When I first stepped into the world of sales over 20 years ago, I chose a tough way to start. I believed then, as I do now, that door to door insurance sales ranks right up there with being the hardest selling gig there is.
I would normally work in a community some 2-5 hours away, knocking on the doors of people who had never before seen my 20 year old face ( which looked all of 16 or 17), or even heard of the Agency I represented in most cases. Imagine some kid that looked like they were still in high school, knocking on your door, coming in to ask you a few questions, delivering a presentation, and then asking you for $1000-$4000. Like I said, it was tough.
I was always somewhat amazed when someone got out their check book, and wrote me the check for an insurance policy they hoped was as good as I had told them. How did I do it? I 1986, I was trained, as most sales people are today, to use what Dr. Eric Knowles refers to as “Alpha Strategies. ” In short, Alpha Strategies are techniques designed to overcome resistance. As you might imagine, there was a fair amount of resistance in those who I was asking to abandon their current insurance company, and trust someone who had been a total stranger less than 2 hours before, with a check for well over $1000.
The challenge we faced as agents, was that even when we were successful at overcoming the resistance, we had done nothing with the resistance; it was still there, lurking beneath the surface, and when the emotional “high” we had induced began to wane, chances were that the resistance would eventually prevail. To return to the home office at the end of the week, only to discover that the “Big” sale you had made had been cancelled, was like being punched right in the gut!
The world’s foremost expert on resistance reduction is Dr. Eric Knowles. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Dr. Knowles last week, discussing what he calls “Omega Strategies”, and it was an honor to hear the principles I had studied so thoroughly in his book resonate in the voice of Dr. Knowles himself. He presented us with several examples not contained in the book, in terms of application and use in day to day interactions.
One “technique” that I absolutely love, because of its simplicity and power, is that of simply acknowledging the resistance. When I first learned of this research, the part of me that was trained to sell insurance said, “Whooooooaaa, you’re actually going to bring up the fact that they are resistant?” As a red cheeked insurance agent, I had been taught to keep them focused on thoughts that were aligned with making the decision to buy.
Knowles presents an overwhelming body of research that indicates we should in fact bring this to their attention. In one example, Knowles found that when one of his research participants asked another student, “Would you mail this letter for me?” that about 70% of those asked said yes. However, when the assistant made the same request, but first acknowledged the resistance of the person being asked, it jumped to almost 100% of the requests be answered with “Yes. ” What were the words that were responsible for an increase of as much as 30%? “I know you probably don’t want to, but……” That’s it. The question in full was, “I know you probably don’t want to, but would you mail this letter for me?” How much could an increase in compliance of nearly 30% mean to you?
Knowles discovered that by acknowledging the resistance, we can lower its intensity, and in some cases, even defuse it completely.
If you have a message to deliver that you know others may find hard to believe, (resistance) tell them. “Folks, I’m going to tell you something that you probably won’t believe, . . . . . . . . ” If you’ve been involved in sales or a career that requires a significant amount of persuasion for any length of time, this will feel like using your non-dominant hand to write with…at first. But after you have witnessed this principle literally melt someone’s resistance, you’ll soon find yourself using it with ease.
Notice that when using this principle of acknowledging the resistance, the essential message has not changed or become more attractive; you have not added a “bonus” or anything else to “amp” up your offer or sweeten the request. You are simply letting the other person know, that you realize they may not want to do it, believe it, accept it, etc.
This technique can also significantly deepen and speed up the process of establishing rapport. By acknowledging what they are feeling or thinking, it’s as if you were so in tune with them that you actually read their thoughts.
One caveat: Only use this with something you are certain there is, or will be resistance to or about. Knowles found that when resistance was acknowledged, when in fact there was none, that it could have a backlash effect, and actually cause an otherwise confident person to begin to doubt what you’re saying.
By first reducing the resistance to your message, you may be surprised to find it requires much less effort to persuade. Let me ask you this; given the choice between constantly having to find better way to overcome the fatigue that results from walking up the long hill from your mail box, or, would you rather simply decrease the effort or “resistance” by taking a different path? We now have the same choice available in the process of persuasion.
I remember Dr. Knowles saying, “I know this seems so straightforward and simple, that you may be hesitant to use it, perhaps even wanting to disregard it completely, but the science is there…this stuff is powerful, and will increase your persuasiveness in virtually any environment. ” Having used these principles with my clients in personal coaching sessions, I can tell you that Dr. Knowles is right.
I might not want to try this stuff today, but if you decide to now, I think you’ll be glad you did.
Vincent Harris is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is an expert on the new science of happiness, positive psychology, and teaches others how to become the kind of speaker that can leave the audience spellbound. Join his Free weekly Newsletter today, a $97 value and a Free Special Report, " Stop Offending Other's Unconsciously, and Win Them Over in Record Time!" Just visit http://www.successpath.info/Consultations.html