Monday, August 28, 2023

Please the Defensive by Asking a Favor

It might seem that a salesperson asking for a favor would only add to a shopper’s suspiciousness when facing a negotiation. But researchers at Old Dominion University, Baylor University, and Auburn University find that asking for the right sort of favor actually relaxes sales resistance.
     In the studies, the favor requested was minimally intrusive, such as asking the shopper to share their opinions of the store showroom or briefly watch the salesperson’s friendly dog. Compared to responses from participants not presented with a scenario including the request, those considering the scenario which included the request were more likely to express positive feelings about negotiations with the salesperson and the outcome of sales transactions.
     The researchers explain this effect as the favor request indicating the salesperson wants an equitable, caring relationship with the shopper, and this indication is evidence to the shopper that the salesperson is trustworthy.
     A related explanation is that people are more willing to believe they’re getting a good deal in a transaction when they conclude that they’ve earned it. An action worthy of reward could be doing a requested favor for the retailer. In a set of studies at Georgetown University and Pennsylvania State University across a range of shopping situations, consumers were offered discounts on a purchase. In some cases, the offer was accompanied by a request for a favor to be done by the shopper. Those consumers asked to do the favor were more likely to accept the discounted offer than were those not presented the request.
     Yet a third explanation involves shared experiences. People who successfully collaborate build mutual trust. When the salesperson requests a favor and the shopper honors the request, they are sharing the experience of collaboration: Aiming to improve the showroom. Assuring that the dog and the dog’s surroundings are properly monitored. 
     In a tasty extension of this, when you and your customer eat sweet foods together, the potential for mutual persuasion grows. People are more open to being convinced when they’re feeling good, and sweet foods are pleasant. The act of eating slows down time, so there’s more opportunity for the salesperson to make sales points. Chewing food potentiates a desire to talk things over. Still, it’s the shared experiences which form the core of the University of Chicago researchers’ explanation—the shared experience of consuming the same food. Shoppers trust salespeople who they believe are similar to them.

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Augment Discount Appeal with Requests 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Think Better Than Saying It Could Be Better

Suppose you want to sell a Bird of Paradise house plant to a prospective buyer. Unfortunately, the plant looks a bit withered. Your sales pitch is, “It is easy to care for and will add style and vitality to any setting.” You’re also thinking of saying, in addition, “Unfortunately, the plant looks a bit withered now due to insufficient sunlight. It would look fresher and livelier if it received sufficient sunlight.”
     In a study using this situation, conducted by researchers at China Europe International Business School and University of Chicago, about 60% of participants chose to add the “it could be better” phrasing. But the study results also indicated that people were less likely to purchase the plant when hearing this. Other studies in the set verified this effect with a range of items and in a range of situations.
     The study results also developed an explanation: When there is a defect, the salesperson is more likely to be thinking about the untarnished item performance than is the shopper. In saying how it could be better, the salesperson brings attention to a defect the shopper might not have otherwise noticed. The implication for persuasion agents: Present the item as it is without explaining how it could potentially be better.
     The research results also point to an exception to this advice: If the shopper is quite likely to recognize there’s a defect, it can be wise for the salesperson to acknowledge the shortfall and explain the potential for correcting the blemish. This could occur if the shopper is an expert with this type of item—such as Bird of Paradise house plants—or if the defect would be obvious even to a shopper na├»ve about this type of item.
     When persuading others, we want to present our case in the best light. Also, consumers pay more attention to potential than to past or present performance. Refraining from “it could be better” explanations requires a purposeful effort.
     On the other hand, there might sometimes be value in explaining how it could have been worse. The scenario in these studies involved delivery of a restaurant order delayed so long that the diner missed the first part of a movie. The waiter strongly apologizes. If the waiter added that he recently had a similar situation and missed the entire movie, this lowered the ratings by study participants of anger the diner would feel.

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Tell Some Complainers It Could Be Worse 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Strike Up Motivation with Streaks

When consumers view themselves as being on a streak of successful performance, their motivation to continue increases. A set of University of Delaware and University of Colorado studies found this to be true for goal achievement in fitness activities, learning a language, and playing games. Gamification is widely used in marketing a broad range of items.
     The studies also found that when a consumer views a streak as broken because of their own shortfall, commitment to continuing efforts fades. To keep motivation high, define streaks in ways which fit what the consumer has actually accomplished, describe broken streaks in ways which minimize the consumer’s perceived responsibility for the break, and provide ways for the consumer to redo a task to repair a broken streak.
     The researchers also point out how recognition of a streak requires conscientious logging of performance and comparison with a standard of success, and how a multitude of computer apps provide for this process. The checkmarks, stars, and badges bestowed by these apps come to be valued as rewards beyond the reward of accomplishment. Streaks, too, are rewards in themselves as evidence of mastery of the environment and consistency in self-identity. Consumers are more likely to engage in a desired behavior when that behavior contributes to an existing streak than when that identical behavior follows a broken streak in the consumer’s behavioral log.
     The continuing motivation engendered by the definitions of success and behavioral logs is related to what’s seen in a flow state, which is characterized by: 
  • Highly focused attention, so the person blocks out distractions to reaching the benchmark 
  • Playfulness, so the person devises and implements novel ways of achieving success 
  • Enjoyment of activities, so the person resists giving up 
  • A distorted sense of time in a way that makes the person less concerned about how long the effort will take 
  • Confidence in overcoming any difficulties
     The last of these is, in turn, relates to consumer self-efficacy, which is both necessary for and generated by a winning streak. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief in their capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. Self-esteem relates to a general impression of capabilities, while self-efficacy concerns confidence about a specific skill. Persuade shoppers they are capable of achieving what you’re proposing. Bringing it full circle, this is accomplished by selecting achievable challenges for the individual consumer.

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Game On with Consumer Competition 

Monday, August 7, 2023

Spot Partisan Recall of What Never Happened

A pair of University of Mississippi and University of Louisville researchers find that people with strong political beliefs are more likely to remember those incidents which support their politics. Even if those incidents never occurred.
     Our human brains are designed to make sense of what happens to us and around us. One consequence of this is that we may see patterns which don’t really exist and create stories from those patterns. This phenomenon is stronger when the stories help us avoid danger. Because strongly partisan people fear the intentions of their political opponents, the false memories are compelling.
     An example of the vignettes used in the studies is, “In 2016, in response to a June mass shooting, President Obama issued an executive order which banned the sale of ‘bump stocks,’ an accessory that allows a semiautomatic rifle to mimic an automatic one.” The fact is that President Trump enacted the bump stock ban.
     False memories occur more often among people with a strong interest in politics and active participation in political activities. A narcissistic personality sharpens the tendency. This suggests another driver of the phenomenon: Narcissists find pleasure in showing off to others. The false memories can augment the accurate ones when impressing associates.
     In aiming to persuade people who hold strong political opinions, discover what false memories they have which are buttressing their opinions. It’s not that you’ll achieve great success in changing those memories. These false memories support the individual’s politics, and chances are that the individual is regularly interacting with other partisans harboring similar false memories. Instead of challenging those memories head-on, present other evidence. Spotting the false memories lets you know what you’re working with and against.
     Among the strongest predictors of these false memories was a person’s belief in what the researchers called “pseudo-profound bullshit,” defined as considering gibberish to have significant meaning. This was measured with a scale previously developed by other researchers which asked respondents to rate the profundity of sayings like “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena” and “Transcendence explains intrinsic silence.”
     Many political slogans qualify as gibberish, and voters subject to false memories are sensing something which isn’t really there.
     In my email exchange about the study with Prof. Miles T. Armaly, the principal researcher, he wrote, “I think it's worth pointing out that several factors--notably, cognitive ability, knowledge of politics, and being a female--reduce false memory susceptibility.”

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Drive Personalization by Fostering Narcissism