Tag: Over-influence by Authority

The Mind of a Con Man

Overnight, Diederik Stapel went from respected professor to the biggest con man in academic science. For more than a decade his biggest experiment was deceiving others. In the end, Stapel had committed fraud in at least 55 papers.

Stapel did not deny that his deceit was driven by ambition. But it was more complicated than that, he told me. He insisted that he loved social psychology but had been frustrated by the messiness of experimental data, which rarely led to clear conclusions. His lifelong obsession with elegance and order, he said, led him to concoct sexy results that journals found attractive. “It was a quest for aesthetics, for beauty — instead of the truth,” he said. He described his behavior as an addiction that drove him to carry out acts of increasingly daring fraud, like a junkie seeking a bigger and better high.

Academic science is becoming a business too. “There are scarce resources, you need grants, you need money, there is competition,” Stapel said. “Normal people go to the edge to get that money. Science is of course about discovery, about digging to discover the truth. But it is also communication, persuasion, marketing. I am a salesman. I am on the road. People are on the road with their talk. With the same talk. It’s like a circus.”

Sunk Costs

…The experiment — and others like it — didn’t give Stapel the desired results, he said. He had the choice of abandoning the work or redoing the experiment. But he had already spent a lot of time on the research and was convinced his hypothesis was valid. “I said — you know what, I am going to create the data set,” he told me.

How he did it

The key to why Stapel got away with his fabrications for so long lies in his keen understanding of the sociology of his field. “I didn’t do strange stuff, I never said let’s do an experiment to show that the earth is flat,” he said. “I always checked — this may be by a cunning manipulative mind — that the experiment was reasonable, that it followed from the research that had come before, that it was just this extra step that everybody was waiting for.” He always read the research literature extensively to generate his hypotheses. “So that it was believable and could be argued that this was the only logical thing you would find,” he said. “Everybody wants you to be novel and creative, but you also need to be truthful and likely. You need to be able to say that this is completely new and exciting, but it’s very likely given what we know so far.”

The Four Villains of Decision Making

You’re probably not as effective at making decisions as you could be.

This article explores Chip and Dan Heaths’ new book, Decisive. It’s going to help us make better decisions both as individuals and in groups.

But before we get to that, you should think about a tough decision you’re grappling with right now. Having a decision working in your mind as you’re reading this post will help make the advice in here tangible.

Ok, let’s dig in.

“A remarkable aspect of your mental life is that you are rarely stumped … The normal state of your mind is that you have intuitive feelings and opinions about almost everything that comes your way. You like or dislike people long before you know much about them; you trust or distrust strangers without knowing why; you feel that an enterprise is bound to succeed without analyzing it.”

— Daniel Kahneman

We’re quick to jump to conclusions because we give too much weight to the information in front of us and we fail to search for new information, which might disprove our thoughts.

Nobel Prize winning Psychologist Daniel Kahneman called this tendency “what you see is all there is.” But that’s not the only reason we don’t make good decisions — there are many others.

We’re overconfident. We look for information that fits our thoughts and ignore information that doesn’t. We are overly influenced by authority. We choose the short-term over the long-term. Once we’ve made a decision we find it hard to change our mind. In short, our brains are flawed. I could go on.

Knowing about these and other biases isn’t enough; it doesn’t help us fix the problem. We need a framework for making decisions.

In Decisive, the Heaths introduce a four-step process designed to counteract many biases.

In keeping with Kahneman’s visual metaphor, the Heaths refer to the tendency to see only what’s in front of us as a “spotlight” effect.

And that, in essence, is the core difficulty of decision making.

What’s in the spotlight will rarely be everything we need to make good decisions, but we won’t always remember to shift the light.

Most of us rarely use a process for thinking about things. If we do use one it’s likely to be the pros-and-cons list. While better than nothing, this approach is still deeply flawed because it doesn’t really account for biases.

The Four Villains of Decision Making

  1. Narrow Framing: “… the tendency to define our choices too narrowly, to see them in binary terms. We ask, “Should I break up with my partner or not?” instead of “What are the ways I could make this relationship better?”
  2. Confirmation Bias: “When people have the opportunity to collect information from the world, they are more likely to select information that supports their preexisting attitudes, beliefs, and actions.” We pretend we want the truth, yet all we really want is reassurance.
  3. Short-term Emotion: “When we’ve got a difficult decision to make, our feelings churn. We replay the same arguments in our head. We agonize about our circumstances. We change our minds from day to day. If our decision was represented on a spreadsheet, none of the numbers would be changing—there’s no new information being added—but it doesn’t feel that way in our heads.”
  4. Overconfidence: “People think they know more than they do about how the future will unfold.”

The Heaths came up with a process to help us overcome these villains and make better choices. “We can’t deactivate our biases, but … we can counteract them with the right discipline.” The nature of each of the four decision-making villains suggests a strategy for how to defeat it.

1. You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options. So … Widen Your Options. How can you expand your set of choices? …

2. You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information. So … Reality-Test Your Assumptions. How can you get outside your head and collect information you can trust? …

3. You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one. So … Attain Distance Before Deciding. How can you overcome short-term emotion and conflicted feelings to make better choices? …

4. Then you live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold. So … Prepare to Be Wrong. How can we plan for an uncertain future so that we give our decisions the best chance to succeed? …

They call this WRAP. “At its core, the WRAP model urges you to switch from “auto spotlight” to manual spotlight.

WRAP
Source: Decisive

All in all this was a great book. We focus our efforts on analysis. If a decision is wrong the analysis must have been the problem. Not only does this ignore the fact that you can have ‘bad outcomes’ with good decisions but it also places your spotlight on the analysis at the cost of the process by which the decision was made.

Read this next: What Matters More in Decisions: Analysis or Process?

Richard Zeckhauser on Improving our Ability to Make Decisions

Richard Zeckhauser, aka Mr. Probability, was recently interviewed in Outlook Business.

Zeckhauser is a champion Bridge player and the Frank Ramsey professor of political economy at Harvard University.

When asked how companies can prevent overpaying for acquisition, Zeckhauser responded:

There is this tremendous optimism bias built into acquisitions. Synergies in my experience are frequently overstated. If I were looking at a large merger, I would hire a team in my corporation to present arguments to the board as to why we should not do it. The idea is to have a countervailing team to poke holes in the logic. Organisations have this tremendous tendency to get behind the boss and do what he thinks should be done, but you have to get away from that and motivate people to bring to the table something contrary to what is being said.

That bit of wisdom applies to more than just corporate acquisitions.

The problem is that people often blindly follow the boss and what s/he thinks should be done. The Hippo Problem. — The Highest Paid Person’s Opinion carries the day even if they are wrong. They are, after all, the authority figure.

Stanley Milgram demonstrated our obedience to authority through a series of experiments. Milgram summarized his most famous experiment in a 1974 article, The Perils of Obedience, writing:

I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority

Zeckhauser was also asked how we can make better decisions?

One part of decision-making is about how to place your priorities. Let me tell you what I said to a group of investment professionals recently. They were making investments and were being introduced to five fund managers. I said, “You have $50 million to invest and you have five potential managers; that does not mean you have to give $10 million to each of these managers. If you really think that manager A is much better, you should probably give him 25 and the others much smaller amounts.” Then, you improve your odds.

Here’s another example out of what I see in everyday life. You get 50 e-mails during the day and you answer 30 of them. On the one that you answer the most, you take 3 minutes. In all the others, you take 45 seconds. You should take 25 minutes to answer the one that is important, but you don’t. Once that is pointed out to you, you will say that is really obvious. In other words, you should decide what is really important and make your choices accordingly.

The other thing is about distinguishing between various probabilities. I think of making decisions the way I play tennis. I have taken many tennis lessons and my trainer always tells me the same three or four things. Keep your eye on the ball, get into position, swing your racquet back and swing the ball. I pay him $75 to tell me “keep your eye on the ball” and he tells me the same thing over and over again because the natural tendency when you are playing tennis is to take your eye off the ball. The natural tendency when you are thinking about probabilistic situations is to marginalise probabilities — treat 1%, 5%, 10% and 15% probabilities all as low probabilities. I think it is worth your while before you take a decision to figure out whether it is going to be 1%, 5%, 10% or 20%. And when it is worthwhile and when it is not. But most people don’t bother to do that.

I am writing a paper today where we start off talking about President Obama’s assessment of the likelihood that Osama bin Laden was in the hideout where we found him to be. He had a variety of assessments and he eventually concluded well it was 50% likely that we were going to go get him. Now, there is nothing magical about 50%. It might be that it is perfectly worthwhile to go and raid that compound if the probability is only 30%. And maybe it is not worthwhile even if it is 70%. Think about that. But people feel that 50% is magical and they don’t like to do things where they don’t have 50% odds. I know that is not a good idea, so I am willing to make some bets where you say it is 20% likely to work but you get a big pay-off if it works, and only has a small cost if it does not. I will take that gamble. Most successful investments in new companies are where the odds are against you but, if you succeed, you will succeed in a big way.

To improve your ability to make better decisions and think probabilistically Zeckhauser recommends reading Thinking, Fast and Slow. If you’re looking for something less mainstream but equally insightful try Max Bazerman’s Judgment in Managerial Decision Making, which has been a favorite of mine for years.

***

Still curious? Zeckhauser is the author of a fascinating paper: Investing in the Unknown and Unknowable.

Robert Greene explains the Process to Attain Mastery

The relationship between people and their craft is such that you can tell by the path they have followed whether they are a master or an amateur.

Robert Greene, most famous for his exposure of power, The 48 Laws of Power, is out with a new book: Mastery.

There exists a form of power and intelligence that represents the high point of human potential. It is the source of the greatest achievements and discoveries in history. It is an intelligence that is not taught in our schools nor analyzed by professors, but almost all of us, at some point, have had glimpses of it in our own experience.

At its core, Mastery is a simple process accessible to all of us. But before you start down the path, you need to bring two traits to the table: the relentless ability to focus deeply on a subject and a strong desire to learn.

The process can be illustrated in the following way:

Let us say we are learning the piano, or entering a new job where we must acquire certain skills. In the beginning, we are outsiders. Our initial impressions of the piano or the work environment are based on prejudgments, and often contain an element of fear. When we first study the piano, the keyboard looks rather intimidating—we don’t understand the relationships between the keys, the chords, the pedals, and everything else that goes into creating music. In a new job situation, we are ignorant of the power relationships between people, the psychology of our boss, the rules and procedures that are considered critical for success. We are confused—the knowledge we need in both cases is over our heads.

Although we might enter these situations with excitement about what we can learn or do with our new skills, we quickly realize how much hard work there is ahead of us. The great danger is that we give in to feelings of boredom, impatience, fear, and confusion. We stop observing and learning. The process comes to a halt.

If, on the other hand, we manage these emotions and allow time to take its course, something remarkable begins to take shape. As we continue to observe and follow the lead of others, we gain clarity, learning the rules and seeing how things work and fit together. If we keep practicing, we gain fluency; basic skills are mastered, allowing us to take on newer and more exciting challenges. We begin to see connections that were invisible to us before. We slowly gain confidence in our ability to solve problems or overcome weaknesses through sheer persistence.

At a certain point, we move from student to practitioner. We try out our own ideas, gaining valuable feedback in the process. We use our expanding knowledge in ways that are increasingly creative. Instead of just learning how others do things, we bring our own style and individuality into play.

As years go by and we remain faithful to this process, yet another leap takes place—to mastery. The keyboard is no longer something outside of us; it is internalized and becomes part of our nervous system, our fingertips. In our career, we now have a feel for the group dynamic, the current state of business. We can apply this feel to social situations, seeing deeper into other people and anticipating their reactions. We can make decisions that are rapid and highly creative. Ideas come to us. We have learned the rules so well that we can now be the ones to break or rewrite them.

Greene argues that we can all be Masters but we must follow three phases: apprenticeship, creative-active, and mastery. The problem is over-coming our hunger for magical shortcuts. We want the easy route.

To the extent that we believe we can skip steps, avoid the process, magically gain power through political connections or easy formulas, or depend on our natural talents, we move against this grain and reverse our natural powers. We become slaves to time—as it passes, we grow weaker, less capable, trapped in some dead-end career. We become captive to the opinions and fears of others. Rather than the mind connecting us to reality, we become disconnected and locked in a narrow chamber of thought. The human that depended on focused attention for its survival now becomes the distracted scanning animal, unable to think in depth, yet unable to depend on instincts.

It is the height of stupidity to believe that in the course of your short life, your few decades of consciousness, you can somehow rewire the configurations of your brain through technology and wishful thinking, over-coming the effect of six million years of development. To go against the grain might bring temporary distraction, but time will mercilessly expose your weakness and impatience.

The difference between Masters and amateurs is simpler than you may think. One of the keys is tenacity.

Whenever we learn a skill, we frequently reach a point of frustration—what we are learning seems beyond our capabilities. Giving in to these feelings, we unconsciously quit on ourselves before we actually give up.

It’s in our nature to shy away from anything that seems difficult or painful. In doing so, we take the path of the amateur.

“Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all pos­sessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to con­struct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

More than just some tails of historical figures, Greene offers some penetrating insights into human behavior.

We feel, rightly so, that no one should be admired or worshipped merely for the position they occupy, particularly if it comes from connections or a privileged background. But this attitude carries over to people who have reached their position mostly through their own accomplishments. We live in a culture that likes to criticize and debunk any form of authority, to point out the weaknesses of those in power. If we feel any aura, it is in the presence of celebrities and their seductive personalities. Some of this skeptical spirit toward authority is healthy, particularly in relation to politics, but when it comes to learning and the Apprenticeship Phase, it presents a problem.

To learn requires a sense of humility

We must admit that there are people out there who know our field much more deeply than we do. Their superiority is not a function of natural talent or privilege, but rather of time and experience. Their authority in the field is not based on politics or trickery. It is very real. But if we are not comfortable with this fact, if we feel in general mistrustful of any kind of authority, we will succumb to the belief that we can just as easily learn something on our own, that being self-taught is more authentic. We might justify this attitude as a sign of our independence, but in fact it stems from basic insecurity. We feel, perhaps unconsciously, that learning from Masters and submitting to their authority is somehow an indictment of our own natural ability. Even if we have teachers in our lives, we tend not to pay full attention to their advice, often preferring to do things our own way. In fact, we come to believe that being critical of Masters or teachers is somehow a sign of our intelligence, and that being a submissive pupil is a sign of weakness.

Why do we need a mentor?

Life is short; you have only so much time and so much energy to expend. Your most creative years are generally in your late twenties and on into your forties. You can learn what you need through books, your own practice, and occasional advice from others, but the process is hit-and-miss. The information in books is not tailored to your circumstances and individuality; it tends to be somewhat abstract. When you are young and have less experience of the world, this abstract knowledge is hard to put into practice. You can learn from your experiences, but it can often take years to fully understand the meaning of what has happened. It is always possible to practice on your own, but you will not receive enough focused feedback. You can often gain a self-directed apprenticeship in many fields, but this could take ten years, maybe more.

Mentors do not give you a shortcut, but they streamline the process. They invariably had their own great mentors, giving them a richer and deeper knowledge of their field. Their ensuing years of experience taught them invaluable lessons and strategies for learning. Their knowledge and experience become yours; they can direct you away from unnecessary side paths or errors. They observe you at work and provide real-time feedback, making your practice more time efficient. Their advice is tailored to your circumstances and your needs. Working closely with them, you absorb the essence of their creative spirit, which you can now adapt in your own way. What took you ten years on your own could have been done in five with proper direction.

There is more to this than just time saved. When we learn something in a concentrated manner it has added value. We experience fewer distractions. What we learn is internalized more deeply because of the intensity of our focus and practice. Our own ideas and development flourish more naturally in this shortened time frame. Having an efficient apprenticeship, we can make the most of our youthful energy and our creative potential.

The career of Warren Buffett very much fit Greene’s arc: Buffett apprenticed with Benjamin Graham in New York, honed his skills and evolved his process running the Buffett Partnership and the early years of Berkshire Hathaway, and is now widely considered a master investor.

I found Greene’s book engaging despite the fact that I’m not normally a fan of anecdotal accounts. No doubt a lot of people have followed the same path yet never achieved the success necessary to be recognized as Masters. An assured way to success, this book is not.

Contrary to Greene, I’d argue that we all can’t be Masters. Yet that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from Greene’s book.

Secrets from the Science of Persuasion

A great animation describing the fundamental principles of persuasion based on the research of Dr. Robert Cialdini, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.

Dr. Cialdini, if you’re not familiar, is the author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Business Week International Bestseller Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive.

Learning about the six universals that guide human behavior could be the best 12 minutes of your day.

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

How Infomercials Persuade

In response to But Wait … There’s More, a kind reader passed along a link to a wonderful interview between Andrew Warner and Tim Hawthorne (a producer of infomercials).

On how to orchestrate an immediate response:

..In order to do that, I think there are definitely certain products that fall into a category of generating immediate response. That’s why we say in direct response television that product is king. It would be difficult for us to sell, for example, an automobile with one click. Where by having someone call an 800 number, if you can get somebody to call a 800 number or to click for more information about a considered purchase, like an automobile, a washer/dryer, something of that sort. In order to get somebody to respond immediately, it has to fall into some categories that we would consider to be appropriate for immediate response. That’s why we say product is king. These particular categories tend to fall, in direct response television, I think there’s some similarities on the Internet, into categories such as fitness, beauty, diet, business opportunities, kitchen and home appliances, and things of this sort which are easily demonstrable and within a price range where an immediate response is very possible. Priced anywhere from $9.95 to let’s say $495. This is the price category and these are the product categories that seem to appeal mostly to people to make that immediate response, which is what we’re looking for in direct marketing.

Along with that, you’re looking at products that do appeal to certain key parts of needs of human beings. Among those are a need for love, a need for security, a need for acquisition or wealth, a need for pleasure. We can also take a look at products and see how they might be in terms of appealing to solving fears that people have or satisfying greed which is again acquisition or wealth. Also, products that somehow tap into guilt or exclusivity, the one-of-a-kind type of thing and those that build ego. When it comes to a product, people in direct response television, they can take a look at a product. They can see if it’s simple, if it solves a common problem, if it appeals to one of these very instrumental aspects of human nature. If it doesn’t, then it’s not going to be something that we would recommend anybody try in direct response television, and it’s probably not going to work on the Internet either.

Creating urgency

…Well, I think the first and foremost way to do it is to really define what we call “the big promise.” The big promise is, essentially, one line that you’re going to be putting out as your headline, somewhere, if it’s a video, somewhere within the first 5 to 60 seconds, as to what your product ultimately can do for an individual. The big promise and how it’s crafted is probably the most important thing you need to do creatively in putting together your commercial or your ad.

I’ll give you an example. We did a product for a client a number of years ago, which was a patterned, multi or dual roller, painting device. It was alike a roller paint device except it had a pattern and there were two different rollers on a stem so that you could actually create these patterns on a wall like faux painting, as they called it. It was called Wall Magic. What we determined was that this particular product was going to be excellent for people that really wanted to have a different look on their walls other than a flat painted wall and people that found it dreary and drudgery to paint any wall. We came up with what we thought was a big promise that would be effective. Here’s the big promise. Transform anyone’s home or apartment from ordinary to extraordinary in just minutes. What we tried to do here was to move beyond just the fact that you can paint something that’s pretty on your walls quickly and create a line that was going to appeal to people and their dreams of creating a home that’s much more beautiful than they’ve ever had in the past. They aren’t going to have spend a lot time and sweat about it. Transform anyone’s home or apartment from ordinary to extraordinary in just minutes. The big promise. That could be a headline. That could be a subject line of an e-mail. The big promise in crafting exactly what your product can do, the ultimate benefit that provides, is probably the most important thing in terms of creating an urgency to buy.

On talent

…I think that after the product, and if you’re doing a television commercial, after the product, the talent becomes actually the next most important factor of success. By talent, I’m talking about the presenter or the celebrity. You really don’t have that equivalence, I think, certainly in display advertising or any kind of text advertising on the Internet. In video, talent becomes really critical to the success, and we can talk a little bit more about that later.

On generating an immediate reponse:

…Creating an irresistible offer comes down to actually understanding some of the basic needs of an individual. Among those needs are, is that everybody wants a deal. Everybody wants to get something with dollars off. Everybody wants to get it quickly. Everybody likes to get more and more. These are some of the basic aspects of human nature. So, we try to appeal to individuals by structuring an offer that’s actually going to hone in on these aspects. Among those aspects is we’re going to be trying to add bonuses and premiums and discounts and coupons. Let me give you some examples of successful direct response television offers and many of these you’ve seen. You’ve seen not only in direct response but in print advertisings. In print advertisements, you have seen them on the Internet.

Here’s some of the basics. Buy one get one free, or get the second one at half price. So you’re getting an immediate discount. Buy one and get a second one super size, so you’re actually doubling or tripling the order. Buy one and the second is actually going to be double the size. Drop a payment. Let’s say that your offer is three payments of $19.95, that’s your initial offer. But wait, if you call now, if you order now, we’ll actually make one payment for you. So it’s only two payments of $19.95. So that’s drop a payment.

The $9.95 trial offer is something that’s worked very well for people in direct response for the last 10 or 15 years. That is for a product that’s going to be much more expensive than $9.95. Maybe $49.95, $99.95, $199.95, but you can try it now for only $9.95 or for the cost of shipping and handling. In that particular case, vendors obviously taking a risk. You’re only collecting $9.95, and you’re shipping the product to the individual. They are essentially required to return the product to you within 30 days or you will hit their credit card for the full price. Of course, they understand this when they call in or when they actually go to the website and actually affect the order. They understand that if they don’t return the product within 30 days they’ll be paying the full amount or they’ll be paying multiple payments after that 30 days. But a $9.95 trial offer, what a superb way to get people to just try your product for less than $10.

…Dollars off, you can say that it’s $99.95, but for the next 30 days 30% off or $30 off. Discounting immediately becomes very powerful too. Those are some examples of how to create an irresistible offer. One note that I should make here is that if you’re doing something in video and the process that you’re taking people through is linear in time, you actually build the offer over a period of one, two, three minutes. You provide the initial offer. Perhaps it’s $99.95 and you’re going to get A, B, and C. A minute later you say but if you call now we’re also going to give you premiums D and E. Oh, by the way, if you use your credit card, we’re also going to give you free shipping and at the very end, we’re also going to give you a free gift, which if you return the product, the gift is yours to keep. Just our saying thanks for you trying the product. You can see that over the period of two to three minutes we can actually build this offer with a number of different levels, providing the core offer with the high price, then additional bonuses, then potentially reducing the price instead of three pay of $33.33, it’s now going to be two pay of $33.33. Adding more bonuses, giving free shipping. So going through a process of actually building what we call a Christmas tree offer. By adding more and more that a person’s going to get makes it very enticing and irresistible, I think, as you can see

On the magical transformation

I’ll give you kind of a classic example of what we mean by magical transformation, and that’s in a diet show. Everybody’s familiar with, Nutrisystem, I guess. It could be long form or it could be short form. The before and after is somebody before they lost the weight and after they lost the weight. You will always see those images side by side eventually. It might be a full screen image, initially of the person before they lost the weight, squeeze it back, bring up the image of the person after they’ve lost the weight. They’ve lost 30 pounds. They’ve lost 50, 60 pounds. That’s a before and that’s an after. That’s what we call the magical transformation. Magical transformation is in essence how to showcase what your product can do for somebody. In other words, how is your product going to transform my life? Of course, if it’s a diet product, it’s going to transform me magically from being an overweight person to being a fit person. If it’s an exercise product, it’s is going to be the same way.

…Virtually in every infomercial, every direct response commercial you see, you look for the magical transformation and how it’s executed because it’s probably, it’s the thing that grabs people the most emotionally. How is the product going to transform my life?

For example, going back to vacuum cleaners which are very basic, it’s throwing a lot of stuff on the floor. You have a dirty floor, take your vacuum, one swipe across the floor and everything is cleaned up. Where that vacuum swiped, everything else is still dirty.

Magical Phrases

… One of the ways to do that is to first be aware of some of the words that are very powerful in direct marketing. I’ll give you a list of some of these. As I mentioned, “free” is still, I think, and will always be considered the most powerful word in selling. After that we would probably think of words such as now, you or your, easy, easily, guarantee, break-through, revolutionary, fast, quick, instant, magic, new, special, exclusive, limited time, risk free, only, save, money back, money back guarantee, call now, and in terms of a classic phrase, “but wait, there’s more.

Everybody kinds of kicks around that particular phrase and it’s used often. One of the reasons it’s used so often is that it’s so effective. … So here are some additional phrases. “This offer couldn’t possibly get better, or could it?” “But hold on, we’re not done yet.” “We know you’ll love.” “Call or log on now.” “You’re going to love this.” “And that’s not all.” “Call right now and you’ll also receive an additional free bonus.” “But hold on, I’m just getting warmed up.” “What could you possibly be waiting for?” Let’s see what else I can find here. “This is an unbeatable price.” “You don’t want to miss out on this one.” “What are you waiting for?” “This is an absolutely incredible deal, and you won’t find it anywhere else.” “If you aren’t completely satisfied, just return it for a complete refund. No questions asked.” Which is a classic phrase in direct response television, asking no questions is really critical. You don’t want to confront somebody when they’re returning something.

The real classic, I think, also is, “If you don’t like it, we’ll buy it back.”

The hard sell

The fact is, is that if you want to sell directly and you want to sell immediately, the hard sell always works best. There is no doubt in any direct marketer’s mind. As much as we would love to be selling soft, because nobody likes to be sold the hard sell which is telling people what you’re going to get, telling them what the product is going to do for you and telling it to them directly, there’s nothing that’s going to make the phone ring or people click and order more than the hard sell.

Is there anything else that you think is important?

I think that there are a lot of different things that are necessary, I think, to understand about great selling. There are some books which I probably would recommend …Books that people should buy to understand the basics of strong direct marketing and how to really sell on the Internet or on television.

Tim reccommends the following books:

Winning Direct Response Advertising, by Joan Throckmorton

Television Secrets for Marketing Success, by Joseph Sugarman

The Salesman of the Century, by Ron Popeil

The Wisdom of Ginsu, by Barry Becher & Edward Valenti

Or Your Money Back, by Alvin Eicoff

As Seen On TV, by Lou Harry and Sam Stall

But, Wait! There’s More!, by Timothy Samuelson

Triggers – 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control the Mind of Your Prospect, by Joseph Sugarman

Advertising Secrets of the Written Word, by Joseph Sugarman

How to Say It to Sell it, by Sue Hershkowitz-Coore

The Advertised Mind, by Erik Du Plessis

Advertising That Sells, by Miner Raymond

Whatever It Takes, by Avi Sivan

Winking at Life, by Wink Martindale

How To Win Customers & Keep Them for Life, by Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D

Being Direct, by Lester Wunderman

All Marketers Are Liars, by Seth Godin

But Wait … There’s More!, by Remy Stern

Conceptual Selling, by Robert B. Miller & Stephen E. Heiman

How to Say It to Sell it, by Rosalie Maggio

Phrases That Sell, by Edward Werz & Sally Germain

Words That Sell, by Richard Bayan

More Words That Sell, by Richard Bayan

The Copywriter’s Handbook, by Robert W. Bly

Act Now! How I Turn Ideas Into Million-Dollar Products, by Kevin Harrington

How to Write Advertising That Sells, by Clyde Bedell

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