The ability to influence or induce people to purchase what you have to sell is a mental art that will repay cultivation.”Salesmanship is the art of selling to the other person something he needs but doesn’t know it.” “A sale is a mental thing. It results from harmonizing certain mental elements which enter into all common agreements between people.”A sharp-witted lawyer after successfully defending a man accused of stealing, asked him in confidence, after the trial, if he were really guilty. “Well, Mister,” replied the man, “I thought at first I had stolen, but after listening to your speech I concluded I hadn’t.” The power of suggestion may be used for base and illegitimate ends or for honorable and legitimate ones. It is his suggestive power which makes the smooth, long-headed promoter dangerous. He uses it to make people buy what they do not need, or to palm off on the fraudulent or spurious goods. The victims of these unscrupulous promoters, when under the influence of a suggestive anesthetic, will mortgage their homes, their furniture, draw their last dollar from the savings-bank, borrow every dollar they can, to obtain the thing which is made to appear so desirable that they cannot see how they can get along without it.
Now, the suggestion is just as effective when used for a lawful and honorable purpose as for an unlawful and dishonorable one. One salesman succeeds where others fail, largely because of his greater suggestive power. He draws such a vivid description of the product he is selling, makes it seem so very desirable, that his prospect feels he must give him an order. The salesman knows he is selling a good thing that it is to his customer’s advantage to buy. The transaction is therefore of mutual benefit to both parties, the buyer as well as the seller. Suggestion has been defined as “whatever creates or inspires thought.” As a science, suggestion “shows us how to start and steer thought.” The five senses are the channels which bring us impressions from without. “An act of the will or some association of ideas” brings impressions from within; this latter is auto-suggestion.
The suggestion can help you to build and develop yourself, to educate and train yourself in spirit, mind, and body. “In building up the character a man must have spiritual and moral backing.” “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” This is the essence of auto-suggestion. “Thought is a creative force.” It is a “motive, impelling, sustaining” force. Hence, when auto-suggestion keeps thought “working in the right direction” we have powerful backing in all our undertakings. By thinking definitely, steadily, and strongly on useful and exalted sentiments we come into the realization of our thought aspirations. Briefly, we create what we mentally desired steadily and intently. Thus we may build our character, ever “improving, developing, and adorning.” Suggestion is our “working force.” “It (suggestion) can also help you to shape the desires and direct the will of the customers you seek to influence.” In the first place, we direct the will of our customers by our very personality, which has been developed through auto-suggestion. Then the various steps of attention, interest, desire, and, finally, resolve, in the customer, must be induced by suggestion.
He must forget himself and his own senses, ultimately; or at least, he must have had all his faculties so brought into harmony with those of the salesman that he readily accepts the salesman’s ideas. “If you remember that suggestion is merely the working of the subjective mental force,”and if you consider that the activity of the subjective mind is in ratio to the strength and depth of the suggestion, you have a pretty clear idea of the use that may be made of suggestion in the progress of a sale. I have heard the story of a preacher, in Washington, who told his congregation so dramatically and so convincingly that all humanity was hanging over hell by the single thread of a cobweb, that, when the climax was reached, one man, a very learned one too, was clinging frantically to a pillar. The simple study of psychology reveals that the activities of the will must be stirred up by approaching and capturing the outlying sentinels, namely the intellect and feelings.
We get attention through the senses, increase attention to interest through the intellect, change interest to desire through the feelings, and finally, indecision we have induced the will to act. To be sure, there is no mathematical dividing line, no architecturally apparent flights of steps; nevertheless, the true salesman is perfectly conscious of the different stages of progress of the customer’s mind, and he leads him easily and naturally from one to the other. The importance of this point in selling is emphasized by a writer in “Business Philosopher,” who says: “It is just as reasonable to expect your prospect to reach a favorable decision without first having been brought through the three earlier stages—attention, interest and desire—as to expect water to run up hill.” A sale is a mental process and depends largely upon the quality and the intensity of the mental suggestion, and the confidence communicated to the would-be purchaser’s mind. The suggestion is properly used in the conduct of a sale when it is unobtrusive, and in no way savors of the pompous, swaggering, hypnotic methods of the impertinent intruder.
The suggestion should be “honest and well-aimed.” It should help the customer’s mind and inspire confidence. Suggestions to the customer should have for their object “not to overcome or dethrone the will, but simply to guide and influence it.” Hypnotism, consisting in dethroning a man’s will, is “the complete setting aside of the objective mind.” Every salesman should study psychology. He should be able to understand the mental laws by which the mind of his prospect acts, so as to be able to read his mental operations. Character is largely made up of suggestion; life is largely based upon it. Salesmanship is pretty nearly all suggestions. The salesman should always keep in mind this great truth, The greatest art is to conceal art. Suggestion, by its very nature, is subtle, if rightly used. The salesman who has great skill in the use of suggestion helps the mind of the customer, without making him feel that any influence is being exerted. He leads his customer to buy after the same method by which Pope suggests men should be taught: “Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown proposed as things forgot.”
Let the customer feel that he is buying, not that you are selling to him. Professor Hugo Munsterberg, in an article on the psychology of salesmanship, said: “If the customer knows exactly what he wants, and has made up his mind, no suggestion is needed.” It is then a case of letting well enough alone. An ill-timed or negative suggestion may spoil a sale, as in the following in stance. A farmer once went to town to buy a self-binder. He looked at one binder and was so well satisfied that he was about to buy it. At this point, the salesman said: “I’ll tell you, this binder has given us very little trouble.” Now, this farmer wasn’t looking for a binder that was going to give him even a little trouble. He had troubles of his own. That one suggestion scared him away. He went out and bought a binder from a salesman who said, “This binder has given us excellent satisfaction.” In the offices of a New York business house, there is a quotation framed, which serves the purpose of a very effective suggestion.
This house is in the paper business, and, naturally, they wish to impress upon all buyers the value of using good quality paper. Here is the quotation which, I am sure, has suggested to many customers the advisability of buying good quality paper: “A printer recently uttered this truth: ‘Printing doesn’t improve the paper any, but, for a certainty, the good paper adds considerably to the appearance and worth of printing.”‘ …. Psychology in selling is in reality only a new name for the principles which good businessmen, expert salesmen, have used in all times. Diplomacy, tact, cheerfulness, the good-will habit, and the suggestion of confidence—all these form an important part of business psychology.