I recently went shopping for a new bed. After perusing the showroom for a while, I laid down on a cushy foam mattress. A few moments passed when a salesman approached and said, “It looks like you’ve already bought that.” I chuckled because I recognized the technique. Yet it was still effective because I thought, “I wonder what the delivery fee is.”
The furniture salesmen used a classic persuasion technique called thinking past the sale. As Scott Adams, a trained hypnotist, explains in his book Win Bigly, the idea is to prompt a person to imagine what happens after a decision has been made to prime that person toward making the decision. For example, when the car salesman asks whether you’d prefer the new car in red or green, he’s forcing you to think about the question of the color as if you have already decided to buy the car.
People naturally gravitate towards the future they imagine most vividly. Trained persuaders capitalize on this phenomenon by using visualizations and imaginations to bias people in the decision-making process. What’s incredible is that research by Dr. Robert Cialdini shows that persuasion is effective, even when the subject knows the techniques are being used.
I know what you’re thinking, “This is trickery!” Well, yes, sometimes that’s true. When the tools of persuasion fall into the wrong hands, they can become weapons of manipulation. But more on the ethics of persuasion to come. In the meantime, pay attention next time you’re on a salesroom floor. Chances are, a trained salesman will ask you to think past the sale. “Do you want the three-year or five-year warranty with that diamond ring?“