Submitted by Theodore Heisenberg
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The element of mystery can be effectively employed to involve your audience. We are all naturally curious about the unknown. When we feel we've been left hanging, it drives us crazy! We want to know the end of the story. We want our tasks to be completed so we can check them off our list. This is also known as the "Zeigarnik Effect," named after Bluma Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist. This effect is the tendency we have to remember uncompleted thoughts, ideas, or tasks more than completed ones.
The Mystery Element In Sales
We see the Zeigarnik Effect on the television news and other programs. Right before a commercial break, the newscasters announce some interesting tidbit that will come later in the hour. This piques your interest and, rather than flipping the channel, you stay tuned. Movies and dramas on television also leave you hanging in suspense. By leaving something uncompleted right before the commercial break, the programs draw our attention, keep us involved, and motivate us to continue watching. We don't feel satisfaction until we receive finality, closure, or resolution to the message, our goals, or any aspect of our life.
You also see the Zeigarnik Effect in the courtroom. We already know that people feel more confident and impressed with information they discover for themselves over time. This dictates that persuaders slowly dispel information, rather than dumping large volumes of information all at once. A good lawyer does not disclose everything he knows about the case or the plaintiff during his opening statement. As the trial progresses, the jury can fill in the blanks for themselves with the additional information they gradually receive. This works much better than dumping all the information on them in the beginning. Itl holds the jurors’ attention longer and gives the message more validity. The jury discovers the answers for themselves, and is more likely to arrive at the desired conclusion.
Most humans are very competitive. When you package something as a competition, most people will want to be involved. Certainly some personality types shy away from competition, but most people are naturally competitive. Master Persuaders must be able to see how the use of competition works within the group they are dealing with. As you introduce competition into your presentation, you can create rivalry between different entities. Maybe you are using a competition where each individual is competing against himself or perhaps you create competition among the individual members of the group. Maybe you are pitting the group against another group or perhaps you are trying to get them to compete against the status quo.
All of these approaches will create involvement, but the most effective way may be to get the whole group working together against a common enemy. When you can create a unity of competition against an enemy, you will see more energy, teamwork, and motivation toward the goal. The fastest way to set up this type of competition within a group is to either create an external threat or to simply set your group against another group.
A group of researchers wanted to test the effectiveness of competition as a motivator at a summer camp for boys. As you might imagine, it was pretty easy to create an atmosphere of competition. In fact, simply separating the boys into two cabins created sentiments of "we versus they." The competitive feelings between the two groups grew as increasingly competitive activities were introduced. For example, as they involved the boys in cabin-against-cabin treasure hunts, tugs-of-war, and other athletic team competitions, name-calling and scuffles grew more common.
The researchers then sought to see whether they could use the competitiveness to create cooperation toward something mutually productive and beneficial. The researchers set conditions so that if the boys didn't work together, they were all at a disadvantage and, conversely, if the boys did work together, all had the advantage. For example, the truck going into town for food was stuck. It required all the boys helping and pushing to get it on the road again. When the boys were told there was a great movie available to rent but no money to rent it, the boys pooled their resources and enjoyed the movie together.
Distraction has been proven to increase your ability to persuade. On the flip side, if the distraction is disagreeable, your persuasive ability will diminish. This means, depending on the situation, you can persuade better with a distraction than with total concentration. Leon Festinger and Nathan Maccoby proved this theory with their landmark study on what are the best distracters. They discovered that food and sex appeal worked the best.
In another experiment, the two men attempted to persuade college students that fraternities are bad. Their presentation was not well received by the students, so they did the experiment a second time. This time they used a funny silent movie during the presentation. The results were clear. More of the students who were distracted with the silent movie changed their opinions about fraternities. In this study, distracting the conscious mind increased the persuasiveness of the message.
Peter considers himself very intelligent. He usually calls and places an order after he has done his own research. Even though he is a customer, you never had to persuade him. You have a great product he has never ordered, but is better than the one he has. Use the Zeigarnik effect to persuade him.
Another aspect of involvement is persistence. If you have ever been in sales, you know that the most successful salespeople are the most persistent; they keep nudging until the sale is made. Most sales reps try to close the sale only once or twice, but we know the average person has to be asked five to six times before a sale takes place. Many people are afraid to ask again and again. We tend to think that if we ask someone to do something and they say they'll think about, that they will. Well, I hate to break the news to you, but they don't. We forget. Our lives are busy. That is why repetition and persistence increase your involvement and your ability to persuade.
Master Persuaders can feel the fine line between persistence and annoyance. My general rule is that if you detect even the slightest of interest, keep up your persistence. I was in Mexico recently with a friend. We were enjoying a nice walk through the town, looking at all the shops and buildings. Out of nowhere, a vendor selling bracelets and necklaces approached and disrupted our nice stroll. "No, thank you" did little to deter the pesky vendor. He followed us through the town and through the streets. When we went into a shop hoping he'd leave, he even waited outside the store for us. Again, we told him "no, thank you" and that we had no need for his gold and silver bracelets. "But I have a special deal," he kept telling us! Well, he was persistent (or we could say a pain in the butt) but it finally paid off. We bought a bracelet and he went home happy.
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