In the first season of 24, Jack Bauer was coerced into assisting a political assassination, by threat of harm to his wife and daughter.
By threat of blackmail, the five main characters in The Usual Suspects are coerced into paying back a debt to Keyser Soze.
And in The Empire Strikes Back, Lando Calrissian is coerced by Darth Vader into double crossing Han Solo, as bait to trap Luke Skywalker.
As you might have guessed, these are all examples of coercion.
If you’ve been following our blog or subscribing to our newsletter for any length of time, it should be clear to you that I don’t believe marketing or sales should be coercive. I think you’ll know that I think it should be the opposite, meaning it should allow someone to choose freely and willfully.
The fact that some people use influence or persuasion to get money a lot of times puts the idea of selling, marketing and persuasion as evil. Puts a bad taste in their mouth. And yes, of course, persuasion has been abused throughout history. And will continue to be abused.
At some point in time, however, we all use influence to get things in life—time, love, friendship, fame, power, loyalty, and yes . . . money too.
But here’s the irony—persuasion works best when it’s invisible. The most effective influence leaves people with the impression that they have made a completely independent decision based only on the facts.
With that in mind, here are nine tried and true selling techniques that fly under a prospect’s radar, disarm cynicism, and yet still powerfully persuade. You can come to you own conclusions about their level of evil.
• Reciprocation: People tend to return a favor. Thus, the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing and selling. In his conferences, Robert Cialdini often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethopia in 1937.
• Commitment and Consistency: If people commit, verbally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment.
• Social Proof: People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in a late 70’s experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky. Bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. Living in the same neighborhood or subdivision where you are selling homes and sharing that fact with your clients is an example of social proof. This information will immediately make your client feel comfortable with buying a home in that area because they already “know” someone else doing it.
• Authority: People will tend to obey authority and celebrity figures.
• Liking: People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. The Guinness Book of World Records listed Joe Girard as the “World’s Greatest Retail Salesman” for 12 consecutive years. What was his secret? He built and maintained relationships.
• Scarcity: Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying there are only three homes with a particular floor plan available in a new subdivision works. If it is true, of course.
• Honesty: Try pointing out the flaws of a home upfront, and being brutally frank. In this day and age of exaggeration and fine print, people are so disarmed by simple and intentional honesty that they will pay closer attention to the rest of what you have to say. You’ll have more credibility in the prospect’s eyes when it’s time for a purchase decision.
• Storytelling: Stories engage a person’s mind and emotions in a way that dry sales text can never accomplish. It’s also something they will never forget. In addition to the literal story that you tell, every good story provides a connotation that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. And since people rarely argue with their own conclusions…
• Teaching: When we learn new things, we grow new neural connections in our brains as we expand our knowledge. And brain research confirms that emotional engagement is linked to learning because it helps us recall relevant memories stored in our central nervous system. Teach someone about a homes history, architecture or unique materials–and don’t forget why the material was used–is simply smart selling.