece. Does it have a story component? If it doesn’t go back to my earlier pieces and learn how to create one.

If your story is feeling a bit drab, try upping the stakes. Add some drama. Have a metaphorical death (or near death), something that tells your reader there is more at stake here than just money, weight, beauty or whatever it is your selling.

If you’re feeling stuck, watch an episode of your favorite drama and see how the writers up the stakes with a death, disease, imprisonment or some other means of telling you there is more at stake here than just a jury decision, day at the office or who inherits dad’s family watch. Think Game of Thrones, Law and Order SVU, Outlander just to name a few.

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Brace For Impact

If you hear those words on airplane, your day is probably about to get much worse.

It’s the opening line of one of my favorite television shows, “Air Disasters” on the Smithsonian Channel.

I love the show because I’ve always been a nervous flyer. Let me explain.

The show is one hour and it’s usually a combination of two stories. The first story is a dramatic reenactment of the disaster. Sometimes it ends in real disaster. Sometimes it ends with a brilliant save by the crew. Getting that plane on the ground under impossible circumstances makes for great drama.

The second story focuses on the National Transportation Safety Board (or equivalent for a non U.S. disaster). The second half of the show holds the secret that makes me calmer when flying on an airplane.

The investigation aims to find the cause and determine a remedy so that the same cause will never result in an accident again. Sometimes these solutions address one in a million occurrences and once in awhile they come up with solutions to systemic issues and revolutionize air safety.

In the 1970’s there were a string of accidents due to “loss of situational awareness”. After a DC-8 ran out of fuel in 1978 over Portland, Oregon the NTSB recommended something called Crew Resource Management to address the issue of crashes due to “loss of situational awareness.” It has since become a global standard and one of the biggest contributors to the stellar safety record of airlines in the last 30 years.

How It Changed My Life

Something strange happened after I watched that episode wrap up. I felt like flying was safe. Of course I knew the statistics. I know that it’s the safest form of travel, but you don’t feel statistics.

The best part? I lose a tiny bit of my fear of flying after each episode. With each investigation, they remove one more cause of a possible crash.

There’s a neat lesson in there for marketers of big ticket products. Your prospect feels fear. The more fear you can eliminate, the better chance you have at closing the deal.

Consider all the fears they face. Financial fear (“I might lose my investment”). Social fear (“if this goes south, I’ll look like a fool” or “how do I explain this to my friends, family”) .

Social fear often drives behavior more than financial fear, especially if the prospect is already financially set.

In most cases you can address the fear by offering guarantees or including “reason why” copy in your sales pitches that allow them to justify their purchase (even if they lose money) to their coworkers, friends and family.

In big ticket investments you obviously can’t make financial guarantees but you can arm them with “reason why” copy to address the social fears.

Spend some time thinking about what social fears might crop up during your campaign:

  • My [boss, coworker, press] will think I’m an idiot or make fun of me
  • How do I justify this decision to [any name]

By the way, if you have any interest in Airline Disasters, it runs on the Smithsonian Channel. I suggest you start with Episode “Focused on  Failure” – Season 4 Episode 8

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Buddy, Can You Spare $100

“Can you spare a dollar for a bus ride?”

A guy asked me that question this morning while going for a walk. I hear it every so often when I’m in Jersey City. It’s rare that I give a person money when asked in that way. Yeah, I’m a terrible person. I know.

It got me thinking. When I have given money, why did I do it? I can recall three vivid instances in my life where I gave money to someone who asked. There were more (I hope), but these come to mind. Let’s dissect what made me do it and why I was persuaded to do so.

Example #1 – July/August 1994; backpacking through Europe

Yeah, traveling back twenty two years. My brain was working some serious overtime.

Walking through a train station (or whatever they’re called there) in London, England and an elderly woman handed me a flower. I took it, somewhat bewildered. and was about to hand it back and say no thank you. She wanted money from me. It was obvious. I was on a tight budget and couldn’t afford charitable donations. She put her hands down (implying the flower was not returnable) looked at me and said “for the children.”

I quickly handed over a few pounds. Good luck trying to resist that one.

Lesson: Obviously, reciprocity was a key driver. She gave me a flower and I handed over money. But that wasn’t the only thing at play. After all, I tried to give it back. When she said “For the children” I was toast. It tugged on my heartstrings. Who could resist that? The combination of reciprocity and emotion won me over.

Example #2 – Early 2000’s; New York City

I was living in NYC at the time and I was walking down the street. There was a homeless man who saw me walk by and said: “Hey buddy, could you spare $100?”

I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. I thanked him for making me laugh and gave him $5.

Lesson: This is a tough one. He used humor and it worked. It’s tough to pull off and I never recommend trying but he did it. Again, reciprocity. He did something for me. He made me laugh, brightened up my day. I felt I owed him something for it. Plus, he caught me by surprise. Getting asked for $1 happens all the time, but not $100?

Example #3 – 2016; New York City

Again, walking down the street and a stranger comes up to me and asks me which subway can take her to [some destination]. Then she asked me another logistical question about the subway. Next, she threw in an unrelated comment. I don’t remember the exact words but it was something like: “you look a lot like my younger brother. Weird.” Then she asked another logistical question about the subway. She seemed like someone from out of town who needed help and so I obliged. When it seemed like she was about to disappear she said: “Oh, do you have another dollar for the subway. I only have credit cards and I don’t have time to find an ATM” – I quickly handed over a dollar without thinking.

Lesson: She buttered me up with seemingly unrelated questions about the subway schedule and logistics. In between there was the comment about looking like her brother. Then she gave me a valid reason why she needed a dollar. It’s that old “because” trick where you add a reason why you need a favor and it makes it more likely they comply.

If I thought about it for a second I would have realized what she was doing. This was NYC. There are ATM’s all over the place. The metro-card machines take credit cards, but she disrupted my thought processes with her questions. I didn’t “slow down” to think logically. Those questions and the comment were merely relationship builders. It all set the stage for her finale where she asked for a dollar.

As I was walking away, I turned around at the end of the block and saw her talking to another stranger. It got me thinking… how much does she make each day with this scam?

You’ve heard me say it before. It’s helpful to take a step back and observe your behavior as an outsider. You’ll soon figure out what makes you (and all of us) tick

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The Persuasion Power Of Christmas Morning… After The Presents Are Open

Just after 6 AM the kids spring awake and get out of bed. We’re going on vacation tomorrow so we open our Christmas presents a day early. Christmas morning and kids birthdays always remind me of the single most powerful emotion when it comes to persuasion, specifically persuasion with intent to sell.

Here’s the story.

The kids were so excited about the presents they would receive, they struggled to fall asleep last night. Their emotions were heightened to the extreme. When they woke up they could hardly contain their excitement. They jetted downstairs and my wife and I gave them the go ahead to open their presents.

Wonder and excitement rushed through their veins as they opened their (probably too many) presents. It took them about fifteen minutes to open up all their goodies. We spent the next twenty minutes showing them how to use the more complicated ones.

Ten minutes later they wanted to watch “Miles From Tomorrowland” on the Disney Channel. The excitement had passed. Time to resume life as normal.

What really drives us more than the reward itself? The secret lies in your favorite fiction books. It’s what keeps you up until 3AM unable to put down your book. It keeps your kids up way past their bedtime, too excited to fall asleep.

Anticipation

The feeling that you just can’t wait to see what comes next, so much so it drives you insane. How do you create anticipation? A writing teacher once told me that curiosity is the forerunner to anticipation. Some other prominent writers echo the same advice.

With a little curiosity and a build up you create anticipation. Mastery of this technique takes some practice, of course. To get you started, I’ll leave you with a few shortcuts to gain some momentum.

Sales Bullets

I’ve written about sales bullets before here. Bullets give you the benefit of something without revealing how that benefit gets delivered or the mechanism that makes it work.

For example, How to get rid of dark circles under your eyes without creams, supplements or dermatology treatments

In the example above I’m telling you the benefit but I’m not telling you the secret behind it. The reader thinks: what on earth could it be that gets rid of those dark circles. The answer might be eight hours of sleep but keeping that part a secret builds up the anticipation.

Combine Things That Don’t Go Together

This creates curiosity. Add in a buildup before you reveal the secret and you create anticipation. For example, I once wrote an article about a Thomas Jefferson persuasion tactic in the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence and persuasion strategies do not normally go together and it creates curiosity because you just have to know what it is.
I could write volumes on this subject but I can’t relieve all your anticipation. I’ll save a few tricks for next time.

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How The Weak Minded Wield Persuasive Power

Politics and sports provide abundant opportunities to discover the actions of the best and worst persuaders. Many of them go through a rise and fall in their following. They take take a strong (often extreme) stand on a policy, politician or worldview. They gain a following until they do something that hurts their credibility. When they lose their credibility their influence and persuasive ability plummets.

Why Influence Fades

In politics, the biggest hit on influence comes from credibility. These influencers fall into a familiar trap that goes something like this:

  1. Influencer attacks the politician or policy causing pain, suffering and anguish to a group he represents
  2. Influencer gains support from hard core supporters first, followed by less zealous and casual supporters
  3. As more details about “the opposition” emerge, influencer continues the attack
  4. If any of the details are positive, the influencer either ignores or twists them to appear negative
  5. The influencer falls into the common trap of “If I admit even one tiny aspect of this politician or policy is good then it contradicts my entire belief system”
  6. Because of this belief, the influencer refuses to acknowledge anything that might be a threat to his or her overall position
  7. The more moderate supporters begin to recognize the misinformation and hypocrisy. The influencer loses credibility
  8. Only the hardcore supporters of the influencer remain, not enough to hold any real power but enough to stay in business for a while
  9. Two options are possible. He can adjust his behavior to focus only on the extreme supporters. This action gives up on mainstream support but stakes out a smaller but stable role for himself. Or, he “clarifies” the extreme views to win back the mainstream, losing all his supporters in the end.

You Can See This Everywhere

We see the same type of behavior in sports too, particularly when it comes time to vote for awards. Sportswriters often pick and choose the  criteria that support their guy. They also pick and choose criteria that justifies why the other side doesn’t deserve to win.

The corporate world also faces its challenges. Opposing ideas and competing departments often see each other as enemies. Their ideas must be shot down even if they’re worthy. They interpret ideas from someone else an attack on their own value and worth.

Here’s the key to remember

Recognizing a positive aspect of an opposing view, especially when it’s obvious, does not mean you have to change your entire worldview You can say that Donald Trump’s negotiation with Boeing is a good thing without accepting him as a whole. You can say that Hillary Clinton’s support of women’s rights throughout her life yielded positive benefits without accepting her whole platform.

Recognizing an obvious truth about your opposition may appear like you’re surrendering your values and beliefs. The hardcore supporters with tunnel vision they may brand you as weak. They expect you to defend “the” position at all costs. To this small (yet loud) segment of your audience, giving in just an inch gets you labeled as weak minded.

But to the majority of your reasonable minded audience, recognizing something positive about your opposition makes you credible. Once credible, you gain the attention and respect of people who may disagree with you. Once you win their attention and respect, persuasion and influence become possible.

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Persuading A Non-Drinker To Host A Wine Tasting

Last night my wife, who doesn’t drink, hosted a wine tasting party. Seems odd, right? Well, she did it for me. I drink. The tasting offered me a chance to try a bunch of new wines while she focused on the social aspect of the party. That answers why she hosted the party, but the real lesson in this article lies deeper.

One of her friends, who works for a direct sales company that produces these wines, organized the party. She picked the wines, went through a pre-designed pitch about the company, and gave us some tips on how to taste and drink.

As we tasted the wines she asked us to write down what we thought of them and suggested we buy three bottles of each for whichever ones we liked. At the close of the tasting she told us she would take our orders. One of the interesting sales dynamics at these social events is the implicit social pressure to buy something. Nobody forces you to buy something but there’s almost a social obligation to do so.

Nobody wants to be seen as “that person”:

“Oh, she just drank all that free wine and didn’t even buy anything?”

Also, most of us hold a view of ourselves as supported of our friends. That compels us to act in a way that fits that view:

“She just went through all that trouble and gave us some free goodies. I should at least buy something for her efforts”

“They’re all buying something? Guess I better buy something too, just keep everything cool”

These are the conversations going on in our heads. Resisting social pressure takes willpower, something that’s hard to muster, especially at night after a long day.

But This Is A Column On Written Persuasion!

I know. As writers, control over when, where and with whom our prospects consume our messages rarely exists. That makes social pressure harder to pull off but not impossible.

Here’s how it works.

Target Their Group Bias

Your prospect belongs to several groups. By group I mean professional, personal, community, family, racial, ethnic, hobbies, political, and so on. The groups he belongs to exert a subtle pressure to conform to the norms for his group (similar to peer pressure in a face to face setting). That subtle pressure ignites the need for your prospect to fit in.

For example, suppose your group of friends that live in your community like to fish on the weekends. Fishing may bore you to tears but when they ask you to join them for the day wouldn’t you feel just the slightest bit of pressure to say yes? That’s exactly the kind of social pressure we need to imply in our written copy. Suppose you’re selling memberships to support a local museum in whatever city or town you live in. The data shows that 72% of subscribers are female, between 26-40 years old and work in accounting or finance. I can use that data to target who I market to and show them (with some subtlety) what their peers are doing.

Just like in face to face settings, it stirs that conversation in their minds:

“All my friends at work are doing it. I’ll be the outcast if I don’t do this too. “

“I guess if all my peers and most of my friends are doing it…”

There’s one other tool at our disposal… and it’s gotten a bad rap lately.

Fear Of Missing Out

Fear of missing out also represents a kind of social pressure. Studies prove its validity way beyond social media. Here’s an example.

If you are writing to restaurant owners about a seminar on restaurant stuff, your selling points may persuade him or her to sign up. If you tell him that the top food writers and restaurant financiers in the area will also attend and that other restaurant owners are going to connect with these hotshots, then it makes it harder to resist.

There may not always be an obvious fit to take advantage of this technique. It takes a thorough understanding of your market and a good deal of market research. Guessing your way through it will likely result in a major disconnect. 

Final tip: Your writing must be subtle, not an obvious attempt to manipulate. They need to connect-the-dots and start that private conversation in their head.

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Nobody Cares About Your Generous Refund Policy… But What Really Makes Them Think Twice

Are you loyal to a go-to lunch spot? I was once an obedient follower of a neighborhood healthy fast food place. Recently, I stopped going after two years of loyal patronage. I felt the quality of their food deteriorated. The last straw happened a few weeks ago. I ordered my usual lunch and an hour later my stomach fought back. I won’t go into details but it was unpleasant.

Over the two years I ate there I got to know the owner of this restaurant. She always greeted me with pleasantries and small talk before she took my order. I looked forward to our little exchanges. Plus, I prefer to eat healthy and that’s the specialty of this place.

So, if I enjoyed the restaurant for most of these two years and had good rapport with the owner, why did I stop going? Why not just tell the owner of my recent experience (especially the really bad one)? She deserves that much, right?

Afraid To Speak The Truth

Here’s the thing.

While pleasant and outgoing, she detests any sort of criticism. I once saw a customer complain about her chicken being overcooked and dry. She got extremely defensive. In fact, she took a more offensive posture. I bet that customer ever came back. The message communicated to anyone else who witnessed this event was:

I welcome your feedback… as long as it’s positive.

Being treated in a rude manner makes for an uncomfortable experience. Our nature compels us to avoid uncomfortable experiences. It doesn’t take any persuasion or human psychology genius to figure that out.

But that’s not the lesson here…

When we persuade, influence or sell one of the fears our prospects thinks about revolves around the question:

What if this doesn’t work out? What if there’s a problem? Are they going to fight me on it?

Generous Refund Policies Don’t Cut It Anymore

I’ve written about invisible roadblocks to a sale before. “What if” questions comprise many of these roadblocks. In written persuasion or marketing, your prospect won’t pick up the phone or email you about your refund policy, guarantee or the kind of experience they can expect if a problem arises. You lack the flexibility and feedback available to you in a face to face sales call. Most marketing and sales letters talk about their refund policies. Rarely do they talk about what kind of experience you can expect when you face a problem.

A former mentor once told me that nobody buys anything and expects it to be problem-free forever, especially for the pricey products and services. Your customer needs knows that you stand behind your product. He needs to know you welcome both positive and negative feedback. Most important, he needs an expectation of what to do and what to expect if he faces a problem. He needs to know that all his bases are covered. Customers despise surprises. They crave certainty. If you provide certainty for what they can expect when something goes wrong, then you remove one more of those hidden roadblocks to a sale.

Of course, don’t take this as license to lie. if you tell your customers they can expect a customer service experience where they walk away smiling no matter what issues they face with your product… then you better deliver on that promise!

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