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Credibility: 5 Ways to Make People Believe You

Posted on 12 February 2016 by cradmin

By Roger Dawson

The absolute cornerstone of your ability to persuade – what it all rests upon – is the level of credibility you have with the other person. When you speak, do they believe you? Unless they do, there is no possibility that you can get them to do what you want them to do.

People will listen to you, but they won’t act – until they believe you. Let me stress that one more time. People won’t act unless they believe you. So, if you’re a salesperson trying to get an order, you should always be thinking, “Do they believe me?” Because if you haven’t built enough credibility they won’t place the order.

If you’re a manager and you’re trying to get your people to accept a new program, you should always be thinking, “Do they believe me?” Because if you haven’t built enough credibility, they’ll give lip service to your program, but they won’t enthusiastically support it.

If you’re a parent, does your son believe you when you say, “Don’t do it son. I tried it once and lived to regret it.” Or does he feel you’re trying to manipulate him and are being less than truthful?

Fortunately, you can build credibility with a few simple techniques. In my book, Secrets of Power Persuasion, I teach 15 tips to raise your level of credibility with other people. Here are the first five tips:

CREDIBILITY TIP 1: Never assume they believe you.

Power Persuaders have three “never assumes” that are always uppermost in their thoughts:

  1. Never assume poverty – that they can’t afford what you’re selling.
  2. Never assume they understand you.
  3. Never assume they believe you.

The last “never assume” is the most important one. Never assume they believe you.

Let’s face it. We get downright offended if someone questions our credibility. We hate it when a bartender cards us or when a bank teller asks us for identification. So, when we’re persuading people, we don’t like to admit that the other person is sitting there thinking “prove it to me.”

If you’re a salesperson, you can present a glorious list of benefits that will descend upon the buyer when they have the common sense to make an investment. But it doesn’t mean a thing until you’ve built the credibility needed to make them believe it.

You may be a manager whose persuasion challenge is to talk a key employee out of quitting. You can talk until you’re blue in the face about the wonderful future that awaits them just around the corner if they stay with your company. But it won’t mean a thing until you’ve convinced them you’re sincere and that you really do have the power to make it happen.

Don’t be offended by people’s natural unwillingness to believe you. Remember that we live in a world where a thousand advertising messages are screaming at us every day. We can’t possibly believe everything we hear. To take everything at face value in today’s world would be a shortcut to disaster. So, Power Persuaders learn instinctively to build credibility into their presentations. Never assume they believe you.

CREDIBILITY TIP 2: Only tell them as much as they’ll believe.

I was visiting my son John when he was a student at Menlo College in Atherton, Calif. He’d just completed a final, and another student asked him how he did on it. “I think I may have aced it,” John told him.

“All right!” the other boy said, and gave him a high five.

A few moments later, another boy came by and asked John how he did on the test. “It was tough,” John said, “But I hope to get a B.”

“What’s going on here,” I asked John. “You told the first boy that you got an A and the second that you got a B.”

“The first guy was the best student on campus, he’d believe I got an A. The second guy would never believe it. Haven’t you learned that you should never tell anyone more than you think they’ll believe?”

Now that’s smart! I don’t think a thousand psychologists with an unlimited research budget could come up with a greater truth than that. Even if you’re telling the truth, if the other person begins to doubt it, your chance of persuading them is falling like a rock.

Many years ago, I was the merchandise manager for a large department store. We were heavily promotional, which means that our business went up dramatically when we advertised a sale, and business died when we didn’t. So, we’d run a big Sunday-Monday-Tuesday sale, and then come back with a Thursday-Friday-Saturday sale.

The problem was how could we run the biggest sale of the year twice a week, year round. Soon, we’d lost all credibility with our customers. The salespeople would try to close a sale by saying, “Get it now while it’s on sale” only to have the customer respond, “Yes, but you’ll have another sale next week.” You’ll recall that Sears ran into the same problem, and eventually made the switch to year-round low pricing.

There’s a law of diminishing returns that’s directly tied to diminishing credibility. Of course, you have to be excited and enthusiastic in making your case, but the moment your claims pass the point of credibility, your chance of persuading them drops off abruptly.

The principle of never tell them more than you think they’ll believe may sound folksy and cute. But it’s supported by a great deal of sound research.

For example, for decades, psychologists have conducted studies to determine the effectiveness of fear as a persuasion tool. To their surprise, early studies indicated that people were just as persuaded by mild threats as they were by powerful threats. Curious, they continued to conduct studies that nearly always produced the same conclusion. Finally, they realized that fear is a powerful persuader only up to the point where people feel genuinely threatened by it. The moment they begin to doubt that the threat is as great as it is being made out to be, the power of fear as a persuader diminishes.

So, a fundamental rule for building credibility is never tell them more than you think they’ll believe. You may genuinely have a product or service that will far exceed their expectations. However, if you can’t make them believe it, you’re better off to temper your claims.

CREDIBILITY TIP 3: Tell the truth, even if it hurts.

Some brilliant advertising people have taken advantage of this. Remember the old Volkswagen sedan, the round top one that didn’t change design for 20 years or so? It was one of the ugliest cars ever made. Nor did it have any extra features about which an advertising person could brag. Only in later years did it even have a gas gauge. You could get so many miles per gallon of gas that you simply drove it until it ran out. Then you switched to a small reserve tank, which was more than enough to get you to the next gas station.

When the Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) advertising agency won this account, they must have groaned. What could you say about the car? It only had two features. It was cheap to run and it was reliable – but everybody already knew that. What more could they say about it? Then they hit upon a brilliant flash of inspiration. They decided to tell the truth!

I can imagine every advertising person in America coming off their chairs and saying, “You’re going to what!!??”

They ran a whole series of ads that said, “This car is ugly, it looks like a bug – a beetle. This car is slow – you’ll be lucky if you ever get a ticket.” The results were phenomenal. People loved the campaign, and sales shot up.

The truth, simple pristine truth, is an astounding force. DDB went on to use the same principle with Avis Rent a Car. In a world where everyone was scrambling for some excuse to say they were the biggest and the best, the new Avis campaign proudly shouted, “We’re number two!” And followed it up with the sub-line, “So we try harder.”

It had an interesting effect on the employees of Avis and the number one company, Hertz. A survey showed that the Avis employees really were trying harder, but the Hertz people were taking it easy on Avis. Even they were sympathetic to Avis’s underdog positioning.

These two campaigns revolutionized American advertising. They were startling in their impact. Everybody was running around Madison Avenue saying, “Why don’t we try a DDB ad?” Meaning, “Why don’t we try telling the truth?” Nobody had ever pointed out the disadvantages of the product before. Nobody had ever paid millions to let the public know that the competition was more successful.

Telling the truth, even when it hurts, is an astounding force.

CREDIBILITY TIP 4: Point out the disadvantages.

Many years ago, Benson & Hedges came out with a campaign for their new, long cigarettes that bluntly stated, “Oh, the disadvantages!” Mary Wells at the ad agency showed scenes of people smoking in elevators, getting their cigarette caught in the door and other tongue-in-cheek situations where a long cigarette would be a disadvantage.

These advertising people had touched on a very important key to persuasion. If you point out the disadvantages, it makes everything else you say much more believable. Research has shown that there are four sound reasons for also presenting the other side of the argument:

  1. It makes the other side believe that you are objective.
  2. It flatters the listener that you believe them intelligent enough to be aware of the disadvantages and still be persuaded in favor of your proposal.
  3. It forces you to anticipate objections and rehearse counter arguments.
  4. It gives credibility to everything else you say.

Remember the retail chain that had structured its line of appliances so the salesperson could sell down off the most expensive one? They’d really structured the profit margins so they made more profit on the middle of the line than they did on the high end. Not only were they making more money that way, they were building a powerful plus. The salespeople gained so much credibility doing it that when they recommended the service contract – one of their most profitable items – they met with very little resistance.

CREDIBILITY TIP 5: Use Precise Numbers.

People believe precise numbers more than they believe rounded numbers. The Ivory Soap people figured this out decades ago when they started claiming “Ivory Soap is 99.44 percent pure.” Obviously, we wouldn’t challenge them if they told us that Ivory Soap was 100 percent pure, but the precise figure is subliminally more believable.

We assume that somebody had gone to a lot of work to figure out that the soap wasn’t 99.43 percent pure, or 99.45 percent pure. Why bother to say that Taster’s Choice decaffeinated coffee is 99.7 percent caffeine free? They could probably get away with simply saying caffeine free. The reason is that we believe specific numbers far more than we believe rounded numbers.

We can use the believability of the odd figure syndrome as a persuasion technique. Let’s say you’re buying a piece of property. They’re asking $220,000. If you offer $200,000, it doesn’t sound as firm a figure as if you say this: “We’ve done a thorough research on the property, and after running all the numbers, we feel that a fair price would be $198,700.”

Studies have shown that when you take that approach, the seller will respond with a counter offer that is, on average, $4,722 less than if you start at $200,000. No, I have no idea what the real number is, but it sure sounds more believable, doesn’t it?

I once bought 100 acres of land in the State of Washington. They were asking $185,000 for the land, and I asked the real estate agent to make an offer at $115,050. She said, “Roger, what’s this $50? Where did that come from?”

“Marge,” I told her. “I’ve just been buying land for so long now that I have a formula that I use. I punched in the numbers, and that’s what came out.” In fact, I knew that I was less likely to get a counter offer from a specific number like that. Marge did a terrific job of presenting the offer, and the seller accepted it.

So, to build credibility, use precise numbers. Strangely enough, you’re better off to claim that your new word processing machine will increase the productivity of their secretary by 87 percent than to claim it will double his or her productivity.

About the Author

Roger Dawson, CSP, CPAE is one of North America’s top negotiating experts and a leading sales and management speaker. He is the author of Secrets of Power Negotiating, which is one of the biggest selling audiocassette programs ever published. His latest book, Secrets of Power Persuasion for Salespeople, is now in bookstores.

Copyright© 2002, Roger Dawson. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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When Negotiating, Money Isn’t As Important As You Think

Posted on 03 September 2015 by cradmin

By Roger Dawson

Let me tell you about my pet subject: When you’re selling your product or service, money is way down the list of things that are important to the other side.

People Want to Pay More, Not Less

After two decades of training salespeople, I have become convinced that price concerns salespeople more than it does the people to whom they sell. I’ll go even further than that – I think that customers who may be asking you to cut your price are secretly wishing that they could pay more for your product. Hear me out before you dismiss this as being imbecilic.

I was the merchandise manager at the Montgomery Ward store in Bakersfield, Calif., back in 1971. Although Bakersfield was not a large town, the store ranked 13th in volume in a chain of more than 600 stores. Why did it do so well? In my opinion, it was because head office left us alone and allowed us to sell to the needs of the local population.

The important element here is that you must give customers a reason for spending more money, but if you can do that, they want to spend more money, not less. I think that spending money is what Americans do best. We love to spend money. We spend $6 trillion a year in this country, and if we could walk into a store and find a salesclerk who knew anything about the merchandise, we’d spend $7 trillion a year. And that’s when we’re spending our own hard-earned, after-tax dollars.

What if you’re asking someone who works at a corporation to spend the company’s money? There’s only one thing better than spending your own money, and that’s spending someone else’s money. If that weren’t enough, remember that corporate expenditures are tax deductible, so Uncle Sam is going to pick up 40 percent of the bill.

So, I believe that we’ve had it all wrong for all these years. When we’re trying to sell something to somebody, he or she doesn’t want to spend less money; he or she wants to spend more. However, you do have to do two things:

  1. You must give buyers a reason for spending more.
  2. You must convince buyers that they could not have gotten a better deal than the one you’re offering.

That second point is where Power Negotiating comes in because everything I teach is designed to convince the other people that they won the negotiation and that they couldn’t have done better. Let’s face it, does what you pay for something really matter? If you’re going to buy a new automobile, does it matter if you spend $20,000 or $21,000? Not really, because you’ll soon forget what you paid for it, and the slight increase in payments is not going to affect your lifestyle. What really matters is the feeling that you got the best possible deal.

You don’t want to go to work the next morning and have everybody crowded around to admire your new car when somebody says, “My friend bought one of those, and he paid only $20,000. You should have gone to Main Street Auto Mall.” That’s what hurts – the feeling that you didn’t get the best deal.

The objection that every salesperson hears most is the price objection. “We’d love to do business with you, but your price is too high.”

Let me tell you something about that. It has nothing to do with your price. You could cut your prices 20 percent across the board and you’d still hear that objection. I trained the salespeople at the largest lawn mower factory in the world. You probably own one of their products because they manufacture most of the low-end, private-label lawn mowers that discount and chain stores sell. Nobody can undercut their production cost on lawn mowers. They have it down to such a science that if you bought one of their mowers at Home Depot and you tipped the kid who carries it to your car a dollar; the kid made more on the lawn mower than the factory did. That’s how slim their profit margins are. However, when I asked them to tell me the number one complaint they hear from the buyers at stores, guess what they told me? You got it. “Your prices are too high.”

Instead of letting this kind of thing work you up into a sweat, adopt the attitude that negotiating is a game. You learn the rules of the game, you practice, practice, practice until you get good at it, and then you go out there and play the game with all the gusto you can muster.

The next time you’re trying to get somebody to spend money remember that they really want to spend more money with you, not less. All you have to do is give them a reason and convince them that there’s no way they could get a better deal.

Things That Are More Important Than Money

A reporter at a press conference once asked Astronaut Neil Armstrong to relate his thoughts as Apollo 11 approached the moon. He said, “All I could think of was that I was up there in a spaceship built by the lowest bidder.” A cute line, but he was falling prey to a popular misconception that the government must do business with anybody who bids the lowest price. Of course, that’s not true, but it’s amazing how many people believe it.

I once found myself sitting next to a Pentagon procurement officer on a flight to the East Coast, and I raised this point with him. “All the time I hear that the government has to buy from the lowest bidder. Is that really true?”

“Heavens no,” he told me. “We’d really be in trouble if that were true. Cost is far from the top of the list of what’s important to us. We’re far more concerned with a company’s experience, the experience of the workers and the management team assigned to the product, and their ability to get the job done on time. The rules say that we should buy from the lowest bidder who we feel is capable of meeting our specifications. If we know that a particular supplier is the best one for us, we simply write the specifications to favor that supplier.”

So even with the federal government, price is far from the most important thing. When you’re dealing with a company that doesn’t have legal requirements to put out a request for bids, it’s far from the top of the list.

Just for the fun of it, review the following list of things that are probably more important than price to buyers.

  • The conviction that they are getting the best deal you’re willing to offer.
  • The quality of the product or service. This is an interesting one because I frequently hear from salespeople that they sell an item that has become a commodity, and it doesn’t matter which source the buyer uses and that the buyer wants only the lowest price. Baloney. If that were true 90 percent of companies supplying such products or services would be out of business. If that were true, the only company that could exist in the market place would be the one offering the lowest price, and that’s a nonsensical proposition.
  • The terms that you offer. Many companies make more on the financing of their product than they do the sale of the product. I recently leased a top-of-the-line luxury automobile and became convinced that making the car was only a small part of what this company did. The real money was in financing the lease or the purchase.
  • The delivery schedule that you offer. Can you get it to them when they need it and be counted upon to keep on doing that? Do you offer a just-in-time delivery system?
  • The guarantees that you offer and, in general, how well you stand behind what you do. I once paid several hundred dollars to buy a product from a Sharper Image store. After a few months, a part on it broke, and I called their 800 number to see if they would take care of the problem. After listening to me only long enough to understand what the problem was, the operator said, “If you’ll give me your address, I’ll FedEx a replacement part to you.” No other questions were asked. When a company stands behind what it does to that extent, am I really going to worry about whether they have the lowest price or not? Of course not.
  • Building a working partnership with you and your company. The old adversarial relationship between vendor and customers is disappearing as astute companies realize the value of developing a mutually beneficial partnership with their suppliers.
  • Credit. A line of credit with your company may be more important than price, especially to new builders where cash flow is cyclical, and you could take up the slack during the lean months.
  • Your staff. When the contract calls for something to be made or a service to be performed, other factors may be more important than price: The quality of the workers that you will assign to the job. The level of management that you will assign to oversee the work. The ability and willingness to tailor your product and installation to their needs.
  • The respect that you will give them. Many times, a company will move from a large vendor to a smaller one because they want to be a substantial part of the vendor’s business to have more leverage.
  • Peace of mind. AT&T keeps my telephone business although they are more expensive than Sprint and MCI and have never pretended that they aren’t. I stay with them because the service has been trouble-free and simple to use for many years, and I have more important things concerning me than switching long distance companies to save a few pennies a call.
  • Reliability. Can they trust that the quality of your product and service will stay high?

Finding Out How Much a Seller Will Take

Now let’s look at some techniques to find out the seller’s lowest price. When you are buying, the negotiating range of the seller ranges from the wish price (what they’re hoping you’ll pay) all the way down to the walk-away price (at anything less that this they will not sell at all). The same is true in reverse with the buyer. How do we uncover the seller’s walk-away price? Let’s say that your neighbor is asking $15,000 for his pick-up truck. Here are some techniques you can use to uncover his lowest price.

  • Ask. That may seem incredibly naive, but if the buyer is not a good negotiator, he or she may just tell you what’s on their mind.
  • Drop out of contention, but say you have a friend who might be interested. You might say, “Thanks for showing it to me but it’s really not what I’m looking for. However, I do have a friend who’s looking for something like this, but he doesn’t have much money. What’s the very least you’d take?”
  • Nibble for a finder’s fee. “If my friend did buy it from you, would you give me a $500 finder’s fee?”
  • Have other people make super-low offers to lower the expectation of the seller. This is unethical of course, but I’ll tell you about it so that you will recognize it when it’s used against you. If the seller has high hopes of getting $15,000 for his truck, your offer of $10,000 may sound like an insult. However if he’s had only two offers so far, one for $7,000 and the other for $8,000, when you come along and offer him $10,000, he may jump at it.
  • Make a low offer subject to the approval of a higher authority. “My buddy and I are going in on this so I’ll have to run this by him, but would you take $10,000?”

Now let’s look at some techniques that a seller could use to find out how much a buyer is willing to pay. Let’s say that you sell switches to computer manufacturers. Here are some techniques you could use:

  • Raise their top offer by hypothesizing what your higher authority might be willing to do. Perhaps they buy similar switches now for $1.50 and you’re asking $2.00. You might say, “We both agree we have a better quality product. If I could get my boss down to $1.75, would that work for you?”
  • Determine their quality standards by offering a stripped down version. “We may be able to get down below $1.50 if you don’t care about copper contacts. Would that work for you?” In this way, you probably get them to acknowledge that price isn’t their only concern. They do care about quality.
  • Establish the most they can afford by offering a higher quality version. “We can add an exciting new feature to the switch, but it would put the cost in the $2.50 range.” If the buyer shows some interest in the feature, you know that they could pay more. If he or she says, “I don’t care if it’s diamond plated. We can’t go over $1.75,” you know that fitting the product to a price bracket is a critical issue.
  • Remove yourself as a possible vendor. This disarms the buyer and may cause him to reveal some information that he wouldn’t if they thought you were still in the game. You say, “Joe, we love doing business with you, but this item is just not for us. Let’s get together on something else later.” Having disarmed Joe in this way, a little later, you can say, “I’m sorry we couldn’t work with on the switches, but just between you and me what do you realistically think you can buy them for?”

As you can see from all we’ve talked about here, there’s a lot to be said about the subject of price. Power Negotiators know not to exacerbate the price problem by assuming that price is uppermost in the other person’s mind. Also it is ludicrous to say that what you sell is a commodity, and you have to sell for less than your competitor’s price for you to get the sale.

About the Author

Roger Dawson, CSP, CPAE is one of North America’s top negotiating experts and a leading sales and management speaker. He is the author of “Secrets of Power Negotiating,” which is one of the biggest selling audio programs ever published. His latest book, Secrets of Power Persuasion for Salespeople, is now in bookstores and is a must read for all salespeople.

Copyright© 2015, Roger Dawson. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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