Caveat Emptor the saying goes; let the buyer beware. Not only is there truth to that claim, but it’s hard to protect against sales practices and sales personnel that use sophisticated principles of behavioral and social psychology. These techniques, while not illegal, cause a high percentage of people to purchase products, goods, and services which are not always in their best interest. I know it’s happened to me before, hasn’t it happened to you? (If this were a sales situation this could be a technique to get you to start agreeing with me.)
Dr. Robert Cialdini is one of the world’s foremost experts on the science of influence. He has studied and published a number of books on the subject, as well as being a consultant to corporations and other institutions. In other words, he knows what he’s talking about (appeal to authority – another persuasion technique). Part of his work involved the study of sales techniques and strategies and what he and others have discovered, and have to teach us about our behavior, is highly instructive. When we purchase goods and services sold by highly skilled salespeople, whether on the phone, in person, or in other ways, certain techniques are often employed which create push button- like responses in us; we respond almost automatically. So, we’ll make purchases not always in our best interest which we later justify based on other psychological principles at work.
Here’s an example of someone who does sales training recommending one of Dr. Cialdini’s books.
Makes you think, doesn’t it. (You said yes, didn’t you? Whoops, you said yes again, didn’t you? See where this is going?)
So, I was a commission salesperson at one point in my life. In fact, it’s how I paid for college and graduate school. I was always in the top three performers in the department. There are ways to sell to people that are focused more on relationship building, connecting with them, trying to help meet their needs and referring them out if you can’t help. I’ll give an example. When I sold furniture I would frequently tell people to go check out other furniture stores, especially if I knew they had what the customer was looking for, or if the person really needed to see a wider selection. My colleagues were often mystified by this and equally surprised when many of these people came back, sometimes just because I had been honest with them and really had their best interests at heart.
So, beware the sales tactic that is designed to create a push button behavioral funnel solely designed to separate you from your hard-earned cash; that’s what most sales and marketing are about. Strangely enough, I had a stint teaching sales training as well. The methods based on honesty, integrity, and connection always brought repeat customers. I could go on and on talking about various techniques and strategies, like creating false choices, embedded commands, indirect suggestion, etc, but maybe that’s a topic for another post. Instead, let me share with you a video that discusses some of Dr. Cialdini’s principles, and as you watch think about how they are also applied unethically.
As a finale, a short clip on deception in advertising.