February, 2016

How to "prime" your prospects to buy from you
Quick!  Grab a pencil and put it in your mouth.  Did you hold it in your teeth, eraser to one side and point to the other, or did you put the end of the pencil in your mouth as if it were a thermometer? It matters you know.  Take a look at yourself in the mirror if the pencil is side to side in your teeth.  Looks like you're getting ready to smile, doesn't it?  But if you put it in like a thermometer with your lips pursed around it to hold it, your face is predisposed to frown or scowl.

Some behavioral psychologists wanted to explore  whether or not people were genuinely likely to smile or frown based on these two pencil positions, so they put the pencil people into two groups, and told them to read to themselves a bunch of Gary Larsen's "Far Side" cartoons.

And guess what?  The people who held the pencil clenched in their teeth smiled and laughed far more than those who held the pencil in the "thermometer" position.

This phenomenon is known as priming, and it works in a number of fascinating experiments in which the brain is "primed" to direct certain feelings or behaviors. The subject is unaware he is being primed and is unable to control the result.

Let's look at two more.

You are given a word test in which you simply fill in the missing letter in order to form a common word. Let's say you're given this one:  S O _ P.  What letter would you use to make a word?  If you're following me so far, you won't be surprised to find that the subjects were given material to read before taking the test, which caused them to write responses that were primed by the content in the material. So those who read about washing and taking showers completed the word "SOAP" and those who were given food magazines answered "SOUP."

This next one is particularly amusing.  The psychologist John Bargh asked a group of students at New York University to make a four word sentence out of an assortment of five words.  For example: "finds he it yellow instantly."  Half the students were given scrambled sentences which contained words associated with the elderly, such as:  Florida, forgetful, bald, gray and wrinkle.  After they had completed the task, they were sent down the hall to another room for the second part of the experiment.

But that short walk was the experiment! Researchers filmed all the students as they walked down the hall and found that those who had fashioned sentences with an elderly theme walked down the hall significantly slower than the others.

How can this incredible phenomenon of priming help you be a more effective salesperson? Write to me with your own ideas, and I'll follow up this Friday on my blog with Part Two.  Sign up using the link on the top right of this newsletter.  I'll help you...

Think Like Your Customer  

Gregory LaMothe

Gregory LaMothe

ActionSystems, Principal