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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 25, 2008 • Issue 08:02:02


The art of charm

A merchant level salesperson (MLS) might wonder why a rival MLS is closing all the big deals, leaving the competition in the dust. What's that MLS's secret? It may be the MLS is employing the subtle art of mimicry.

Mimicry can be defined as the ability to imitate an individual's speech or mannerisms. Skillful comedians use it to make fun of people - in other words, to mock them. But mimicry does not have to be derisive; it can be applied by the adroit sales rep to build rapport with potential clients and persuade them to sign deal after deal.

Under the microscope

Psychologists have been studying the art of persuasion for over a century, analyzing a wide range of activities, from the effects of propaganda on whole populations to the techniques of door-to-door salespeople.

Scientists have found that many factors come into play to influence a group or an individual's perception of a directed message. On a personal level, people are strongly receptive to the unspoken, subtle elements that come into play when one person interacts with another.

Social bonding, for instance, is highly dependent on the synchronized and unconscious give and take of words and gestures that creates a current of good will between individuals.

Top salespeople in the payments industry likely have known about the tool of mimicry and how to use it to board new clients and take accounts away from the competition.

Monkey see, monkey do

Here are some techniques you, as ISOs and MLSs, can use to prompt almost instantaneous cooperation with prospective merchants during that all-important first meeting.

  • Be conscious of body language. If prospects lean back in their chairs, do that. If they lean forward on their elbows, follow their lead.

  • Watch your voice cadence. Loud, animated bursts can be off-putting to a merchant. Conversely, using a low, soft tone with people whose voices are strong and confident may cause them discomfort. Ease and confidence tailored to each presentation puts others equally at ease.

  • Mirror your would-be customer's posture and movements with a one- to two-second delay. If they cross their legs or touch their hair, wait two seconds and do the same.

  • Before your first meeting, find out as much as possible about a prospective client before you visit, including professional needs and business concerns. Then go in with a story about yourself being in a similar predicament.

  • Smiles and nods are contagious. Be amiable as you discuss your products and services. Showing genuine interest in what you are selling helps potential merchants feel strongly about your product when they recognize that you are truly invested in it.

  • Be careful not to mimic immediately. The few seconds' time lag causes the mirroring to go unnoticed and most times makes you come across as warm and convincing.

Striking a pose

It's a delicate balance to get it right, but salespeople who are good at mimicry and practice these techniques in a conscious manner will learn, after a while, to do it intuitively.

Move like a synchronized swimmer through the waters of conversation, and you can eliminate any suspicion that you are using mimicry to persuade or seduce.

Psychologists have found that these techniques are especially effective because you, the mimic, have a stake in the success of the product or service being sold. This can serve to assuage customers' fears and help them be more enthusiastic as well.

By the end of the interview, clients may even be convinced that your value-adds are something they can't live without.

Subtle mimicry can hypnotize and, if executed correctly, put you immediately on the same wavelength with your merchant. Scientists have shown that it draws on and activates brainwaves involved in feelings of empathy and compassion.

Doing it right

When you mimic in a good way, it communicates a sense of delight and pleasure. Furthermore, positive mimicry may instill a sort of social high that can be a boon to your sales.

A pleasant conversation underscored with subconscious reinforcements will certainly give you a better chance with potential clients; they will not be feeling the sense of desperation or forcefulness merchants normally associate with sales professionals.

Of course, sometimes social mimicry can go awry. But by staying within appropriate social parameters, you avoid what can be misconstrued as mockery.

When successfully executed, clients won't recoil from your discreet mimicking of speech and body language, and a strong social bond may develop in those first crucial moments of a sales call.

The rules change if there is a wide cultural gap between two people, but for most, restrained mimicry becomes a form of flattery, the physical dance of charm itself. And when it works, an MLS won't have to resort to that old standby - the foot in the door. end of article

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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