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Don’t you have much more faith in ideas that you discover for yourself than in ideas that are handed to you on a silver platter? If so, isn’t it bad judgment to try to ram your opinions down the throats of other people? Wouldn’t it be wiser to make suggestions – and let the other man think out the conclusion for himself?
To illustrate: Mr. Adolph Seltz of Philadelphia, a student of one of my courses, suddenly found himself confronted with the necessity of injecting enthusiasm into a discouraged and disorganized group of automobile salesmen. Calling a sales meeting, he urged his men to tell him exactly what they expected from him. As they talked, he wrote their ideas on the blackboard. He then said: “I’ll give you all these qualities you expect from me. Now I want you to tell me what I have a right to expect from you.” The replies came quick and fast: loyalty, honesty, initiative, optimism, team work, eight hours a day of enthusiastic work. One man volunteered to work fourteen hours a day. The meeting ended with a new courage, a new inspiration, and Mr. Seltz reported to me that the increase of sales had been phenomenal.
“The men had made a sort of moral bargain with me, ” said Mr. Seltz, “and as long as I lived up to my part in it, they were determined to live up to theirs. Consulting them about their wishes and desires was just the shot in the arm they needed.”
No man likes to feel that he is being sold something or told to do a thing. We much prefer to feel that we are buying of our own accord or acting on our own ideas. We like to be consulted about our wishes, our wants, our thoughts.
For example, take the case of Eugene Wesson. He lost countless thousands of dollars in commissions before he learned this truth. Mr. Wesson sells sketches for a studio that creates designs for stylists and textile manufacturers. Mr. Wesson had called once a week, every week for three years, on one of the leading stylists in New York. “He never refused to see me,” said Mr. Wesson, “but he never bought. He always looked over my sketches very carefully and then said: ‘No, Wesson, I guess we don’t get together today.’ ”
After a hundred and fifty failures, Wesson realized he must be in a mental rut; so he resolved to devote one evening a week to the study of influencing human behavior, and to develop new ideas and generate new enthusiasms.
Presently he was stimulated to try a new approach. Picking up half a dozen unfinished sketches the artists were working on, he rushed over to his buyer’s office. “I want you to do me a little favor, if you will,” he said. “‘Here are some uncompleted sketches. Won’t you please tell me how we could finish them up in such a way that they would be of service to you?”
The buyer looked at the sketches for a while without uttering a word and then said: “Leave these with me for a few days, Wesson, and then come back and see me.”
Wesson returned three days later, got his suggestions, took the sketches back to the studio and had them finished according to the buyer’s ideas. The result? All accepted.
That was nine months ago. Since that time, this buyer has ordered scores of other sketches, all drawn according to his ideas – and the net result has been more than sixteen hundred dollars in commissions for Wesson. “I now realize why I failed for years to sell this buyer,” said Mr. Wesson. “I had urged him to buy what I thought he ought to have. I do the very opposite now. I urge him to give me his ideas. He feels now that that he is creating the designs. And he is. I don’t have to sell him now. He buys.”
When Theodore Roosevelt was Governor of New York, he accomplished an extraordinary feat. He kept on good terms with the political bosses and yet he forced through reforms which they bitterly disliked.
And here is how he did it.
When an important office was to be filled, he invited the political bosses to make recommendations. “At first,” said Roosevelt, “they might propose a broken-down party hack, the sort of man who has to be ‘taken care of’. I would tell them that to appoint such a man would not be good politics, as the public would not approve it.
“Then they would bring me the name of another party hack, a persistent office holder, who, if he had nothing against him, had little in his favour. I would tell them that this man would not measure up to the expectations of the public, and I would ask them to see if they could not find someone more obviously fitted for the post.
“Their third suggestion would be a man who was almost good enough, but not quite.
“Then I would thank them, asking them to try once more, and their fourth suggestion would be acceptable; they would then name just the sort of man I should have picked out myself. Expressing my gratitude for their assistance, I would appoint this man — and I would let them take the credit for the appointment… I would tell them that I had done these things to please them and now it was their turn to please me.”
And they did. They did it by supporting such sweeping reforms as the Civil Service Bill and the Franchise Tax Bill.
Remember, Roosevelt went to great lengths to consult the other man and show respect for his advice, When Roosevelt made an important appointment, he let the bosses really feel that they had selected the candidate, that the idea was theirs.
An automobile dealer on Long Island used this same technique to sell a used car to a Scotsman and his wife. This dealer had shown the Scotsman car after car, but there was always something wrong. This didn’t suit. That was out of kilter. The price was too high. Always the price was too high. At this juncture, the dealer, a member of one of my courses, appealed to the class for help.
We advised him to quit trying to sell “Sandy” and let “Sandy” buy. We said, instead of telling “Sandy” what to do, why not let him tell you what to do? Let him feel that the idea is his.
That sounded good. So the dealer tried it a few days later when a customer wanted to trade an old car in on a new one. The dealer knew this used car might appeal to “Sandy”. So, he picked up the phone and asked “Sandy” if he wouldn’t, as a special favour, come over and give him a bit of advice.
When “Sandy” arrived, the dealer said: “You are a shrewd buyer. You know car values. Won’t you please look over this car and try it out and tell me how much I ought to allow for it in-a trade?”
“Sandy” was “one vast substantial smile”. At last his advice was being sought, his ability was being recognized.
He drove the car up Queens Boulevard from Jamaica to Forest Hills and back again. “If you can get that car for three hundred,” he advised, “you’ll be getting a bargain.”
“If I can get it at that figure, would you be willing to buy it?” the dealer inquired. Three hundred? Of course. That was his idea, his appraisal. The deal was closed immediately.
This same psychology was used by an X-ray manufacturer to sell his equipment to one of the largest hospitals in Brooklyn. This hospital was building an addition and preparing to equip it with the finest X-ray department in America. Dr. L_____, who was in charge of the X-ray department, was overwhelmed with salesmen, each caroling the praises of his own equipment.
One manufacturer, however, was more skillful. He knew far more about handling human nature than the others did. He wrote a letter something like this:
“Our factory has recently completed a new line of X-ray equipment. The first shipment of these machines has just arrived at our office. They are not perfect. We know that, and we want to improve them. So we should be deeply obligated to you if you could find time to look them over and give us your ideas about how they can be made more serviceable to your profession. Knowing how occupied you are, I shall be glad to send my car for you at any hour you specify.”
“I was surprised to get that letter,” Dr. L_____ said, as he related the incident before the class. “I was both surprised and complimented. I had never had an X-ray manufacturer seeking my advice before. It made me feel important. I was busy every night that week, but I canceled a dinner appointment in order to look over the equipment. The more I studied it, the more I discovered for myself how much I liked it.
“Nobody had tried to sell it to me. I felt that the idea of buying that equipment for the hospital was my own. I sold myself on its superior qualities and ordered it installed.”
Colonel Edward M. House wielded an enormous influence in national and international affairs while Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House. Wilson leaned upon Colonel House for secret counsel and advice even more than he did upon members of his own cabinet.
What method did the Colonel use in influencing the President? Fortunately, we know, for House himself revealed it to Arthur D. Howden Smith, and Smith quoted House in an article in The Saturday Evening Post.
” ‘After I got to know the President,’ House said, ‘I learned the best way to convert him to an idea was to plant it in his mind casually, but so as to interest him in it – so as to get him thinking about it on his own account. The first time this worked it was an accident. I had been visiting him at the White House and urged a policy on him which he appeared to disapprove. But several days later, at the dinner table, I was amazed to hear him trot out my suggestion as his own.’ “
Did House interrupt him and say, “That’s not your idea. That’s mine” ? Oh, no. Not House. He was too adroit for that. He didn’t care about credit. He wanted results. So he let Wilson continue to feel that the idea was his. House did even more than that. He gave Wilson public credit for these ideas.
Let’s remember that the people with whom we come in contact tomorrow will be just as human as Woodrow Wilson. So let’s use the technique of Colonel House.
A man up in New Brunswick used this technique on me a few years ago – and got my patronage. I was planning at the time to do some fishing and canoeing in New Brunswick. So I wrote the tourist bureau for information. My name and address were evidently put on a public list, for I was immediately overwhelmed with scores of letters and booklets and printed testimonials from camps and guides. I was bewildered. I didn’t know which to choose. Then one camp owner did a very clever thing. He sent me the names and telephone numbers of several New York people he had served and invited me to telephone them and discover for myself what he had to offer.
I found to my surprise that I knew one of the men on his list. I telephoned him, found out what his experience had been, and then wired the camp the date of my arrival.
The others had been trying to sell me on their service, but one chap let me sell myself. He won.
So if you want to influence people to your way of thinking, Rule 7 is:
LET THE OTHER FELLOW FEEL THAT THE IDEA IS HIS.
Twenty-five centuries ago, Lao Tse, a Chinese sage, said some things that readers of this book might use today:
“The reason why rivers and seas receive the homage of a hundred mountain streams is that they keep below them. Thus they are able to reign over the mountain streams. So the sage, wishing to be above men, putteth himself below them; wishing to be before them, he putteth himself behind them. Thus, though his place be above men, they do not feel his weight; though his place be before them, they do not count it an injury.”