Can We Be Manipulated?
post # 274 — January 3, 2007 — a Client Relations post
Previously, I asked what sales tactics had worked on you. As a follow up, I draw your attention to todayâ€™s WSJ (January 3, 2007, page D1) which has an article by Jonathan Clements on how so-called â€œadvisersâ€ manipulate you.
He notes that effective financial salespeople feign friendship, asking you all about yourself, pretending you have things in common.
He observes that â€œPopularity is a pretty good guide when picking things like movies and restaurants, so itâ€™s comforting to hear that an investment is popular.â€ And hence we get suckered in to going with inappropriate things.
He makes reference to another ancient sales tactics: Giving a free lunch or offering supposedly inside information to create the sense of obligation that makes people more susceptible to buying.
He reports that one can obtain a free AARP book â€œWeapons of Fraudâ€™ which outlines the tactics used by unscrupulous salespeople by emailing your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presumably, the theory behind the book is that, by being aware of the manipulative techniques that salespeople use, we will have better defenses.
Iâ€™m not so sure.
Note that these â€œtacticsâ€ are incredibly similar, if not completely identical, to how someone would behave if they really were trying to be helpful to you. Hereâ€™s someone showing an interest in me, giving ideas away first to earn my trust, from an institution that Iâ€™ve heard of (the popularity or brand effect). Thatâ€™s what a REAL trusted advisor would do isnâ€™t it?
I recently (skim-) read a book by Kevin Hogan called â€œThe Psychology of Persuasion: How to Persuade Others to Your Way of Thinking.â€
Aimed primarily at salespeople, it is one of the most effective and terrifying books I have ever read. It summarizes and communicates clearly all the manipulation techniques most likely to work when selling a product or service.
Whatâ€™s so terrifying about it all is, that as todayâ€™s WSJ article points out, these tactics WORK. And yes, they work on you and me.
The difference, presumably, is that the salesperson is using all the techniques as â€œtricksâ€ but without real sincerity behind them. The Trusted Advisor that my coauthors and I wrote about is likely to be doing all the same things but with a true desire to help.
So, the effectiveness of my defenses turn on the following question: if someone is doing and saying all the right (manipulative) things, how well do I think I can discriminate between those who are doing it to be truly helpful, and those who are doing the same things just to get my business? How good am I at spotting insincerity?
Iâ€™d like to think Iâ€™m terrific at it, but I have my doubts.
What do you think? How susceptible are we to the person with high skills and low motives?