I sprinted downstairs to the garage. I was in a mad rush to get to the store and pick up some stuff we needed for a barbeque we were hosting. When I got to the car I noticed that all the windows (and sunroof) were open.
What happened? Was it the kids? Did someone come into our garage and f*ck with us? Demonic possession? We immediately ruled out our kids as they have no idea how to open the sunroof.
My next guess was that a kid from a neighboring house came in and played a joke. To test my theory, I left my keys in the house and tried to open the windows and sunroof. Neither the windows or sunroof would open without the key fob being present in the car.
Now I was really confused. My next thought was that maybe I was sleepwalking the night before and I walked into my car and opened the windows and sunroof. I had never had any experience like that before so I ruled it out.
My final theory was that someone had hacked into my car and remotely opened the windows and sunroof. I had heard stories about this in the news. Maybe there was something to it? Then there was my demonic possession theory. Absurd? Yes, but fun to think about.
After an hour of racking my brain, a quick google search revealed the following feature in Acura cars:
Hit the unlock button on the remote
Wait 5 seconds
Hit the unlock button again and hold it down
The windows and sunroof will open
I tested this process myself and it worked. Mystery Solved.
What does this have to do with written persuasion? It shows two common, conflicting thought processes our prospects struggle with.
Accommodation – Changing our beliefs or opinions based on new information. Unfortunately, this almost never happens. It’s opposing concept is what usually occurs. That concept is called: Assimilation – Bending and re-interpreting new information to fit our current beliefs.
Most of us think we operate from an “accommodation” mindset but in truth we almost always operate from an “assimilation” mindset and that includes your prospects.
In the example of my car, I used accommodation. I accepted the new information and changed my belief about why the windows and sunroof were open. There was no risk involved in accommodating my belief since I wasn’t invested in any of my initial theories, even the one about evil demons possessing my car.
Why do we naturally choose assimilation over accommodation and what are the implications in sales and persuasion? When we come across information that challenges or refutes our beliefs, it challenges the certainty we have about ourselves and our worldview… and hence our well being.
We see this all the time in politics. Hard core followers never lose faith in their candidates no matter how much information to the contrary surfaces about their nefarious behavior.
Armed with this information, the question becomes:
How do we make use of these principles in our attempts to sell or persuade?
First, know your audience. If you don’t do your homework up front, you’re just throwing darts at a dartboard with a blindfold.
Next, avoid challenging their core beliefs by throwing conflicting proof at them. No amount of proof will convince someone who has already decided they will not believe it. The recent presidential election is proof enough of that. Here’s one alternative strategy you can try:
Embrace their belief and frame your argument around it. So if you sell design services and your prospect thinks design is for suckers you can write that design is for suckers, when your designer [fill in the blank]. You start by agreeing with him and then build around his objection.
I won’t guarantee it always works, but I guarantee you’ll have a better chance than attacking them with proof.