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“The Sleeper Effect” and Sales

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When selling any type of product or service, most sales people will argue that your chances of a sale are directly linked to your ability to convince someone of the value or benefit immediately. When a prospect shows uncertainty or does not seem to be very interested, sales people tend to give up because of the perceived disinterest displayed by the consumer. Although focusing your attention on a different prospect may seem be the logical thing to do, Lead360 has always pushed the importance of consistently nurturing these types of prospects in the hope that they will eventually be convinced and then convert.

It’s no secret that studies performed by Leads360 and many other sources have proven that this practice is an effective means of increasing your conversion ratio, but what really the science behind seemingly disinterested consumers making complete “180’s” with their attitudes?

PsyBlog recently explored this intriguing concept in an article entitled “Persuasion: The Sleeper Effect.” In this piece, the author explains how during WWII the US department of War set out to test whether or not propaganda films were actually influencing soldier’s attitudes. Interestingly enough, psychologists found that while they sometimes strengthened the view the soldiers had before seeing the film, “they were extremely unlikely to make soldiers more optimistic about the war in general “(Hovland et al, 1949).

Or did they?

Although the films initially seemed like a failure, “the researchers found that was that some of the films did have an effect on soldiers after months had passed. While attitudes didn’t change immediately, subtle shifts were picked up nine weeks later. US soldiers who watched one film about The Battle of Britain showed little extra sympathy towards the British five days later, but, after nine weeks, they had softened. Yale University’s Carl Hovland and colleagues called this the ’sleeper effect’.”

This so called “sleeper effect” is a particularly difficult concept for people to grasp simply because it seems to defy common logic. As PsyBlog puts it, “Persuasion should really be strongest just after a message is delivered. Over time the persuasive effect should weaken as people’s attitudes return to how they were before—and this is what many other studies have shown.”

Granted, this may be true, but research has proven that the “sleeper effect” does exist, but just under two types of circumstances.

1. “Big initial impact: the sleeper effect only emerges if the persuasive message has a major initial impact. If it isn’t powerful enough, it won’t hunker down in our minds, biding its time before it boomerangs back.”

2. “Message discounting: it should be obvious that the source of the message can’t be trusted so that we discredit it; like when the soldiers were watching the propaganda film.”

So what does this mean for sales people?

Sales people should always strive to contact consumers immediately after they express interest. By following this approach, you are more likely to convert consumers who are ready to purchase, and make a lasting impact on those who are not. As the sleeper effect dictates, although a prospect may initially discount your message because they haven’t established trust with the source (you), “over time people forget they discounted the information, and the content of the persuasive message, which was processed thoroughly, does its devilish work.”

Besides attempting to contact first, sales people should also consistently nurture consistently over time to try to help the “sleeper effect” take hold more quickly. Subtle reminders can help a prospect along, and can help you close more deals.

(Source: PsyBlog)

Pass the Beans!

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