There is an old franchise sales joke: “Did you hear about the attorney who also sold franchises? He killed all his own deals.” But that wouldn’t be the case. Why? Because franchise attorneys studied Aristotle. Aristotle taught extensively about effective communication, especially how to influence others’ views. So effective were his techniques that are still being taught to philosophy and law students today. Salespeople can use the same techniques to overcome objections and influence a buyer’s decisions.
Aristotle said all persuasive arguments have 3 common elements and gave these elements really cool names (which suspiciously sound like the names of the Three Musketeers)
Ethos means the person delivering the message has to appear credible and likeable, and preferably should not have attended public schools. Aristotle for instance maintained a reputation for being a highly credible source of information to people of his day because rumor had it, he was trained by the nuns. In addition, the name “Aristotle” is a “smart name.” People knew anyone named “Aristotle” had to be an irritating egghead. “Aristotle” was to the ancient Greeks what “Poindexter” or “Eugene” is to people today. Keep in mind it is only recently “Aristotle” has been downgraded to a dog’s name.
Also, he knew the Ancient Greek roots to most of the words he used.
Lastly, he wore a toga. Back then, togas were the Greek equivalent of donning a cardigan sweater and Harris Tweed sport coat with suede elbow patches and sporting a monocle.
In addition to being credible, he taught effective communicators also needed to be relatable or likeable. Aside from being intelligent, Aristotle was also known for possessing dry wit. When students praised his superior intellect, he would often say things like, “Hey, don’t put me too high up on a pedestal. I don’t want you to look up my toga!”
And he retained his credibility throughout his life time, largely because without the internet, no one exposed his blatant plagiarism of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.
Logos means an effective communicator has to be rational. The person delivering the communication needs to make sense and draw logical conclusions from the available data. The communicator can use data, logic, and sound reasoning to prove one’s point, disprove another’s point, or challenge the status quo. Rational buyers faced with more intelligent solutions than they are currently using will often gravitate towards the better solution as long as their budget allows. For example, at one time public schools used to teach Phonics to elementary school children. Then one day a text book company came out with “the whole language” approach to teaching English. Needing to make their quotas, text book salespeople eagerly pointed out to school boards, “If Phonics is so important, why do they spell it ‘phonics’ instead of ‘fonix?’” Nodding in agreement at their flawless logic, school board members eagerly snatched up the new text books like drunk fraternity brothers grabbing for the last slice of pizza.
Pathos means the communicator should craft a message which leaves the listener emotionally engaged. If the listener cannot personally connect to what is being said, the communication gets filtered out or the person delivering the communication gets summarily dismissed. For instance, in the movie Annie Hall, Alvy Singer (played by Woody Allen) snuck into bedroom during a friend’s party to watch a New York Knicks Game. Annie Hall (played by Diane Keaton) happened upon him and sat down to watch the game and strike up a conversation. Looking for common ground, Alvy asked her if she liked or played sports. Annie Hall replied, “I swim.” Alvy flippantly responded, “Swimming isn’t a sport. It’s what you do so you don’t drown.” Alvy couldn’t give a flying fig about swimming so Annie Hall didn’t score any points with him. Maybe this isn’t a great example because as the movie progressed, they ended up having a love affair. But in the end they had a painful break up so maybe it’s a great example after all.
In conclusion, if you follow Aristotle’s three simple rules, you will always have sales success.
- Don’t name your child Poindexter or your dog Aristotle, even if it’s a smart kid or dog.
- If you wear a toga, keep your legs crossed when sitting.
- Remember “creativity” is just another way of saying “undetected plagiarism.” Don’t worry about crediting your sources. Like Aristotle, may you can become rich and famous and chances are you won’t get caught.
And finally, learn to swim. Water safety is no laughing matter.