Contrasting ideas in proximity is an effective point of influencer. For example: big vs. small, expensive vs. inexpensive, showing the “best” option first and then showing a smaller option next. This is why they sell you the add-ons to your brand new car after you’ve already agreed to spend the big bucks on the new car. Studies done in the retail industry have borne this out, particularly in the clothing sector. It is traditional thinking for a salesperson that if someone comes into the store – say a men’s clothing store – that they should sell them something small first like a tie or a shirt and then try to move them up to bigger ticket items from influencer management. Research shows that the exact opposite of that is more effective. The reason is this: if I spend 25 on a tie and you show me a 450 suit, the 450 will seem bigger to me than it really is – that’s the law of contrast. The logic is that you want to show your customer the suit first, because it becomes a lot easier to show them the shirt and the tie after that because after spending 450 on the suit, the 50 shirt and 25 tie will seem smaller in comparison. You can invoke the law of contrast to your advantage in this manner.
The Watergate break-in that led to the downfall of Nixon’s presidency is a historical example of the law of contrast. G. Gordon Liddy who masterminded the whole thing ultimately received 250,000 to fund the operation, in untraceable cash, that was approved by the Republican National Committee (RNC). Back in the early 250,000 was a whole lot of money, which might cause you to wonder how could they possibly have approved it. Unsurprisingly, the law of contrast played a large role. Liddy’s original proposal requested 2.5 million, custom fitted aircraft and all kinds of sophisticated surveillance equipment. The RNC recoiled from this unthinkably extravagant and risky plan, so when he came back and said “well, how about 250,000 then?” guess what – it looked like a real bargain. They didn’t question it. In fact, they barely even discussed it before approving the funds. The RNC leadership was just looking at the contrast and made a decision to move forward. The rest, of course, is history.
So relative to the law of contrast, do you start small and work up to your big ideas – or do you start big and work down to the right fit? How can you use the law of contrast to create more influence?
Point Out the Negatives
Pointing out the negatives makes you appear more trustworthy, as you give a balanced presentation of the pros and cons of your proposals and ideas. There are always plusses and there are always minuses. Why is it that we never seem to hear the minuses from most salespeople? What are they afraid of? They fear losing the deal! To build a relationship with somebody, move them to your side of the table, and influence them it’s counterintuitive but you should be helping them understand the negatives. This assumes that your proposals and ideas are crafted in such a way the positives outweigh the negatives, but you should seriously consider being up-front and sharing the negatives. It’s a significant point of influence because it makes people feel like they’re being given the whole story. They are not forced to rely on their imagination to figure out “what’s he not telling me,” or “what’s the real agenda here.” If you were to deliver your ideas and proposals in a more balanced way, you will have more influence.
Are you starting your idea presentations or your proposals by laying out some of the negatives? Give it a try and see what happens, because you’re going to be much more likely to have the other person joining you on your side of the table.