Let’s say you’re a roofing salesman and you get a call from a homeowner who’s concerned about a leak in her ceiling. You do an inspection and realize that what she needs is a $500 repair. But $500 is a lot of money. So, to convince her to do it, you might use a persuasion technique called “perceptual contrasts.” You’ve probably read about it in ETR.
Briefly, here’s how it works: You explain to the homeowner that the roof is very old and that replacing it would be the ideal solution. Unfortunately, that costs $10,000. But, you explain, there is another viable option that costs a lot less. The roof can be repaired for only $500. In contrast to the cost of replacing the roof, she now perceives a $500 repair to be a bargain and signs on the dotted line.
Today, I want to tell you about another very effective persuasion technique that’s based on altering a person’s perception. With this technique, you break down a large expense or job into smaller, more manageable units.
For example, I’m sure you’ve seen commercials asking you to sponsor starving children in poverty-stricken parts of the world. The cost to sponsor one child is about $30 a month. But it’s hard to get people to commit to donating that much money. So they point out that $30 a month is less than the cost of buying one cup of coffee a day.
That immediately changes your perception, doesn’t it? Less than a cup of coffee a day? Surely, you can afford that!
This technique is widely used by many salespeople. And the “less than a cup of coffee a day” example is so common that I’ve dubbed it the “Starbucks Break Down.”
Many years ago, I sold a product that was allegedly the “Cadillac” of vacuum cleaners. It was good – but boy was it expensive! At the time, it sold for about $800. Today, I imagine it might go for $1,500.
When I’d demonstrate the machine, showing my prospective customer all the dirt her old vacuum wasn’t picking up, she’d usually be very interested in the possibility of buying one. Until, that is, she saw the price tag.
Then I’d introduce her to the company’s financing plan, which broke down the cost of the vacuum into a series of $30 monthly payments… less than a dollar a day. No, I didn’t use the cup of coffee example. But when I pointed out that, for less than $1 a day, she and her children would be living and sleeping in a much cleaner, healthier environment, the $800 price was no longer a problem.
Say you want to persuade your spouse to lose 20 pounds. Make it sound a lot more doable by telling him that if he can reduce his caloric intake by a mere 500 calories a day – by replacing his usual candy bar and can of soda with a piece of fruit and a bottle of sparkling water – he can easily lose a pound a week.
Or say you want to persuade your teenager to get a part-time job. If you tell him to get off the couch and start earning some money, he’ll roll his eyes. But if you tell him that all he has to do is wash two cars a week at $10 a pop and, in less than six months, he’ll have enough money for that brand-new ten-speed bike he wants… the idea of working on the weekend suddenly seems appealing.
Here are the basic steps to using the Starbucks Break Down technique:
- First, work out the numbers. Break down the cost/size of the item/task you’re going to present to your target into smaller units that will be perceived as easier to handle.
If Amy writes five pages a day of the 100-page e-book the company needs by the end of the month, it will be done ahead of schedule.
- Come up with an attractive comparison – a way to make your target realize how easy it will be to find the time/money to do what you want her to do.
Compare the time it will take for Amy to write five pages of the e-book to the time she can save by delegating her least-favorite daily job.
- Make your presentation in positive terms, emphasizing how your target will benefit from it.
If you tell Amy that she has to write a 100-page e-book in four weeks, it will sound like a daunting task. And once a person has a negative attitude toward whatever it is you want to persuade them to do, it’s going to be hard to turn them around.
So start by telling Amy that you’ve got a great opportunity for her – one that will help her make a huge contribution to the company’s bottom line, get the boss’s attention, and move up in line for a raise. Tell her about the e-book. Tell her that all she has to do is free up a little time by delegating those follow-up phone calls she hates to make… write five pages a day… and it will be done ahead of schedule.
Then watch her eagerly run to her computer to get started!
[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence, a successful entrepreneur and author, publishes the "How to Become a Master of Persuasion" program. Get more information right here.]