You Just Can’t Reason With People

Whether you’re trying to seduce or sell — or even win a debate — the use of reason should be a last resort. This seems counterintuitive, since we typically think of ourselves as rational creatures. We assume we make buying decisions based on good information. And we assume that the kind of selling that works on us, should work on everyone else.

But science says we overestimate our own use of reason, especially when it comes to money (and especially when dealing with intangibles like service or experience).

Think back to the last big purchasing decision you made. Or (better yet), think back to the last major purchasing decision a friend made. When discussing it later, were the justifications based on hard data? Did you (or your friend) say, “Doe, Blah, & Associates has an 82% success rate in cases similar to mine, and their performance is rated above industry average, according to third party studies,” or did you say, “I just trust them. They seem to know what they’re doing. I like the guy working on my case. He has a degree from Harvard.”

The language of justification is subjective. It’s the language of “like,” “trust,” and “nice” — based on feelings and intuitions rather than information.

How do clients justify choosing (or not choosing) you? Remember: professional qualifications matter, but only at a basic level. Better to be personable and competent than an aloof expert.

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