Over the years there has been a lot of animosity between academics and
street-smart businesspeople. Academics don’t go out and actually do the
work; they study and research things. Street-smart businesspeople (including
salespeople) don’t actually know what specifically they are doing that is work-
ing.When you take the two worlds and bring them together,you get . . .this
book. For 20 years I’ve been interested only in what works.You have the
same interest or you wouldn’t have picked up this book.
Before we move on to the universal principles of influence in business
and relationships, I want you to take a little self-test with me.Throughout
the book you will get an opportunity to participate in lots of self-tests. In
each of the tests, the questions have been used in numerous studies before.
The answers you give will help you understand how you think, and as you
go through the book you will literally come to understand how people in
general think and decide. Ultimately you will learn how you can utilize all
of this new learning to be far more influential.
Framing a Question
For your first dip in the pool of new knowledge, I want you to participate
in a decision-making game that comes from Kahneman and Tversky
(1984).Simply read this scenario and write down the answers before going
through the evaluation.
Imagine that we are preparing for the outbreak of a dangerous disease
that is expected to kill 600 people.Two alternative programs to combat the
disease have been proposed. Assume that the scientific estimates of the
consequences of the programs are:
If program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved.
If program B is adopted, there is a one-third probability that all 600
people will be saved and a two-thirds probability that no people
will be saved.
What do you advise—program A or program B? Once you record
your answer, read on.
There are two other options now.
If program C is adopted, 400 people will die.
If program D is adopted, there is a one-third probability that
nobody will die and a two-thirds probability that all 600 people
Write down your choice of program C or D; then read on.
Kahneman and Tversky found that 72 percent of their subjects (med-
ical doctors in this case) chose the “sure thing”(program A) over the “risky
gamble”(Program B).However,the researchers obtained almost the oppo-
site results when the question was framed the opposite way (C, D).
Then 78 percent of the same people (doctors) chose option D, which
is identical to option B (C is identical to A).
In other words,someone who chooses A logically must also choose C.
Someone who chooses B logically must also choose D because they are
the same exact results.However,the different framing or perspective that is
given shifts people’s thinking in a dramatic fashion.
Fear of Loss versus Possibility of Gain
Key to Influence: The majority of people will do far more to avoid los-
ing something they already have than they will to get something they
Key to Influence: Fear of loss is a much greater motivator to most than
the possibility of gain.
Need more evidence? (Say “yes,” as that is the logical response!)
The same Princeton University researchers who did the framing research
project looked at another situation. They told one group of students to
imagine they have arrived at the theater only to discover they have lost
their tickets.Would you pay another $10 to buy another ticket? A second
group was asked to imagine they are going to the theater but they haven’t
bought a ticket yet.When they arrive at the theater, they realize they have
lost a $10 bill.Would they still buy a ticket?
In this study, 88 percent of those who lost the $10 in cash said they
would buy the ticket, but only 46 percent of those who lost the ticket
(which they paid $10 for) would buy another ticket!
There is nothing logical or rational about the way people buy or make
their decisions to buy from you.
Logic would tell you that people want the best product.
There is nothing logical or rational about the way people buy or
make their decisions to buy from you.
Logic would tell you that people want the most choices possible and
that they make decisions logically.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have a confession to make. I’m not completely logical, either. I
haven’t worn a seat belt (except in Seattle, Warsaw, and Boston) for 20
years.My stepdad was nearly killed in a car accident.In 1979 he was struck
by a farm vehicle and didn’t have his seat belt on. Had he been wearing it,
he would have been crushed to death in the car. Because he didn’t have it
on, he was thrown through the window—140 feet—and barely lived . . .
but lived.That emotional imprint has kept the seat belt off me for years;
and yet my kids wear a seat belt or we don’t put the car in drive. How’s
that for crummy logic?
Now let’s talk about how all of this should change the way you sell,
buy, and influence others to your way of thinking.
Freedom of Choice . . . or Barrier to Selling?
Even more interesting is research that was just released from Stanford Uni-
versity. Researchers went to a grocery store and set up tasting booths
there. On one table they had 24 jams that the people could taste. On an-
other there were six different kinds of jams.As you would expect, 60 per-
cent of all people who stopped at the table with 24 jams tasted a jam.Only
40 percent of those stopping at the table with six jams tasted there.
What’s shocking? Underline this, then highlight it in yellow:
Thirty percent of all people who stopped at the table with six jams
purchased one of the jams.
Only 3 percent of people who stopped at the table with 24 jams
purchased any of them!
The ramifications are enormous. The larger number of options (in
jam, religion, spousal choices, jobs) creates what we call cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is what happens when you hold two or more beliefs
or ideas and don’t know which to choose.It makes you feel overwhelmed.
People like to have choices; it gives them freedom. But if you give people
too many choices they will simply freeze and do nothing.
This is clear in a casino (where I have been known to spend a few
hours). Bettors will drive themselves crazy trying to figure out which
team, horse, or color to bet on.When they place their money, they be-
come certain they are on the correct side. Later when their team loses,
they can say,“I knew it was going to go that way. I should have listened
Similarly,people do this when they buy a clothing.They see blue;they
see black.They stand there helpless. Finally they buy the black and then
they feel better inside . . . in fact relieved!
When faced with too many choices, most people can become para-
lyzed and do nothing at all. People who feel overwhelmed simply drop
everything.They do nothing and give birth to procrastination.
If you tell someone,“You can have any of these 100 choices of paint,”
there is a good chance the person will freak out! People are not used to de-
ciding among so many options.They won’t be able to decide what to do.If
you say,“I can give you one of these four options,” then the person finds it
much easier to choose.
The truly devastating impact of the internal desire to be directed in-
stead of being given a few options happens in brainwashing and sudden
conversion experiences. Here, there is only one correct way or ideology
and all others are wrong.This solves the problem of cognitive dissonance
and creates what Eric Hoffer called True Believer.
Key Question for You: How will you utilize your newfound knowledge
about cognitive dissonance in the selling and persuasion process?
When faced with too many choices, most people can become paralyzed
and do nothing at all.
1. People crave direction. Give them direction that wires into their
2. People want to believe they are in control, and feel better when
they perceive they are.
3. Help people resolve their cognitive dissonance by narrowing op-
tions and alternatives quickly and decisively.
4. Realize that your profits will increase with fewer choices for your
clients and customers.There are not 64 color choices for the new
Lexus or Honda.There are seven choices.
5. Too many choices means that people will freeze and not know
what to do.Always be prepared to direct people to the best choice
Your First $10,000 Key: (A $10,000 Key is different from a Key to In-
fluence because the ultimate value of these special keys is found in their
ease of application in all walks of life,sales situations,and communication.)
People want what other people already have.
Your Second $10,000 Key: People overestimate the value of what they
Every four-year old child will tell you that the most important toy in a
room full of toys is the one that the other child is playing with!
Always think long-term.Your clients look to you for guidance and
will remember the results.
Mine Is Best
In the first part of this chapter, we discussed how the vast majority of
people do not normally make buying decisions (or any decisions, for
that matter) in a logical or rational fashion. In fact, you found just
1. You found that people make decisions based on how a proposition
is framed (positive versus negative, for example).
2. You also found out that people who have purchased a ticket to the
theater and lose it are not likely to replace it, but someone who
loses money (the cost of the ticket) will still buy a ticket. Owning
“money” and owning “a future event” are different things.
3. You discovered that people typically are more likely to purchase
something when there are fewer options to choose from instead of
having many options.
None of these things should matter in whether we buy or don’t buy,
but they do. Just applying these three simple facts should be enough to
help you increase your sales by 15 to 25 percent if you apply them to your
product, your mode of receiving payment, and your specific situation.
Now, how can we top paradigm-shaking facts like these?
Glad you asked!
You’ve probably thought that as a therapist or a salesperson (the two
largest demographics of my readers around the world) if you can just get
people to change their attitudes you can get them to change their behav-
iors (in fact, you could say that persuasion is about influencing attitude,
and compliance is about changing behavior).
But perhaps you haven’t thought of the opposite: Change the behavior
first and you can change the attitude forever. Here are some examples of suc-
cessful behavioral changes to influence long-term attitude change. Once
people “own their actions” or once people own something their behavior
and attitudes both begin to change.In fact,once people own something or
possess something they believe that what they own is worth more than it
really is, whether it is an idea or something tangible.
Once people “own their actions” or once people own something their
behavior and attitudes both begin to change.
Ziv Carmon, a French marketing professor, and MIT’s Dan Ariely di-
vided a group of nearly 100 Duke University students into two groups.
One group was asked to state the highest price they would pay for a ticket
to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four bas-
ketball tournament.The other group was told to imagine they had such a
ticket and were asked for the lowest price at which they would be willing
to sell it.The median selling price was $1,500.The median buying price
was $150! The sellers perceived their ticket as worth 10 times what the
buyers thought it to be worth!
(Could it be that what a person will lose once they no longer have their
product/idea is a cause of the inflated price? Keep reading and you will see
that you are right! Fear of loss plays a big role in decision making . . .a much
larger role than it should!)
This effect has been exploited for generations. In the profession of selling,
everyone knows the “puppy dog” close—the technique of getting your
product into your customer’s office or home for a short period of time.
Why? Because like taking a cute puppy dog home, once we possess some-
thing, we value it more highly than we did when it was in the store. Once
we do that, the “price” of the goods goes up in the human mind. That
price is more than its price tag at the store,and the individual then buys it.
What marketing strategies currently utilize this psychological quirk in hu-
man nature as an influential strategy to make sales?
Columbia House CD Club.
Office supply sales (especially photocopier machines!).
So many different companies utilize the endowment effect in selling
it’s a wonder that everyone doesn’t. Key learning strategy for today: How
can you use the endowment effect without actually having your prod-
uct/idea in the customer’s possession?
From Your Life
Have you ever had someone from a church or group invite you to their
meeting or service? That didn’t change your attitude (or, say, your reli-
gion).You simply went as a favor. But then after some period of time you
decided that you liked this church or group and decided to join. Later as
time went on you decided that your newfound group was indeed the right
group to belong to.
Many groups do not ask you to change what you believe; they simply
ask you to take part in their service/group/organization and “test-drive” it
to see how you feel, for example, and see if it works for you.
The brain is a funny thing. Once you start to perform a set of actions
you become accustomed to the actions and you would feel a void if those
actions were no longer there.Therefore, your attitudes begin to change.
Now, none of this is good or bad; it’s simply an example of how you
can utilize actions that you own to change attitudes. In fact, there is little
that is more effective in changing attitudes than regularly performing a set
of actions or rituals. Rituals are remarkably important in attitude change.
Key Question for You: How can you get people to take an action in-
stead of persuading them to change an attitude or belief?
There are a few multibillion-dollar corporations that know how to
reach the inborn genetic programming within each of us so we will be in-
clined to purchase their products.You are going to now learn a few of the
secrets of these multibillion-dollar international successes.The world’s best
advertising is not geared at just our behavior but at something that is next
to impossible to change: our DNA.We aren’t going to take you through a
scientific explanation of how each of these mind access points works.That
would take a set of encyclopedias.What you are going to learn is how to
apply the research that we have done in the sales situation so that it is easy
for you to utilize.
All people need food,clothing,and shelter in our society.Those are in-
born programs.We must eat to survive.We must have clothing to survive
the cold winters.We must have some kind of shelter for inborn needs of
security and territorial ownership. Beyond this, there are very few inborn
needs, but there are many inborn tendencies that drive human behavior as
your customer grows and becomes an adult.
Your Appeal Should Be to the Many or Greater Cause,
Not Just Your Client
Our genes do not simply generate the tendency for us to survive and care
for the self; they virtually command and carry out a powerful compulsion
to care for the larger groups that we are part of. In fact, almost all of our
genetic makeups are so designed that we will help the larger groups we are
part of survive before we will save ourselves.
Have you ever seen a news story where a man raced into a burning
building to save a young child? Not only is that an altruistic act,it is part of
most people’s genetic programming.The compulsion to care for others in
our group is very powerful.
Almost all people are preprogrammed to act in the best interests of:
The big mistake that salespeople make is that they appeal only to the
customer’s best interest when they should be appealing to the customer’s
interest in how your product will help his family, his employees, his civic
groups and church organization, society as a whole, and even God. It was
only in 1998 that there was discovered a portion of the brain that is acti-
vated when communicating with the divine.
There is an old McDonald’s commercial that illustrates how to appeal
to the greater genetic needs.The theme song,“You deserve a break today,
so get up and get away, to McDonald’s . . ” plays in the background.The
image is that of a man who has had a long day at work and the theme ini-
tially plays to his deserving a break.The genetic motivator, however, is not
self-satisfaction. The motivator is when you see Dad and Mom and the
kids all driving off to McDonald’s together.
Exercise: In order to motivate a person you often must widen the context
for the emotional reasoning to engage. Describe how you can you do this
for your product(s) and/or services.
Competition Is a Driving Genetic Force of Survival
The field of evolutionary psychology has taught us that competition be-
tween individuals and groups is what naturally selects winners and losers in
society.When you are appealing to your customer to purchase your prod-
ucts and services,appeal subtly to the fact that owning your products or ser-
vices will give him an advantage in society, within the group or against his
competitors.The makeup of the individual is to survive competitively.The
world’s greatest competitors are those who become the wealthiest individu-
als. Bill Gates,Ted Turner,Warren Buffett—all of these men are very good
people, yet brilliant competitors. Bill Gates doesn’t seek to own a share of
the market with Microsoft—he seeks to dominate the market with Mi-
crosoft and does so by providing outstanding products at reasonable prices.
Microsoft seeks to dominate with great products and services.You can do
the same by appealing to the competitive nature in your customers. Do so
quietly and with careful subtlety. It is a genetic fact that those who opt out of
competition reduce their level of prestige on the societal ladder.
Exercise: Realizing that competition is one genetic component of what
creates success and failure in society, take your time and carefully answer
the following three questions.
1. How can competing to dominate your market with great service
and great products help you and your family ascend the ladder
2. How can you sell more of your products and services by appeal-
ing to the need in our customers to be at or near the top of the
3. How does being competitive enhance the quality of your life?
The Principle of Larger Numbers
It is a known fact that madness is the exception in individuals and far more
common in groups. Most normal humans would never throw ice balls at
unprotected innocent people walking down the street.Watching a football
game in season would never convince you of this truth as referees are con-
stantly on the lookout for spectators who they know can generate great
harm. Soccer fans have been seen on numerous occasions to literally kill
people at soccer games because of the intensity generated during the com-
petitiveness of the game.
Every public speaker knows that persuading most of the people in a
large group is far easier than persuading one individual in a one-on-one
setting.There is an almost evident IQ deficiency in groups. Groupthink
takes over and people will follow the vocal proponents of a proposition.
Most people are like sheep waiting for the shepherds.
Scientific research clearly shows that the more people there are in a
group the more likely that the vast majority of the group will comply with
whatever the leader is proposing.The fascinating caveat is that there is a
very common fear of speaking and presenting before groups.
People act like animals in groups and are easily herded. However, you
cannot expect or even consider having 100 percent assenting opinions in
group settings. In all groups there are individuals who rise above group-
think.When facing their objections always honor and respect their view-
points and continue on with your presentation. The vast majority will
always rule and you will nearly always succeed in group selling situations if
you follow all the key elements presented here.
Remember the truism from the nineteenth century: The larger the
lynch mob the more brutal the lynching. Those in an emotional frenzy
lose all sense of ethics.Think of experiences that you have had that make
this fact clear to you.
Those in group settings tend to be led by the unconscious minds of
the rest of the group.The average intelligence of the unconscious mind is
about that of a six-year-old.This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a vast array
of information stored in the unconscious mind; indeed there is. It does
mean that the unconscious mind is far more reactive and emotional than
the analytical conscious mind.The conscious mind rests in group settings,
making an easy target for the ethical salesperson or the unethical swindler.
Principle of We All Need Someone to Love
All humans need to feel wanted. Science and medical research clearly re-
veals that feeling unwanted stunts all forms of human growth and devel-
opment. Physical, psychological, and emotional growth all are influenced
by a person’s perception of feeling wanted. In fact, people who say they
don’t need to feel wanted are literally lying or psychotic. The need is
All humans need to feel wanted.
You need to make it clear to your customers that you are interested in
them as more than customers. People can literally sense genuine interest,
and when they do they are likely to develop the long-term relationships
with you that will create win-win selling situations.
One medical study (Ryan and Lynch 1989) concluded that “a lack
of warmth and meaningful relationships” is a significant cause of heart
attacks in many people. What does this tell us about needs prepro-
grammed into our behavior? We are physically influenced by love, com-
passion, and relationships.
Dr. Dean Ornish published a wealth of material about the fact that
closeness can literally heal people and separation from loved ones can kill.
Understanding this biological fact helps us influence others in a powerful
way, doesn’t it?
Exercise: Name and explain how numerous products and services are uti-
lizing and/or exploiting this information (dating services, 900 lines, chat
Nine Golden Keys
You learned in this chapter that:
1. People make decisions based on how a proposition is framed.
2. People do more to avoid losing than to make an equal gain.
3. Reduce choices in order to increase sales and compliance.
4. Change the behavior first and you can permanently change the
5. People overestimate the value of what they own.
6. Appealing to higher values is more important than appealing to
7. People want to be at the top of the pecking order.
8. It’s much easier to influence a group than an individual.
9. People will do much to be part of a group.