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The Power of Words

June 29, 2023
The Power of Words

In my book, The Power of Consistency, I write about a simple concept within the consistency principle that says this: “Private declarations dictate future actions.” This basically means if you tell yourself you’re going to do something, you are much more likely to actually do it. That’s what the book is all about. That’s why I teach people to write out a prosperity plan and review it on a daily basis, to remind yourself every day of the things that you’re going to work on that day. It’s a very important part of the mindset.

“Because I Said So”

But there’s another part of the consistency principle that we apply to the sales process. And that is that public declarations also dictate future actions. In other words, if I tell you I’m going to come pick you up at the mall at 3:00, I’m far more likely to actually do what I said I would do.

Why? Because it wasn’t implied, it was spoken, on purpose. And by the way, yes, I will definitely be there at 3:00 or a few minutes before.

We tend to take actions consistent with our words. This concept has been developed in detail over the last 15 to 20 years by a gentleman named Dr. Robert Cialdini. He’s a professor at Arizona State University and former visiting professor at Stanford. He’s written several books around this concept of influence and persuasion. And one of the things he writes about is the principle of consistency. It just means that if you can get someone to acknowledge something, if you can get someone to verbalize it, then they become much more likely to take action supporting their words.

Off the Reservation

For example, there’s a famous study of a restaurant in Chicago that had a horrible problem with no-shows. People would call to make the reservations (because it was required), but then wouldn’t show up. They simply would not call to cancel and it created havoc for the restaurant, especially for their dinner shift.

And so they experimented with what to say when taking reservations. When they answered the phone, they would say this:

Reservationist: Mr. Customer, if you can’t make this reservation, be sure and give us a call beforehand if you need to cancel.

Did this work? No, it didn’t. The no-shows continued at a rate of about 30%.

Then they changed one sentence in that conversation.

Instead of just telling people to call in to cancel the reservation, they asked them a question and waited for an affirmative answer. In other words, they would say:

Reservationist: Mr. Customer, if you have to cancel this reservation, I need you to make it a point to give us a call and let us know. Can you do that for me?

And then they would shut up and make sure that the customer said yes. So now that customer made a verbal agreement that they would call if they needed to cancel. It was holding the customers accountable to their word.

Soon after implementing this slight tweak, their no-shows virtually stopped.

Anytime people needed to cancel a reservation, they would call in advance. Simply by getting people to say they would.

Feeling Charitable

There’s another famous study involving a cancer research project. Teams were assigned to go into neighborhoods and knock on doors attempting to raise money for cancer research and awareness. They found that about 17% of people they spoke to would make some monetary donation. 17% isn’t the goal they had in mind, so guess what they did. They made a tweak involving confirmation.

The next time they were scheduled to visit neighborhoods to knock on doors for donations, they instead preempted them with a phone call before the canvassers went in. They purposefully targeted the soon-to-be-visited homes in the neighborhood to ask them a simple question that sounded like this:

Caller: Hi, we’re calling about cancer research today. Do you think it’s important that we invest in cancer research and awareness?

And most of the respondents would answer, “Oh yeah, it’s very important.” Keep in mind the callers didn’t ask for money over the phone. The phone call was to simply plant a seed. A seed that was soon to grow and become harvested. They simply asked the people if they thought cancer research and awareness were important.

Then a week or two later, they would send to the canvassers to knock on the doors. The canvassers didn’t change their script at all. But by placing that phone call first and getting people to acknowledge that cancer research was important, the number of donors nearly tripled from 17% to 45%.

Yes Yes Yes

That’s the power of consistency, influence and persuasion. That’s the very reason we ask several “yes questions” in our sales presentation. It keeps the prospect in line with affirmative answers which will help pay off when asking for the sale, as they are being conditioned to say yes because your questions are ones easily agreed with. It also helps during the close when you say, “Do you remember when you said yes to…” (consumer reports, importance of quality and trust, etc.)?

This is a further reminder of the value of words and the importance of following the sales process discussed in our training program. In sales, it’s the yeses that keep us happy.