So far, he had gotten me to answer a question in agreement and to bump his fist. These actions are designed to establish rapport. And it is a really good thing to do when you're a sales Dudeguy coming in cold. Look at how much we already agree on!!!
Dudeguy now moves to describe why he's talking to me on my porch on a hot day.
He is going door-to-door selling magazines. An absurd concept in today's age of everything at your fingertips. His opening question was a well-designed acknowledgment of the absurdity of this entire situation. And yet here we are.
He changes our flow with another question. "Where did you go to college?"
"Just down the street form here," I answered, wishing not to give away anything identifying about myself.
"How much would you say that college help you to have discipline?"
"I suspect that for most people college isn't where you learn discipline."
"I agree. That why I'm out here. I came from Michigan and I am here going door-to-door to sell magazines. It's something I do to develop discipline and it helps me to support my son back home. It's... (blah blah blah)". Dudeguy pulls some papers from his back pocket and hands them to me. He continues talking but I zone out while inspecting the small bundle of papers in a folder. The first sheet describes who this man is and includes a full physical description of the person. The second sheet has some description of points and magazine subscription sizes.
The third sheet is a short list of people on honey-colored cardpaper. The list is hand-written by a few different hands. Each line has a name and a number of points and a comment. One comment says that the sales person was well-spoken.
"...Oh you can have a look at that! Those are your neighbors who decided to buy." said Dudeguy. This gentleman is here on a disciplined act to build himself, take care of his son, and he has social proof of acceptance from my own neighbors! Actually, I don't know most of my neighbors so they could have been anyone from any town. But maybe they start a fresh sheet each day.
The pitch so far involves rapport, social proof of the local sort, and your impulse to be helpful toward someone who is trying to do something right.
The Pull of Moral Gravity
The killer-combo of the pitch is what comes next. Dudeguy knows that the last thing anyone in my neighborhood needs at any price is a magazine. He knows no one is likely to pay for magazines on their porch for themselves.
An indirect approach is what is called for here. A story is called for here. A story about my own good deed for someone else who might really appreciate a magazine.
What he offers is a chance for me, the buyer, to be magnanimous: If I don't need magazines myself, I can donate magazine subscriptions to a local hospital for veterans or burn victims or children. They'll take care of all of the details. All I have to do is write a check.
This is pretty smart, actually. A geniune, crafty, curveball. A LOT of people feel some amount of respect for veterans. In fact, one might even say that there is a debt that can never be repaid for veterans. And burn victims are just helpless poor souls. Who wouldn't want to give them a break?
We often hear the term "moral highground" used to describe when a person occupies a position and makes an argument that has advantages given the cultural and moral ideas that are in fashion. I think that term is close to describing the situation here but usually when we speak of the moral highground it's because someone is taking a swipe at someone else. This isn't an attack, it's just a bit of manipulation.
We need a new term. Let's call it, Moral Gravity. Moral gravity when a position has a favorable moral positioning (because of the ideas that are already in your head about good and evil) for something they want you to do or stop doing. Being on one side or the other of moral gravity is the difference between rolling a large stone downhill vs. uphill.
Donating to veterans or victims has the benefit of moral gravity on its side. Veterans and victims are easy to imagine. We may not all imagine the same thing but we can picture something. And they are easily placed in the category of being worthy of generosity for most people.
Most people would rather think of themselves as generous than stingy. They like to think of themselves as altruistic rather than selfish. Hello, Moral Gravity, my old friend! And if I, as a person, haven't thought too hard about this, then I will tend to compensate for my usual pattern of self-interested behavior with poorly thought-out random acts that are specifically designed not to benefit myself. Hello, altruism!
But the devil of altruism is always in the detail of whether the act is a clear benefit to the my designated beneficiary. And frankly, I don't have the time to give this a lot of thought on the porch.
And this is why you don't make decisions on your porch with some sales Dudeguy chewing on your ear. (Frankly, this is why altruism is a trump-card of sales Dudeguy manipulation)
Three Parties Are Better Than Two
The person who created Dudeguy's pitch was smart to invoke the power of veterans and victims in hospitals as an easy-to-visualize beneficiary. **And** he/she was also smart to make this a three-party transaction and to put themselves at the apex of the three parties.
- Uber is a three-party transaction: you, driver, uber.
- AirBNB is a three-party transaction: you, homeowner, airbnb.
- Google is a three-party transaction: you, search-engine, advertiser.
- The examples go on: Ebay, Visa/Mastercard, Facebook
The middle-man consistently makes a lot of money in these three-party transactions.