How Curing Fear of Snakes, and Sales are Similar

Sales Recommendations (presentations)

fear of snakesIn the great book, “Influencer-The Power to Change Anything,” the authors (there are five) share information that can have tremendous effects on our influencing success using the phone in sales and prospecting.

To illustrate the main point, let’s look at an example. They relate the story of a psychological experiment performed to cure severe phobics of their fear of snakes.

Psychologist, Dr. Albert Bandura, knew that words alone, despite how well-chosen they are, will not get someone to change their mind or overcome a phobia (that is something we need to understand as well).

He also knew that the personal experience of simply confronting a fear head-on didn’t work with severe phobics.

He needed something in between.

Something that he proved to be one of the most persuasive tools in an influencer’s toolbox: “vicarious experience.”

Using “Vicarious Experience”

Vicarious experience is exposing prospects (or snake phobics) to others who are demonstrating a behavior. The subjects then learn from the others’ successes and failures.

Watching others in action, the authors have proved, is the next best thing to experiencing something on your own.

In Bandura’s experiment, he had the phobics, from behind a glass wall, watch others hold and pet large snakes. Eventually, the phobics got closer and closer, until they were sitting with and holding the snakes!

The importance for us in using the phone in sales is that, according to the research, the greatest persuader is our own personal experience. But of course, on the phone, we can not usually give personal experience in the sense of having someone actually enjoy the results of our product or service by just using our words.

But we can, to a degree, using Bandura’s “vicarious experience.” And that means using stories to place someone in the position of experiencing the results of what you sell.

Why Stories Work

First, let’s understand why stories work. When you simply try to persuade someone with just your words, people first hear THEIR words, which translates into their images, their past experiences, and consequently, their interpretation of those words. Which could be very different than what you intended.

For example, the instant the words “service contract” leave your mouth, the listener might be forming an impression of how he got scammed on some extended car warranty sold by a shady operation that went out of business before he got rid of the car.

Much different than the peace of mind and money savings that you intended with your service contract for his computer system.

Another problem with just using your words to make your case is that others may not always understand what you’re saying. This is often a result of a sales rep using either internal acronyms and terms or industry jargon that most people would not understand.

Finally, a problem with your words alone is that unless you have a good trusting relationship with someone, what you have to say may not be all that credible, since of course they know your goal is to get them to buy from you.

So, the way to truly have an impact and get someone to trust you, and buy into your points is to use stories. Told well, the authors say, vibrant, detailed stories help listeners drop their possible doubts regarding a solution or proposed change.

“When they can picture the issue in a real-world scenario, it helps them see how the results make sense.”

Another benefit for us regarding stories is that they tend to defy logic and evidence. For example, you may know of or have actually heard someone make this argument against wearing seatbelts:

“My cousin’s neighbor was in an accident wearing a seatbelt, and he drowned because he couldn’t get out of the car. So I don’t wear them.”

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary regarding the safety of seatbelts, the experience of one other person is enough to discount the hard data with many people.

And don’t think it’s just uninformed people who might use irrational arguments based on one example. Three groups of MBA students were provided information about a situation. One group got facts and figures. Another, same information presented with charts and tables. The final group got the details told through the story of a little old wine maker.

When tested several weeks later, not only did the group that heard the story remember more detail, but they also found the story more credible!

They Are Transformed

Stories help people leave the role of listener, who may usually apply logic, analysis, and criticism, and take him into the story itself as a participant.

Here is a direct quote from creative writing expert, Lagos Egri, regarding how to transport your listener, prospect, or customer into a story. This quote, by the way, could put lots of money in your pocket.

“The first step is to make your reader or viewer identify your character as someone he knows. Step two—if the author can make the audience imagine that what is happening can happen to him, the situation will be permeated with aroused emotion and the viewer will experience a sensation so great that he will feel not as a spectator but as the participant of an exciting drama before him.”

I’ve long known that as a speaker and trainer that using stories help to make points, and are more memorable. I’ve had people come up to me over 15 years after attending one of my programs and are able to relate a story I told. (Often, though, they can’t remember lots of other things from the program, which fits with the scientific evidence.)

And the more concrete, vivid, and sensory you can make your stories, the more your listener moves from thinking about why they might not want what you have, to experiencing every element himself. Stories actually generate emotions in listeners as if they were acting out the behaviors themselves.

So, I’ve shared a lot about the why of stories, what about the how?

After I started this topic, I realized how much space it would fill to cover adequately. In the next post, I’ll continue with lots of how-to’s. In the meantime, you can get started. Here is an Action Step to implement in the meantime.

Action Step. Recall and reconstruct a situation where a prospect was at first reluctant to do business with you. Describe his reasons.

Then write out what changed his\her mind.

Finally, describe the specific results he received after buying from you, and what that person now says about the relationship. Get as sensory, visual, and descriptive as you can. Then, when you encounter similar resistance, and have asked questions to confirm the problem is similar use the story as a way to help them think differently.

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