Since the age of seventeen, when I read my first book on persuasion techniques, I dreamt of being the go-to person, the one with the charisma, the alpha, the guy with all the answers. As that young teenage boy, I loved getting attention and I wanted to learn how to get more. Little did I know, I had taken the first step of my arduous journey of self-improvement.
For a long time, I thought I possessed persuasive skills. Or at least, I wanted to think so. After countless public speaking events, and having some success in my first business venture, I thought I knew something about persuasion – until the moment I ended up on a sales floor.
Financial difficulties forced me to find a job. But I had no clue that this job was going to give me one of the most impactful experiences of my life. The moment I entered the sales environment, I developed a love/hate relationship with it. I also realised that I was terrified of cold calling and that the thought of being rejected was paralysing me. Despite my overwhelming emotions and self-doubt, I knew I was in the right place. I wasn’t making any deals for almost two months and was receiving one rejection after another. To say it was difficult is an understatement. During this time, I learned a few things about mental resilience, real-life psychology and, of course, persuasion.
Rejection is good
The word ‘persuasion’ means the process of persuading someone to do or believe something. A human psyche is wired to look for pitfalls when new ideas or concepts are presented, in order to evaluate them. Imagine a scenario where a person is trying to sell you something of great value and which, of course, comes with a significant price tag. Would you accept buying it straight away, without looking into the details of the product or service? Of course not, especially when you’re being offered to use a new and unfamiliar product. Research says that we are biased against novelty.
Generally, we choose practicality over creativity because we know that the latter comes with uncertainty and risk. “What does this have to do with the rejection?”, you may ask. Once we understand how a consumer’s mind works (and all of us are consumers), we can understand how to effectively overcome rejection.
Rejection teaches us a lot of things, such as patience, analysis, creativity, and mental resilience. Rejection is good: it pushes you to find new ways of communicating. For some of us, feelings of rejection, during experiences as early as childhood, have shaped our belief systems around things like relationships, human connection, and sales. That’s why I recommend, to many aspiring entrepreneurs, that they find a job on the sales floor and pitch the hell out of themselves. You’ll be surprised at how much of a stronger, better, and overall mentally healthier person you’ll become.
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald
The 8-second rule
People just don’t listen. According to scientists, the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish. Yes, you heard right. On average, we hold our attention for eight seconds. Goldfish, meanwhile, are capable of holding it for nine. As human species, we should say “thank you” to ourselves for such tremendous progress in our mental endurance. On the contrary, we face challenges when trying to get our point across to others, in such a short space of time.
When you cold call, speak on stage, or pitch to clients, you need to grab their attention, right from the start. So how do you ‘do’ creative in eight seconds? I’m not qualified to give you advice on how to pitch but I know a few things about how our minds work when something becomes important enough for our brains to register it.
One thing to remember is that we think in pictures. In order to be able to grab someone’s attention quickly enough, you need to trigger that person’s imagination by either asking a question that leads them down their history line, or that leads to one of your stories. But it shouldn’t be rocket science. Keep it simple. I find Simon Sinek to be one of the best presenters and public speakers. You can watch some of this stuff here.
The most impactful and persuasive thing you can do is to tell a story. A good story moves people, creates possibilities, and erodes limitations. All of us have a story to tell – whether it’s about our lives, a challenge we overcame, a vision we’ve manifested, or a person we’ve helped. Stories are great vehicles for lessons, insights, and wisdom so there’s little wonder as to why some of the most popular books are powered by incredible stories. One such book made an impact on my life. That book is called, “The Alchemist”. It’s about a shepherd boy who went to seek out worldly treasures. In many ways, I associate my life’s journey to the story being told in this book.
Another great source that you can use to learn about story telling is Joseph Campbell’s book: “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”. It clearly explains the monomyth (the hero’s journey) which serves as the basis for many Hollywood movies, TV series, popular books, and is now even prominent in the business world.
But most importantly, we influence our lives through a range of different stories we tell ourselves on a daily basis. And it isn’t some personal development fluff. Ask any successful salesperson and they’ll tell you that in order to influence others, you first need to influence yourself. In other words, gain control of what you think about yourself and your life. Are you still convinced that you’re bad with numbers because your high-school math’s teacher told you that you were? It’s time give that or any other BS story a good kick up the arse.
Hang out with the most persuasive
I’ve spent a big chunk of my 20’s learning stuff. I learned Sales, psychology, marketing, public speaking, networking, and other business-driven activities from people who were quite a few steps ahead of me. Since four months ago, I’ve been involved in a property business and I’ve already connected with some of the best-known mentors in my local area. You can, and should, do this too as your learning curve depends on whom you’re surrounded with.
Most people don’t realise a simple truth which is to have what others have, you’ve got to learn directly from them. When I started working on a sales floor, I wasn’t good at all — I wasn’t even close to being average. But my lack of skills didn’t stop me from learning how to close deals, and a big part of this was to learn how to persuade people effectively.
To shorten the gap, I stopped thinking that reading books would make me better at my job. Instead, I went out of my own way and began approaching the top guys on the floor, as well as the CEO of the company, for advice. We eventually developed a good relationship and he opened up a few “secrets” which really boosted my progress.
Finally, remember that persuasion and influence are about solving problems and bringing value to others.
If you’ are interested in developing sales skills and becoming an effective negotiator, I recommend reading this article.