Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mark Twain, Sales Genius

Mark Twain once said: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”  I want to explore and discuss how that is important in today’s world of selling.  

Let me first give you an example that most of us in sales have experienced.  You meet a potential client and ask some questions and find out that this person has a product that they have bought for a significant amount of money. You know that this product (whatever it is) is an inferior piece of shit.  Naturally, you go about trying to convince this person that they have made a mistake and you have something that will work much better and the kicker is that it costs less.  Your expectation is that your prospect will see the value and jump on it immediately.  But, that doesn’t happen, does it?  Why?


The answer is Cognitive Dissonance.  Mark Twain lived from 1835 to 1910.  Cognitive Dissonance theory was not proposed until 1957 by Psychology Professor Leon Festinger.  Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort we feel over the turmoil in our brains that is caused by conflicting beliefs, ideas or values.  Our brains work hard to make us think we are doing the right thing, even though there may be overwhelming evidence telling us otherwise. Consistency of belief tends to be more comfortable than the feeling of having made a mistake.

Rationale.  Many times, very smart people will justify their dumb choices.  They use illogical reasons for buying or keeping their piece of shit, over priced product.  Here are a just a few.

-You get what you pay for.
-It could be much worse.
-It’s what my spouse wanted.
-We had some extra money laying around.
-It’s worked fine so far.
-My dad did business with this company.

So how do you snap someone out of this kind of “natural” behavior?  You leave all that sales presentation 101 bullshit behind.  I know you’ve heard “Knowing is half the battle.”  Well, i would say, it’s closer to 90% of the battle.  You have to know what your client is thinking or feeling and you have to get ahead of it for his or her own good.  You will never sell to someone who is net feeling at ease and someone who is experiencing cognitive dissonance is not at ease.  

How do you know what your client is feeling?  Empathy, if you don’t have it, you will learn it.  We have all made mistakes.  Some of us have made huge mistakes or have been wrong in a big way, only to discover a profound truth.  You must not be patronizing but sometimes you have to challenge those who can handle it.  Some know-it-alls find that hard to resist.  With others, you just have to be a sounding board.  Ask good questions and then shut up and listen.  People will talk themselves into buying from you if you allow it.  And then do right by your client and sell the best thing.  “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”  -Mark Twain

-Insurance Professor