PRE-SUASION: THE FRONTLOADING OF ATTENTION
Trust is one of those qualities that leads to compliance with requests, provided that it has been planted before the request is made. Despite the mountains of scientific reports and scores of books that have been written making that point and suggesting ways to achieve trust, Salesman Jim accomplished it in a fashion I’ve not seen in any of them. He did it by pretending to be a bit of a screwup.
He would wait until a couple had begun taking the knowledge test, when he’d slap his forehead and say, “Oh, I forgot some really important information in my car, and I need to get it. I don’t want to interrupt the test; so, would you mind if I let myself out and back into your home?” The answer was always some form of “Sure, go ahead.” Oftentimes it required giving him a door key.
“Think, Bob: Who do you let walk in and out of your house on their own? Only somebody you trust, right? I want to be associated with trust in those families’ minds.”
I will forward the argument that all mental activity arises as patterns of associations within a vast and intricate neural network, and that influence attempts will be successful only to the extent that the associations they trigger are favorable to change.
To first become associated with the concept of trust, the (intensely positive) other associations of which would then become linked to him and his advice. Even Jim’s unorthodox method of connecting himself to the concept of trust was purely associative.
They can be called frames or anchors or primes or mindsets or first impressions. We will encounter each of those types in the remainder of these pages, where, throughout, I’m going to refer to them as openers —because they open up things for influence in two ways. In the first, they simply initiate the process; they provide the starting points, the beginnings of persuasive appeals. But it is in their second function that they clear the way to persuasion, by removing existing barriers. In that role, they promote the openings of minds and—for would-be persuaders like Jim—of protectively locked doors.