Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The "What If" approach to Influence & Persuasion

Hi there,

Since I've started to write about influence and persuasion a funny thing has happened. I've started to have a radar like sense for picking up situations where people (mainly sales people I have to admit but sometimes even my girlfriend!) are using persuasive or inflencial language.

One good example was a telephone call I received the other day. I went a little something like this:-

Sales Man (I young guy, sounded like he was about 16 and was reading straight from a script): Hi is that Mr Wallace
Me: No there isn't a Mr Wallace lives here, there is a Miss Wallace (my girlfriend)
SM: Are you the home owner?
Me: Yes
SM: And your name would be? (first use of clever language.

By using the phrase "and your name would be" he isn't really asking me outright from my name he is kind of saying if "I were to ask you what your name is what would you tell me". This makes it easier for me to accept than someone simply asking - "what is your name?" Direct questions like that run the risk of me asking "who needs to know". We are also conditioned not to give out our names to strangers and also some people just don't like direct questions.

Me: (playing along now to see how this unfolds): I'm Mr Davidson
SM: Hello Mr Davidson I'm calling from Company XYZ (can't remember the name of the company) to let you know that we are running a great competition in your area just now. Lucky winners win a money off voucher. To enter the competition all you need to do is answer one sort question. "If you were to win the money off voucher to redecorate one of the rooms in your house which room would it be most likely to be, the kitchen or the bedroom?"

There it was, the "If you were to..." question. This is such a powerful question because it isn't actually asking you which room you want to decorate, it's asking you a hypothetical question. This immediately lowers you barriers and allow that persuasive statement right through.

Your mind simply thinks "it's only a possibility" so there is no harm in answering. I'm not actually going to do anything. However to answer the question you must actually think about the kitchen and the bedroom and think about what you would do to it if you could redecorate it. This process makes you think about what is not quite right with the bedroom or kitchen and then you start to picture the possible improvements, the seed has been planted. All this and it is just a hypothetical question "If you were to...".

You see you mind cannot tell the difference between positive and negative statements. It's a bit like saying "Don't think of a blue kangaroo" you have to think of one, not to think of one.

Me: I guess the bedroom.
SM: Ok, thanks for your time. Someone will be in touch with you if you win, good luck Mr Davidson.

I've got a funny feeling that the my luck could be in tonight...with the voucher that is :-) I'll keep you updated...

Jason D

Total Influence and Persuasion

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