Monday, April 21, 2014

Using Scarcity with Qualified Prospects

Last month I hosted a webinar on the principle of scarcity for the Cialdini "Influence” Series. During the 30-minute webinar I introduced participants to the ethical application of scarcity when it comes to managing salespeople and increasing sales.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time then you know scarcity is the principle of influence which alerts us to the reality that we place more value on things when they’re rare or becoming less available. We see this principle at work constantly:

Advertising – Perceived limited time or limited availability gets customers to act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.
Relationships – When we lose someone we love we often wish we’d done more for them or with them. The mere thought of losing someone could change our behavior.
Work and School – Deadlines drive much of our prioritization and activity when it comes to school or work.

I’m sure you can think of your own examples where you’ve seen your behavior influenced by this psychological principle. What I want to explore is a question that came up as the webinar was ending. Someone asked if personal preference played into scarcity’s effectiveness. It was a great question, one I’d never considered before. The example that came immediately to mind as I pondered the answer was something from my childhood.

When I was young I collected baseball cards. This goes way back to the days before you could buy whole sets of cards. Kids got their baseball cards when they bought the bubblegum packs with cards inside them. From there we traded to round out our collections. I still remember the most famous card was the 1909 Honus Wagner. Although neither my friends nor me knew anything about Honus as a player we knew there were only six in existence and that made it the most valuable card. The card is reportedly worth $2.8 million today!

Certainly anyone reading this would love to have that card but for the most part baseball cards are only valuable to those who collect them. When I showed one of my old cards to Jane and told her it was worth about $200 she said, “Hmmm, four pairs of shoes.” She could have cared less that my Ted Williams 1956 Topps baseball card was in very good condition and she never would have paid $200 for the card because baseball cards mean nothing to her.

Much like beauty, scarcity is in the eye of the beholder. For example, hearing a furniture outlet is having a half price sale that ends Sunday will do nothing to incent my behavior if I’m not considering getting new furniture for my home.

A large part of selling is contacting qualified prospects. Qualified prospects are those people or organizations that are in the market for what you sell. When a prospect realizes they may lose out on a great opportunity that could fulfill their need, quite often scarcity will impact their decision to act.

Another category of qualified prospects would include people or organizations that might not see their need for what you sell unless you can arrange to meet with them and show how your product can positively impact them. Once you’re talking with this type of qualified prospect, introducing scarcity might be enough to get them off the fence to make a decision.

In the Principles of Persuasion workshop I emphasize this point – scarcity is best used to motivate behavior. If you’ve already established some relationship and the prospect isn’t unsure about what to do – they’re just not making a decision – then scarcity can be just the thing to get them over the hump. However, just indiscriminately telling people they’ll lose something by not acting when they could care less about what you’re offering is a recipe for failure in sales.

Here’s my sales advice – really get to know your current and prospective clients. Understand their business and their needs so you can match your product offering accordingly. Once you’ve done that, when you have genuine scarcity make sure you introduce it during the sales process because that might be just the thing that helps you make the sale.

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

Cialdini “Influence” Series! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini "Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world. Next up is Hoh Kim talking about Authority on April 17.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Many Milestones and Reasons to Celebrate

This past year has held a lot of milestones for me and for my family and so does the coming month. In March 2013, Jane and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We followed that up in December with our daughter Abigail’s 18th birthday. I turned 50 a few weeks ago and Jane will reach that magical number in about four weeks. The month of May will conclude with Abigail graduating from high school. A very event-filled 14 months!

One more milestone in the midst of all of that is the 5th anniversary of Influence PEOPLE. On April 17, 2009, I wrote my first blog post Why Influence is All about PEOPLE. Over the past five years, more than 100,000 people from nearly 200 countries have taken time to read Influence PEOPLE. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that kind of response!

It’s been incredible to meet people all across the globe and in particular those who’ve participated in my Influencers from Around the World Series. Special thanks to Sean Patrick, Anthony McLean, Hoh Kim, Marco Germani, Yago De Marta and Cathrine Moestue for being so generous in sharing their thoughts and articles with all of us over the past five years.  It’s been fun to get to know each of them and to learn about their cultures. I feel like anywhere I go in the world I’ll have friends to meet with. 

I also need to thank several other people. First and foremost is Debbie Conkel, a coworker who generously proof reads all my blog posts. Another is Mike Figliuolo, who has been a mentor in many ways because he’s much farther down the road with his company and blog thoughtLEADERS. My boss at State Auto, John Petrucci, has also been unbelievably supportive in every way. He gets that happy, engaged employees are more productive and valuable, and encourages that in all his associates.

I also want to thank some people who’ve been so encouraging. First is Nancy Edwards, a former colleague. Someone else who comes to mind is George Black. Were it not for his encouragement I might never have started this blog.

Huge thanks also go to Jane and Abigail. They’ve been my biggest supporters and have been very gracious as I’ve occasionally shared stories about each of them. Jane was especially patient with me when I wrote a post I called Reverse Psychology and the Vacation Bathing Suit.

And I’ve save the best for last – you! Without you reading this every week I would not be as encouraged and inspired to write as I am. Some of my best days are seeing comments or getting emails from readers who tell me how my writing has helped them professionally or personally. That’s the goal with what I do – to help you learn to hear “Yes” because it’s so important for your professional success and personal happiness.

So from me to you, a sincere Thank You! I hope five years from now you’re still reading and I have the chance to say thanks again.

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

Cialdini “Influence” Series! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini "Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Influencers from Around the World - Hardwired Humans

This month our Influencers from Around the World guest post comes from Anthony McLean, Australia’s one and only Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT®). We owe Anthony special thanks for taking time to share with us because his busy schedule last month included a trip to the States to meet with Dr. Cialdini. I know you’ll enjoy what Anthony has to share.

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

Hardwired Humans

Why would a Global Healthcare company like Philips undertake a change management program in a zoo? The answer is they were following research revealed in Andrew O’Keefe’s book Hardwired Humans.

In Australia/New Zealand, Philips had undergone four change programs in as many years preceding the unexpected global change program announced in 2009. Managing director Harry van Dyk and HR director Jo Hilyard admitted the company was suffering from “change fatigue” and a vastly different approach was required to that used previously.

What happened next was a little unexpected for many. Philips took 30 of its leaders to Taronga Zoo in Sydney for a workshop that introduced them to the role basic human instincts play in the workplace. The workshop looked at nine hardwired instincts of humans and the leadership implications including the management of change. In one part of the program the leaders were addressed by The Jane Goodall Institute and its chimpanzee program to demonstrate the social and hierarchical structure off chimpanzees and the implications this has for modern business. Unexpectedly for the participants they discovered the comparisons between chimp and human social structures were numerous and provided a whole new perspective on resolving workplace challenges.

One of the key insights was that the conventional wisdom that claims people resist change is wrong. We learned that humans, rather than being resistant to change, are actually hardwired to avoid loss. Upon hearing about a change people instantly screen their environment for the risk of loss. If we detect loss, we resist the change. If we detect gain, we support the change. If we are unsure about the impact of the change (and this is the big swinger), then we assume loss. This means that for organizational change we often have people unnecessarily erring toward loss and resistance, merely because people were unable to make sense of the impact of the change for them at the moment they first learned of it. (HR Monthly, March 2011, p30)

The Persuasion Implications

The implications for persuaders are clear. Through scarcity, we know that loss framing is more persuasive than focusing on the benefits of a thing. The final part of the above quote is very important because it highlights that under conditions in which the risk cannot be assessed the subject will assume loss if they have no other means to assess the risk.

You may say great, scarcity is at play without you having to do anything to get people to take action. In reality the targets of influence, under this assumed loss, will employ coping mechanisms and strategies to protect themselves from that loss rather than take healthy proactive workplace behaviours.

For example, in a change management project if the targets of influence assume loss because they have no other basis to assess the risk, they will then react against the project, at times for no other reason than they associate loss (i.e., of position, status, pay, etc.) with the project itself.

Anyone who has managed a change project will tell you the reluctance at times seems unnecessary and ill informed; now you understand that it is a hardwired response to the subjects’ inability to assess risk, so they assume loss and react accordingly.

Steps to Counter Perceived Loss

If we know that people scan for loss in any situation before moving forward, it makes sense to manage this situation and brief the relevant staff fully on managing the default towards loss and reacting against the situation unnecessarily. By providing this briefing it is more likely to trigger reciprocity because you as the change agent have given them the information they require to assess the risk for themselves. Potentially it may even increase liking if you are then required to work together and you have already opened up the channel for cooperation. The warning however is, that left unattended to the development of a loss aversion mindset, this reaction may cause the audience to take a stand and trigger consistency, towards the negative and this could be all the momentum that is required to drive consensus in the wrong direction.

So ask yourself these questions: 
1. What risk is involved in your project, service or request? 
2. Is it real or perceived?

If the targets of influence are unable to assess the personal risk of loss for themselves (i.e., the risk is not clear or able to be easily understood), they will most likely assume loss and react against you and your project, service or request.

Brief the targets of influence appropriately so they can adequately assess the risk from an informed position and give yourself every chance of success rather than having to start the influence process on the back foot. It may also be prudent to lobby support from others who already understand the project and during the briefing ask them to discuss the implications for their business area and support for the change. This simple step uses consensus to show others are already moving in the direction of the project not away from it and as we know when we are unsure of what we should do we look to the behaviour of others like us to guide our decisions.

Anthony McLean, CMCT® 

From A to Zoo, HR Monthly March 2011 p28-30
O’Keefe, A (2011) Hardwired Humans Roundtable Press.

Monday, March 31, 2014

7 Personal Observations about Success

This week (April 1), I crossed the half-century mark of life. It doesn’t seem possible because some memories from long ago – growing up, high school, college, dating Jane – are so vivid. And that includes being at my dad’s 50th birthday party! As I pause and reflect, I’m thankful and hopeful. I’m thankful for the life I’ve led and that I’ve made it this far. Many wonderful people don’t get this many years on earth. I’m hopeful for many more years and to be able to enjoy them in good health.

As this day has been approaching, I’ve looked back on my life and would like to share a few things I believe may help you be more successful in your life. I realize success can be defined many different ways so I’ll tell you mine. It’s based on the mission statement I wrote more than 25 years ago.

When my days on earth are finished and I stand in front of the Lord I hope He will say, “Well done.” Success for me will be defined by placing Him first, loving my family, making my work place better in a productive and personal sense and staying true to who I am. The following are things I believe have helped me live a life in which I can look back and say I’m happy, content and would not trade my life with anyone, for anything.

1. Love God. I’ve had experiences in life that let me know in my deepest soul that there is a God. My love for Him and living as He would desire is far from perfect. But, I’ve come to realize He doesn’t love me any more when I succeed or any less because I make mistakes. That made more sense to me after Abigail came along. I would not love her more because she did certain things nor would I love her less if she did things I disagreed with. I love her, period. So it is with God and that frees me to be who I am, accept myself – the good, the bad and all that’s in between – and enjoy who I am.

2. Place others ahead of yourself. When it comes to family, the more you can put them ahead of yourself the happier you will be. I don’t believe we do this in some sort of self-denial, “woe is me” way. You do this because when you truly love someone, you want the best for them. It brings me joy to be able to give to Jane and Abigail. When you see the giving as your reward, you realize your capacity to love is unlimited! We’re to love all people and that’s tougher because it doesn’t come as naturally but I do find more joy when I truly care for and give to others.

3. Choose your thoughts. When it comes to family and others, what we choose to focus on makes a tremendous difference. There is good and bad in everyone and everything. The good new is, humans can choose where to place their thoughts. Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, written about his experiences in surviving the Holocaust, drove this home for me. Recognizing this means I can choose not to focus on the bad and fix my thoughts on the good instead. The more I do this, the easier it is to like other people. When they sense I genuinely like them they begin to respond in kind and everyone is better off.

4. Love what you do. I know it sounds clich├ęd, but it’s true. When you love what you do your reward comes daily. When I think back to my bodybuilding, marathon running and taekwondo days, one thing in common with each was that I loved training. The goals of a bodybuilding contest, running a marathon or a black belt test were just reasons to train harder. But I realize it was easy because I wasn’t training for the prize, I was training because I loved what I was doing and those goals helped me get even more out of something that already brought me so much satisfaction.

5. A little bit over a long period. Steven Covey talked about the law of the land; that you can’t plant a crop and expect it to grow in a day. That natural process cannot be circumvented. So it is with most things in life in which we want to succeed. I learned early on with weightlifting that diligent effort over a long time paid dividends. I saw that with my studies in college and I see it today with my approach to Influence PEOPLE. Success rarely happens overnight. Muhammad Ali said as much; “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” If you love what you do it makes the process more bearable.

6. Work hard. Nothing comes easy and loving what you do and doing it for a long time won’t cut it if you don’t give it your all. There’s simply no substitute for hard work. Going to the gym, dojo, hitting the road, or studying, all require real effort. I never aspired to be “the best” because I knew what my time and physical limitations were. Within the parameters I set, I aspired to be “the best I could be” and most of the time I felt accomplished that.

7. Cut yourself some slack. There will come a day when our time is up. Don’t use up precious time and energy living in regret or beating yourself up for not being more than you are. You’re not perfect and never will be. If you happen to attain the highest heights and are considered “the best” at what you do it’s likely to be short lived. Just look at sports champions. The more you can accept yourself – short comings and all – the more you’ll be able to accept others and that leads to healthy relationships.

These are just a few thoughts on what I believe has helped me get where I am today. I’m happy and content. I realize many people cannot say either, let alone both. I hope what I’ve shared gives you pause for thought and perhaps helps you move closer to happiness and contentment.  

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

Cialdini “Influence” Series! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini "Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world.