Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

To Trust Perchance to Buy

Posted on: July 29th, 2013 by Tom Pattillo No Comments


Maybe what Willy Loman needed was lessons from Dr. Mesmer.
The best persuaders build trust by mirroring the thoughts, tone of voice, speech tempo, and mood of the customer — literally, the techniques of the clinical hypnotist.


The real-estate agent, who normally speaks quickly and loudly, is responding in a slow, soft, rhythmic voice to her slow-speaking, quiet customer. The agent opened the sales interview with a series of bland and flatly accurate remarks about the cool weather and the lack of rain. Now she is explaining her hesitation in showing her customer a particular house: “I know you want to see that house, but I don’t know whether I should show it to you. It is expensive, and “–an imperceptible pause–“just looking at it will make you want to buy it.” A bit later she repeats something that, she says, a previous customer told her about a house he’d bought: “The house has been worth every penny. My wife and I just enjoy it so much” –another pause– “we can’t understand why we took so long to buy it.”

The agent, an extremely successful saleswoman, is instinctively using weapons from the arsenal of the skilled clinical hypnotist, whose initial aim is to create in a subject a state of intensified attention and receptiveness, leading to increased suggestibility. All successful persuaders produce such an effect, probably without understanding the exact nature of the techniques that accomplish it. Our real-estate woman is lulling her customer into a mood of trust and rapport by taking on his verbal and emotional coloring, and her techniques are almost identical to those that therapists like Herbert Spiegel use with patients who come to them to be hypnotized out of, say, their fear of cats.

The conclusion that a successful sales presentation is an intuitive form of indirect hypnosis is the most provocative finding of a psycholinguistic analysis that I performed in 1981. My initial study focused on eight life insurance salesmen, four of whom were identified as “top producers” by the presidents of their companies, and four as only average. The two groups were closely matched on such characteristics as age and experience. Taking the role of the customer, I spoke with the eight men, recorded their comments, and analyzed those comments for the 30 techniques of persuasion that Richard Bandler and John Grinder had identified in the work of the master hypnotist Milton Erickson. I next examined the work of 14 top sellers of real estate, luxury automobiles, stocks, commodities, and trust deeds. Since 1981, I have tested my finding with more than 50 people, who sell, among other products, jets, computers, and oil and gas leases. My basic finding was confirmed: Superior sellers use the techniques of the clinical hypnotist; mediocre ones do not.

The best sales people first establish a mood of trust and rapport by means of “hypnotic pacing” –statements and gestures that play back a customer’s observations, experience, or behavior. Pacing is a kind of mirror-like matching, a way of suggesting: “I am like you. We are in sync. You can trust me.”

The simplest form of pacing is “descriptive pacing,” in which the seller formulates accurate, if banal, descriptions of the customer’s experience. “It’s been awfully hot these last few days, hasn’t it?” “You said you were going to graduate in June.” These statements serve the purpose of establishing agreement and developing an unconscious affinity between seller and customer. In clinical hypnosis, the hypnotist might make comparable pacing statements: “You are here today to see me for hypnosis.” “You told me over the phone about a problem that concerns you.” Sales agents with only average success tend to jump immediately into their memorized sales pitches or to hit the customer with a barrage of questions. Neglecting to pace the customer, the mediocre sales agent creates no common ground on which to build trust.

A second type of hypnotic pacing statement is the “objection pacing” comments. A customer objects or resists, and the sales agent agrees, matching his or her remarks to the remarks of the customer. A superior insurance agent might agree that “insurance is not the best investment out there,” just as a clinical hypnotist might tell a difficult subject, “You are resisting going into trance. That’s good. I encourage that.” The customer, pushing against a wall, finds that the wall has disappeared. The agent, having confirmed the customer’s objection, then leads the customer to a position that negates or undermines the objection. The insurance salesman who agreed that “insurance is not the best investment out there” went on to tell his customer, “but it does have a few uses.” He then described all the benefits of life insurance. Mediocre sales people generally respond to resistance head-on, with arguments that presumably answer the customer’s objection. This response often leads the customer to dig in his heels all the harder.

The most powerful forms of pacing have more to do with how something is said than with what is said. The good salesman or woman has a chameleon-like ability to pace the language and thought of any customer. With hypnotic effect, the agent matches the voice tone, rhythm, volume, and speech rate of the customer is slightly depressed, the agent shares that feeling and acknowledges that he has been feeling “a little down” lately. In essence, the top sales producer becomes a sophisticated biofeedback mechanism, sharing and reflecting the customer’s reality–even to the point of breathing in and out with the customer.

I have found only one area in which the top sales people do not regularly pace their customer’s behavior and attitudes–the area of beliefs and values. For example, if a customer shows up on a car lot and explains that she is a Republican, a moderately successful salesman is likely to say that he is too, even if he isn’t. The best sales people, even if they are Republicans, are unlikely to say so, perhaps because they understand that “talk is cheap” and recognize intuitively that there are deeper, more binding ways of “getting in sync” with the customer.

Only after they created a bond of trust and rapport do the top sales people begin to add the suggestions and indirect commands that they hope will lead the customer to buy. One such soft-sell technique is using their patently true pacing statements as bridges to introduce influencing statements that lead to a desired response or action. For example: “You are looking at this car and you can remember the joy of owning a new reliable car,” or “You are 27 years old, and we figure that your need for life insurance is $50,000.” These pacing and leading statements resemble the way a hypnotist leads a client into hypnosis: “You are sitting in this chair, and you are listening to my voice”–the unarguable pacing statements–“and your eyelids are getting heavy, and they are beginning to close…”

There does not have to be any logical connection between the pacing statement and the leading statement. They can be totally unrelated, yet when they are connected linguistically, they form a “sales logic” that can be powerfully effective, even with such presumably analytic and thoughtful customers as doctors and college professors.

The power of these leading statements comes from the fact that they capitalize on the affirmative mental state built by the undeniably true pacing statements, with which the customer is now familiar. Customers who have agreed with sales people expect, unconsciously, further agreement, just as customers who have disagreed expect further disagreement. The “traditional” truth of these pacing statements rubs off on the leading statements, and, without knowing it, the customer begins to take more and more of what the sales agent says as both factual and personally significant. Using hypnotic language, the agent activates the customer’s desire for the product.

Average sellers combine pacing and leading statements less frequently and with less skill that do their superior colleagues. They also speak in shorter, choppier sentences, and thus fail to create the emotional web of statements in which the truthful and the possible seem to merge.

One of the most subtle soft-sell techniques is to embed a command into a seemingly innocuous statement. “A smart investor knows how to make a quick decision, Robert.” “I’m going to show you a product that will help you, Jim, save money.”

Sales people insure that their embedded commands come across by changing the tone, rhythm, and volume of their speech. Typically, as they pronounce the commands, they intuitively slow their speech, look the customer directly in the eyes, and say each word forcefully. A clinical hypnotist does the same thing deliberately. “If you will listen to the sound of my voice, you will be able to relax.”

The placement of an individual’s name in a sentence seems like a trivial matter, yet the position of a name can make a significant difference in how strongly the sentence influences the listener. Placed before or after the command portion of a sentence, it gives the command an extra power.

By changing their speech rate, volume, and tone, the best sales agents are able to give certain phrases the effect of commands. “If you can imagine yourself owning this beautiful car, and imagine how happy it will make you, you will want to, Mr. Benson, buy this car.” The two phrases beginning with ‘imagine’ become commands for the customer to do just that. Owning the car is lined to the leading statement of how happy it will make the customer. Finally, the statement carries the embedded command: “Mr. Benson, buy this car.”

A final soft-sell technique of the best sales people is the ability to tell anecdotes, parables, and stories, and to frame their comments in metaphors. For thousands of years, human beings have been influencing, guiding, and inspiring one another with stories and metaphors, so it should be no surprise that sales people routinely use them to influence customers. What is surprising is the frequency and skill with which they do so.

Some sales agents I have studied do almost nothing but tell stories. They tell them to get the customer’s attention, to build trust and rapport, and even to deliver product information. A piece of information that in itself might be boring takes on a human dimension and stays in the customer’s memory when placed in the context of a story. “I sold a receiver like this a week ago to a surfer from Torrance and what he liked best about it was its FM sensitivity of 1.7 microvolts.”

Metaphors and stories are used to handle customer’s resistance and to “close” on them without endangering rapport. A top insurance agent was attempting to close a deal for a policy with a young man who was considering signing with a smaller company. As part of his clinching argument, the salesman wove the following metaphor into his pitch: “It’s like taking your family on a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, and you want to get from here to England, and you have the choice of either going on this tugboat or on the Queen Mary. Which one would you feel safe on?” Had the salesman tried to make his point with a litany of facts and figures, he might never have focused his customer’s attention; the discussion could have descended into a dispute about numbers. Instead, his story spoke directly to the customer’s concern about his family’s safety and implied that it was now in the customer’s power to decide between two choices that were clearly unequal.

Note, too, that the salesman used conjunctions to link the metaphor in one unbroken chain and give it a hypnotic cadence. Mediocre sales people who know such a story would probably tell it as several separate sentences. In addition, they probably would give no special emphasis to the phrase “feel safe” even if they had heard better sales people do so. The skill in telling it is more important than the material itself.

The same can be said about all the skills that constitute the intuitively hypnotic arsenal of the best sales agents. But obviously, these skills are not exclusive to sellers. They are common to others–politicians, lawyers, even preachers. No less than sales people, these persuaders try to influence their audiences. No less than sales people, they attempt to implant in their audiences a resolve to do something. And, like sales people, all of them use, to some extent, variations of the techniques of Mesmer, Cagliostro, and Rasputin.

Donald J. Moine received his PhD in psychology from the University of Oregon for his study of successful sales people. He lives in Redondo Beach, California.

Response to Manar Al Hinai’s “It might be boring but perhaps the lesson is get a life”

Posted on: August 5th, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

Finding a purpose for our life is one of consistent themes for personal satisfaction. Whether it be the impact of Maslow’s “Self-Actualization”, Rogers “Peak Experiences”, Covey’s “Seven Habits”, or any of the thousands of personal coaches around the world, the majority of us understand that a purpose larger than “ourselves” is a major prerequisite for a life well lived.

Taking Mana Al Hinai’s excellent article as a starting point regarding the “purpose” for our efforts, I propose that both private and public organizations understand that the biggest challenge to achieving Emiratization is ineffective and inappropriate of both the western oriented management principles and the “survivor mentality” of the ex-pats from lower income countries.

Too often in “western management”, financial reward is still considered the underlying motivation for job performance. Decades of evidence indicate the fallacy of this assumption. Money is rarely even in the top five of motivation drivers. People invest their time to benefit their families, look after their health, and to make a difference to the people and the world around them. Daniel Pink’s book Drive gives many examples of the reality behind successful motivation methods. It is not enough to say “if you do better, we’ll pay you more money.” It does not work.

In the UAE another particular problem regarding motivation is the example set by those ex-pats whose primary reason for being in the UAE is to send money back home to their families. Whether in labor or professional occupations, the dedication, intensity, and willingness to spend any number of hours on the job, while laudable, is not based on a desire for a meaningful life. It is based on the goal of maintaining a job, by whatever ways possible, so that a consistent revenue stream is sent back home. These ex-pats are rarely interested in recreation, community involvement, or a balanced life style. They really don’t care about the UAE except as a place to earn as much money as possible to send back home.

The corollary to the above is that the ex-pat professional managers, have no use for those who want jobs that provide meaning, or that have a purpose beyond earning money. They have no patience for UAE employees who are not motivated in they same way they, the ex-pat managers, are motivated. I spoke to one young Emirati woman who was giving up her job with a bank because achieving money based targets was the only measure of her success. Emiratization fails in large part because money is not going to work as a major motivator for Emirati employees.

My constant refrain is: The UAE is a unique nation. There is no nation in the world, past or present, that has grown as fast as the UAE in 40 years. There is no nation in the world that is as committed to, and has the resources to, provide a standard of living for its citizens second to none on the world stage. Whether you believe that the symptoms of a “rentier” state explain the current “motivation” for Emirati employees or not, the reality is that the only true method for Emirati motivation NOT money.

The best motivation is internal (intrinsic) rather than external (extrinsic) motivation. The motivation for a “purpose” driven job or career is rarely, if ever, based on the external motivation financial reward. Purpose driven implies and is the result internal motivation.

All of this to plead for Emirati leaders to consider that UAE employees will not be motivated by traditional “western oriented” money motivation, nor the paranoid obsessive compulsive examples of the professional expats. Look at ways to bring purpose into both private and public jobs. Look for different ways to measure accomplishment. This does not mean lowering expectations, it does me changing the work atmosphere to allow the Emirati employees to find their own motivation that will inspire them to not only achieve, but exceed the expectations of their managers.

This echoes Ms. Al Hanai’s recognition that it is only by find a purpose beyond ourselves that we can find meaning (and avoid boredom) in our life.

It might be boring but perhaps the lesson is get a life
Manar Al Hinai
Aug 5, 2012
I went out for an after-iftar coffee with nine of my girlfriends last weekend. They included engineers, an interior designer and a renowned TV presenter – but not one of them said they were excited by their jobs.

In fact they complained about how bored they were and how meaningless they felt their work was, even though they were busy for the eight hours they spent at the office every day.

But, just like a heavy workload, boredom is also stressful. And when we are busy at work but still feel bored, that means even more stress.

By the looks of things, my own working life should be very exciting. I have a busy and non-routine job at a government organisation. I write articles and columns for national publications. I run my small fashion business. I get to meet interesting people from different walks of society. I have been lucky enough to win prestigious awards. I volunteer at various community causes. I have more upcoming projects in the pipeline. I am fully occupied – and yet sometimes I, too, feel bored.

Unable to shake off this terrible feeling from time to time, I often introduce a new challenge to my personal business, or suggest something new to work on at my office and that really helps.

However, I realised the boredom my friends suffer from is not a result of having nothing to do but from having nothing worthwhile to do.

The thing is, if boredom is a result of having nothing to do it could be eradicated by giving more tasks to employees. Nonetheless, this is only likely to work in the shortterm, until employees realise what they are asked to do does not contribute to something bigger than themselves.

In another situation, if boredom is a result of having to do too much of a good thing, with a consequent loss of excitement, then it could be solved by giving people something new to do. This situation is common with high-performers who get the job done quickly but are easily bored and feel unchallenged. It is like giving a middle-school maths student a first-grade maths problem to solve.

Obvious fixes to such situations include job rotation, new training programmes and larger responsibilities to handle.

But how do employees fix the ironic situation of having more than enough to do in the office yet still suffering from boredom?

I am lucky as my job is a far from routine one and I always have something new to work on. But for my friends, and some of you, that might not be an option.

And so it seems the only solution to boredom is to give people something more meaningful to do.

As a chief executive of an organisation or an owner of a business, ask yourself this question: if your organisation went bankrupt, who would really care about it besides you and those who depend on it? But when you empower your employees to make them feel what they do, however small, is important to the organisation, not only will they feel less bored, they will be more productive.

Coming back to you as an individual, if meaningful work is too much to ask at this point, why not develop a passion?

Many high-achievers have “other lives” or talents besides their daily job. From my own social circle, I know a vice president who owns a successful gymnasium, and a government officer who is an abstract artist and an art curator.

After volunteering for different community causes, I also found the ultimate key to a meaningful life – at work and elsewhere – lies in turning our focus from ourselves to others. We can do this by creating opportunities for those we work with, aiding them when they need help, or by supporting a community cause.

Boredom should not be underestimated. After all, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard described boredom as the root to all evil and the major task for mankind is to overcome it.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning fashion designer and writer. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai