I’d like to share a true-life tale about selling.
It’s cited in Professor Robert Cialdini’s well-known and extremely entertaining book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
The prof went undercover at an expensive restaurant to see why some waiters were more successful than others. He soon discovered Vincent – a waiter who routinely got huge tips.
The reason: Vincent’s patrons were unusually willing to accept his suggestions. He’d recommend dessert and weight-conscious buyers would order away. Customers would ask him to propose a wine or an appetizer. Not only did his customers order more, but they were so taken with Vincent’s expertise that they’d often add something extra to his already-substantial tip.
Here’s why patrons were so willing to trust Vincent’s advice : After the first person ordered, he’d pause , look around as if he wanted to make sure the manager didn’t overhear, and say , “I’m afraid that dish isn’t as good tonight as it normally is.” Then he’d suggest an alternative entrée – one a little less expensive.
Cynical? You bet. Manipulative? Absolutely. Are we suggesting that you use a trick like this? No way. But it offers an important insight into how buyers decide whose advice they will trust.
At the beginning of a sales relationship, buyers don’t have much information to go on. So even small signals will carry great weight with them. And what buyers are mostly looking for are reasons NOT to trust you. They expect salespeople to overpromise. To hide negative information. To recommend the more expensive option.
Vincent turned those expectations upside down. He didn’t extol the virtues of his product. He volunteered negative information. And his recommendation – a less expensive entrée – seemed to run counter to his own financial interest.
But Vincent was thinking short term. If one of those customers came back another night and saw Vincent go into his act again, how would she feel? Or what if two patrons started comparing notes ?
Maybe Vincent didn’t care . Maybe it was just a numbers game for him .
But what if he’d been thinking beyond each night’s tips? What if he aspired to be the sort of waiter that patrons follow from restaurant to restaurant? What if he could create so many passionately loyal customers that he could one day open his own restaurant?
Vincent probably won’t achieve that level of success. Because sooner or later patrons will catch on to his tricks.
The irony is that it wouldn’t have been that hard for Vincent to actually look out for his customers, instead of just pretending to. If the fish wasn’t so good, he could say so. If it was fantastic, he could’ve said that too. Over several visits, his customers would have seen that Vincent was indeed a guy who could be trusted. And that could have changed his life.
These days, just about every buyer is worried about getting ripped off. If you can help them see that you’re someone to trust, they’ll stick with you through thick and thin.
photo credit: zoetnet
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