We have said that a sale is a psychological process. The underlying operation consists of a contact of two minds, a mingling of their interests and a meeting of their motives. You approach your prospect and bring his mind into touch with yours on the subject of life insurance. Now your task is to produce a mixing of his thoughts with yours- not a mere compound, as the chemists would say in the case of oil and water- but a true blend as with water and wine. Finally, you must focus his thought, crystallized into Desire and Resolve, upon the act of purchase.
A simple metaphor will make this idea clearer. The phases of a sale may be likened to two streams coming together from different directions, commingling at the confluence, flowing on through one bed, and ultimately emptying into a lake.
The most constant and pervasive influences in our daily life are what psychologists call dispositions and associated ideas. They color our emotions, affect our sentiments, modify our actions and permeate our thoughts. Only an absolutely new experience or sensation, if such a thing were possible to an adult, could be free from the effect of an acquired disposition and, even so, might be influenced by an inherited one.
Every experience must create a more or less strong disposition toward or against its repetition. When you first brought your hand into contact with fire, you burnt it. At the same time you acquired a disposition to avoid contact with fire and ever since, fire has been associated in your mind with danger and pain.
Both these processes are sometimes quite complex and subtle. While there are variations and marked exceptions, the vast majority of dispositions and associated ideas are universal. For practical purposes these are the only kind that we can take into account, though, of course, we would not neglect to take advantage of the knowledge of an idiosyncrasy in dealing with an individual.
Before I begin to speak to the agents at our Monday morning meetings, why do they assume an attitude of receptive attention? Because they have had the experience of being interested on past occasions. But there is no process of reasoning involved in the matter. At previous times we have assembled at 8:45 and enjoyed interesting discussions. Again we come together. The hands of the clock point to 8:45. I step to my place. The physical conditions are repeated and involuntarily the associated idea of interest springs out of a predisposition.
A yellow rag hanging from a window produces a disagreeable effect upon you. Why?
Because it is associated with yellow fever, quarantine, bile and other objectionable matters. The yellow cloth may arouse the sensation without a definite impression of any of these things being created.
The association of ideas may be entirely independent of deliberate reasoning or volitional thought. Bear that in mind. If you would test this, clap your hands behind the back of a three-months old baby. It will smile instantly and display evidence of pleasurable anticipation. Why? Because in its experience persons who clap their hands make funny faces at it and talk to it in goo-goo language.
Now try your experiment on a different subject. Clap your hands suddenly in the street car and watch the pained expression come into the face of the sleepy little cash girl. In her case the associated idea conjured up by the sound is an unpleasant one.
In the association of ideas you have the key to successful salesmanship. You will find suggestion more effective than direct appeal.
I want to impress upon you the fact that whether you will or not, predisposition and the association of ideas must be constantly operating in your canvass of a life insurance policy. If you take no account of them, they will be working against you, as often as in your favor. You must play upon this force, control it, direct it so that it shall serve your purpose. Regard for the effects of associated ideas will regulate your actions and your speech, and that to the extent of what you may consider insignificant trifles. It will influence your presentation of a proposition, your arguments and your statements. The practice of regarding the association of ideas will necessarily create the habit of keeping on the prospect's side of the fence throughout the course of a canvass. It will confirm you in the chess player's strategy of prefacing every move by an inspection of its effect upon the opponent's position and a calculation of his logical counteraction.
Otherwise inconsequential actions may, through the association of ideas, work serious injury to you in your business. We shall consider this subject in its direct bearing on the various phases of a sale. At the present time we must be content with a few illustrations of the general application of this principle.
The principle under consideration is constantly violated or ignored in our speech. We commonly excite an adverse train of thought by speaking of "lapse" when we might resort to a favorable suggestion by referring to the same condition as "selling the policy to the company." If instead of talking of "paying premiums," we should use the term "making deposits" we would arouse the associated idea of saving. In scores of other instances we either use words disadvantageously or neglect to employ those which would serve our object. I recommend, as a thoroughly practical measure, that you make from Roget's Thesaurus, or some other dictionary of synonyms and antonyms, collections of words expressing the ideas that enter prominently into our work,- protection, profit, thrift, security, and so forth, as well as their contraries. Learn to incorporate one set in your canvasses and to avoid the use of the other.
Now let us see how the principle of asso-ciatd ideas may influence your presentation of a policy and your arguments in favor of it.
You are canvassing a school teacher and offer the Monthly Income Endowment, dwelling on the certainty of periodical checks. Your proposition immediately creates the pleasant suggestion of the continuance of his salary. And don't overlook the fact that your prospect will imagine that he originated the idea and as a consequence it will be much more effective than if you had presented it. You are in the strategic situation of the chess-player who prompts his adversary to make the very move he most desires that he should.
Or, in the case of the business man, the mere mention of the word "collateral" will give birth to comfortable thought of easy loans and a reserve resource in time of necessity. You will not need to do more than introduce the expression briefly. Let the everlasting action of the association of ideas do the rest.
Don't treat your prospect as a mental incompetent. Don't try to do his thinking for him. Suggest and let him do the rest. The trouble with most of us is that, like the parrot which came to an untimely end, we "talk a damn sight too much." The masterful salesman induces the purchaser to sell himself. The most eloquent passages in his canvass are the pauses of silence.
Let me repeat, in the universal mental tendency which we term the association of ideas you have a tremendous force at your command. You may play upon it as on the keys of a piano, producing discord or harmony, harshness or melody. Play upon it you must, consciously or unconsciously, one way or the other. If you can not avoid its effect upon your effort it would seem to be the part of wisdom to turn that effect to your advantage.