What sales reps can teach about altering behaviour.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I started my career in sales and marketing.

At that time as part of our sales training we were taught a number of ‘closes’, which should be deployed at the time when the customer was getting near to making a decision and just needed a nudge over the line. There were some salespeople, sorry – account managers, who were widely admired for their ability to trot them out at the appropriate moment.

Some of those which I remember were, in no particular order:

The Ben Franklin close – you sit next to your customer and help him or her compile a list of the pros and cons of doing what you are proposing. Hey presto! The list of pros is longer. Much longer. How could the customer disagree with a list they themselves drew up?

The puppy dog close – you let the customer take the product for a trial basis. After they’ve seen how cute and efficient it is, how could they possibly send it back? (Sad face…)

The prophesy of doom close (I don’t actually think it was ever called this, but it’s how I remember it) – you paint for the customer a picture of the crisis which might ensue if they fail to buy the product.

The positive choice close, also known as the assumptive close – at the point at which the customer is teetering on the edge of a decision, you tacitly assume he has already made it, and you give him a choice. “So would you like the doors in glossy white or chrome?”

It was when I was kneeling by Harry’s desk today that I realised how often I use these in a classroom context. Harry has anger management issues and we treat him with very soft, delicate kid gloves.

Ben Franklin close:

Reasons you should do the work / Reasons not to do the work: “So, Harry. What happens if you do the work? Yes, you earn a merit… what else? Yes, I could send a congratulatory email home .. what else? Yes, you’d certainly get a smile from your teacher. What else? Yes, I think you’d do well in the assessment… what else? You’d feel good about yourself, wouldn’t you? … what else? Don’t you think you’d start the next module with confidence and find it easy? You might even decide that you want to do Geography for GCSE! What about if you don’t do the work? Yes, that’s true. You wouldn’t be working now. What else? Yup, definitely get a det. What else? Yes, you’ll fail the test and get a negative email home. Which is the more sensible choice?”

The puppy dog close:

“Look Harry, the thing is, I trust you to do well, so how about this? What about if I write you up for a merit on the board, and you’ve got to show me that you want to do well by earning it. Look, I’m putting a piece of paper here and if you’re doing something I don’t like, I’ll come over and quietly draw a cross to remind you to do what’s right. If at the end of the class there are no more than 2 crosses, you keep the merit?

The prophecy of doom:

“I know you want to ‘chill’ Harry, but the trouble is that if you don’t do what I’m asking, then it all starts to get serious fairly quickly: I give you a demerit, then you get a det. If you defy me again we have to escalate that to an after school detention. Then Mr Jones gets involved and your parents come in. And if you still defy people then it goes to Mrs Harris, you get an exclusion, it’s on your permanent record and things are really serious. So why don’t we forget about all that -you pick up your pen and have a crack at number three in the textbook? ”

The positive choice close:

“Hi Harry. I can see you’re having some difficulty starting. Tell you what, you don’t have to start right at the beginning – do you want to start with exercise two or exercise three and then you can go back to the beginning later on?”

As in sales, these won’t always work, but they offer you the chance to be a little creative in challenging situations where you’re finding it difficult to move forward with a student.

So, will you start with the Ben Franklin or the puppy dog?

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