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A magician’s job is to fool you. They are entertainers who understand how to use simple cues and normal human behavior against you, to create illusions that don’t seem possible. But did you know those same skills could be used to influence prospects and clients, and help boost your IT services revenue? Professional magician and mentalist Tim David not only entertained the crowd during the Vendor Summit luncheon at ChannelCon, he shared a number of best practices to help improve their sales and communications proficiencies.
What critical skill does the illusionist possess that could make his successful in business? “I don’t read minds, I read people. Ultimately the skill of influence allows me to do what I do.” For the rest of the session, David dazzled the audience with feats of magic and explained after each how it could be utilized by sales and marketing professionals.
Starting off the session, he asked everyone to focus on the perfect image of a human brain: a horse and rider. “She thinks she’s in charge, but in reality, the horse is. The conscious mind thinks it is in charge; in actuality, they are not.”
David separated the crowd into two groups and asked one side to remember a four-digit number and the other to memorize a virtually endless string (too many for me to count). The point was to illustrate people have a limited memory. We use limited or “magic numbers” today and our capacity for remembering larger strings seems to be diminishing over time. Thanks to mobile phones, we don’t have to remember anyone’s number anymore, even our own. And when we lose the device or that data, it causes major issues. As David points out, “The rider is weak.”
What does that have to do with an IT services business? He was illustrating how weak our minds can become if they aren’t exercised. Reality is we encounter or consume up to two billion bits of information every day (the horse) and rarely remember any of it. We are the riders. “You are on a need to know basis with your horse brain.”
That disconnect affects our daily decisions and communications. The trick is to speak “horse language, not people language.” He illustrated that point by showing how Coke sales, after a decade of decline, finally saw an uptick after the company started the promotion where they put names on the bottles. According to Dale Carnegie, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” The interesting thing is 5 of the top selling names for Coke bottles contain a “C” or a “K.” That shows people identify with the products they purchase. For example, “Peter and Paul were not popular in the Coke series, they are likely Pepsi drinkers.”
Skeptical? Consider this well researched phenomenon. “If your name is Dennis, you are more likely to be a dentist than a lawyer. The horse brain reminds them of connection. Names are that powerful.
Set High Expectations
Our minds can be trained or tricked into focusing on certain things that may be real or imaginary. That comes in handy in business and other aspects of our lives. David used a classroom example to show how expectations can have positive and negative effects on results. One teacher was told her kids were smart and enthusiastic, and another was informed that hers were the opposite (bad). In reality, they were no different, but at the end of the school year, test scores were better for those in the “high expectation” group. IQ scores went up an average of 12 points. When they changed the expectations for each group of kids, it influenced how the teachers taught, interacted with and treated their kids.
That illustrates how managers could boost productivity with positive reinforcement and aggressive (but realistic) goal setting. When your sales team thinks positively and predicts their prospects will say “yes,” it improves the chances that they will. When they invite a “no,” it sets a similarly negative mindset.
That’s not magic, it’s influence. Like the power of suggestion an illusionist uses to convince a crowd they did something they didn’t actually do. Body language plays a part in that. From the power pose, where you stand confidently, to high fives, which transfers positive energy to another person, you can influence others’ responses through your own physical actions. “When you make people think something good is happening, it usually does. Energy shifts, physiology affects psychology.”
David also emphasized that a good listener does only 15-20% of the talking. That applies to magicians, sales professionals and anyone else who interacts with other people. Good listening skills allow you to research the other subject’s thoughts, ideas and perceptions, allowing you to better understand how they may react in certain situations.
“Magicians obsess about your perception, what you see.” And so should your company’s sales professionals. Illusionists use the term “watch your angles,” which refers to hiding objects just outside their audience’s eyesight. If you know the primary modality (visual, auditory, etc.) of the person or people you are speaking with, you can leverage that to your own benefit. The obvious ones are to watch your physical space and their responses. If a sales prospect’s arms are crossed, they have a mobile phone in hand, or are leaning away, they are disengaged or disinterested.
The more advanced signs to look for include a slight head turn, which means they are engaged in the conversation. Feet usually point to where they want to go. An increased blink rate typically signifies their interest in what you are saying (or selling). Hidden palms have the opposite meaning, think of it as their way of avoiding interaction or shaking your hand.
David covered a number of other topics during the session, including the causes of resistance, such as removing perceived freedom and the awareness of relational DNA (use humor, minimize the use of “I” when speaking). “When you can get them to help you, they like you more.” Both magic and great communications skills rely on getting ourselves out of a “rider brain” mentality and into a more holistic “horse brain.” If you’d like to learn more about the concept, check our Tim David’s website and presentations.