The SCIENCE Of Selling With Our SUBCONSCIOUS

John Bargh is a social psychologist and a Professor of Psychology at Yale University.

In this fascinating episode of The Salesman Podcast, John shares how we can master our subconscious to influence other people and use it as a tool to improve ourselves.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - John Bargh
Social Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Yale University

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Come and go up on this episode of this Salesman Podcast.

 

John Bargh:

So that means we’re really open to experience and to learning as soon as we’re born, little kids imitate like crazy. They do what their parents and their caretakers and siblings do. They don’t know any better. They think this is what used to do and so they’re just constantly soaking up the right and wrong thing to do. Cultural influences in the United States, for example, for a long time racist kinds of influences are there in the culture. They’re there in our popular television shows.

 

Will Barron:

Hello Sales Nation. I’m Will Barron, host of the Salesman Podcast, the world most listened to B2B sales show. If you haven’t already, make sure that you click subscribe. Join Sales Nation today and with that, let’s meet today’s guest.

 

John Bargh:

My name is John Bargh. I’m a professor at Yale University. I’ve been academic psychologist at NYU and then Yale for over 35 years. I started in the 1970s and was interested in the question of free will. I was interested in the question of what can science tell us about out how much free will we really have in our lives. There wasn’t any actual science on that, so I started doing that research and I’ve written a book about it. The name of the book is Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do. It is on Amazon, it’s hopefully in bookstores.

 

Will Barron:

On this episode with the legend that is John, who is a genuine researcher at Yale University. We’re diving into unconsciousness, essentially how our conscious reacts with our unconscious or subconscious. How we can manipulate it to improve ourselves and improve our sales performance and how our unconscious essentially communicate through other people’s unconscious, without us even realising. There’s a whole lot more, this is an incredible episode, I really enjoyed recording it. I hope you’re going to get a lot out of it as well. So let’s jump right in.

 

How Much of Our Daily Lives is Unconscious Rather Than Conscious? · [01:49] 

 

Will Barron:

How much of our day to day lives, if there’s a number that can be put on it is down to the unconscious rather than what we think that we’re doing with our conscious brains?

 

“Our conscious thoughts and our conscious reasoning and all of that doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from unconscious processes. And our unconscious processes largely come from our conscious experiences and our conscious thinking.” – John Bargh · [02:33] 

 

John Bargh:

Absolutely. That is the question. Our unconscious influences are there all the time. They’re really in the background guiding what we do consciously. And people always have this iceberg metaphor for conscious, it’s a little bit off top that you can see, and then this huge amount of ice underneath it’s unconscious. I don’t like that metaphor because it’s static. And really what’s going on here is this dynamic cyclic kind of thing. I think of dolphins being in the water, but also needing air to breathe and coming out of the water and then going back down in the water in a cyclic manner, because our conscious thoughts and our conscious reasoning and all of that doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from unconscious processes. And our unconscious processes largely come from our conscious experiences and our conscious thinking.

 

John Bargh:

So the two influence each other very synergistically or dynamically, one influences the other. And a lot of times our conscious experience of how we feel about something comes from our recent experience, our evolutionary kinds of things. The unconscious influences on us often colour are interpretations that are made consciously. So it’s very interconnected and dynamic and going on all the time. 

 

Our Subconscious Activities That Are Often Misconceived as Conscious Actions · [03:10] 

 

Will Barron:

So I think everyone will be familiar, you’ve probably used this example and you’re probably sick of hearing it, of we drive somewhere, we’re familiar with the journey, we get them, heck we’ve got aim, not paid attention to anything along the way, but we’ve got there safe. With that said, we understand that John, and perhaps even the business context or in a person to person context, is there anything we’re doing subconsciously, which we perhaps misconceived that we think we’re doing consciously?

 

John Bargh:

Often what we think we’re doing for one reason is really for an ulterior motive. I see that all the time. We all see it all the time in cases that are conflict of interest or corruption or this Me Too movement and all of that, where someone thinks they’re doing something that’s very normal or very okay to do and everyone else around them, it’s smells like dead fish. I mean, it seems like the only person who doesn’t get that there’s something really wrong here is the person doing it. And yet they’re doing it so outwardly and overtly and in public and it’s just amazing how could this person just do these things so without even trying to hide what they’re doing? And it’s often because we’re not really that aware of our own motivations, we’re very aware of the motivations of others.

 

John Bargh:

And let me just drive that point home in a way that I think will very compelling for all of us. All these intractable conflicts and politics or between two countries and all of that, everyone always thinks that they’re being objective and they’re being just very calm and cool and collected and objective about the situation. If the other person disagrees with you, they must be motivated. Because if they were objective, they see it the same way you do. And so when you hear these conflicts, the longstanding ones between nations or whatever, you often just there’s no possible way to talk to the other side because you just so believe you’re being objective. And that is because we don’t understand or experience our own motivations and how they influence how we are understanding things, but we’re very good at experiencing the motivations of other people.

 

“The vibe between people is that we’re not aware of our motivations and yet we’re very sensitive to those of other people.” – John Bargh · [05:25] 

 

John Bargh:

And actually this leads into some interesting things with business and so forth that I’d like to get into. But that to me is the big break, the vibe between people is that we’re not aware of our motivations and yet we’re very sensitive to those of other people.

 

Does Free Will Really Exist if All We’re Doing is Rationalising Things? · [05:35] 

 

Will Barron:

So, well, come on [inaudible 00:05:33] second, I’ve got one final thing that I think will tee up the conversation here, John. This is sort of in the I don’t know if this is true, or if it’s been, I assume it’s been studied but it’s how I can contemplate some of this, because we can go down many rabbit holes here whether it’s studyable or whether it’s almost like philosophy. But can we think of this almost like we’ve got the subconscious running in the background, doing all the process that [inaudible 00:06:00] alive. Could consciousness then be a way of seeing the reality that facing goes and then almost rationalising it back to ourselves so we don’t go crazy? And in which case, if that’s true, is the real, I’m hesitant to ask this question because this is for our itself, but is there really free will if that’s the case, if all we’re doing is rationalising things?

 

John Bargh:

Yeah. Well, yeah exactly-

 

Will Barron:

I love the sigh of breath there-

 

“In general, we’re not really aware of the impulse to do things. The signals of what to do are coming from unconscious sources. And the purpose of our conscious mind is to interpret what we’re doing and make sense out of it.” – John Bargh · [06:33] 

 

John Bargh:

Yeah. Well the thing is there’ve been a lot of neuroscience studies on this, hypnotism studies on this. And in general, what people are saying is we’re not really aware of the impulse to do things. The signals of what to do are coming from unconscious sources. And our purpose of our conscious mind is to interpret what we’re doing and make sense out of it. So it’s really, we’re building sort of a narrative understanding or story of what we’re doing and why. And of course we’re trying build the most plausible, the most defensible good version of what we do. And we’re doing that for social reasons, that is when people call us on why we did what we did, we have a good reason.

 

“These drivers or impulses that guide what we do come from a source that it’s not conscious choice. Our conscious mind is what’s good at interpreting and building a story and understanding the reasons, but it can often be wrong.” – John Bargh · [07:21] 

 

John Bargh:

We can argue, we can say, well, I really was trying to do this, it’s a very nice defensible reason. But the standard model of this goes back to William James in American psychology in the 1800 and others is that these drives or impulses to guide what we do come from a source that it’s not conscious choice. Our conscious mind is what’s good at interpreting and building a story and understanding the reasons, but it can often be wrong.

 

The Actions of the Subconscious Mind During a Heated Negotiation · [07:34] 

 

Will Barron:

So how much then, and we’ll use the example of a negotiation, perhaps a heated B2B negotiation where we both feel like we want to get a win-win out of it. We both feel like we’re not doing whether you like him or don’t like him for his politics, but we’re not trying to Donald Trump, someone of kind of going with all the leverage. So we both think that we’re in a good place when we start the negotiation. How much of all of this is to two subconsciouses negotiating or through our consciousness, versus how much of the consciousness is involved between that back and forth process?

 

John Bargh:

Right. This is a great point, great question, Will, because some of these influences are not on how we think, but on how we value things. So we often like somebody, let’s say they’re physically attractive. This is a big study that was actually done in Italy about five years ago with 12,000 job applications to real jobs. And they put photographs on the applications and they manipulated them to be an attractive or unattractive or no photograph. And in the case of women, it was unbelievable. Exact same resume, 57% of the time got called for an interview if it had an attractive photo, 7% of the time with an unattractive photo.

 

John Bargh:

Now, the people who are deciding who to interview and hire would say, no, no, no, we don’t do that. We don’t base it on things like just physical attractiveness and yet the data show that it was a hugely influential thing. But what might be going on is that the brain just activates the reward centres of the brain, just activate when we see attractive people, beautiful scenery, good tasting food. The reward centre is lighting up. Well, then we read the application and we have this good feeling and we misattribute the good feeling to something about the application. Oh, the letters of recommendation, the job experience, whatever it is, we have the good feeling and we don’t really know the source.

 

“Oftentimes in negotiations, we may feel that this is the right thing to do and it’s really good, but do not realise that the value of it comes from what is good for us and what it does for us. And since we’re really bad about locating the sources of these feelings, we can misattribute it to the quality of the proposed solution. And both sides do that and they just can’t understand why the other side doesn’t see it their way.” – John Bargh · [09:32] 

 

John Bargh:

So oftentimes in negotiations or whatever it is, we may feel that this is the right thing to do and really good, but not realise that the value of it comes from what it’s good for us and what it does for us. And since we’re really bad about locating the sources of these feelings, we can misattribute it to the quality of the proposed solution. And both sides do that and they just can’t understand why the other side doesn’t see it their way.

 

How to Manipulate Our Immediate Environments and Influence the Subconscious Mind · [09:57]

 

Will Barron:

Is it possible then seemingly to then consciously, perhaps manipulate our environment so that affects our subconscious so then we get a feedback loop to better results consciously in our reality?

 

John Bargh:

This is the way to go. This is where everything is moving right now. It’s so interesting. People are doing interventions, for example, with obese shoppers who really want to diet and eat healthily. Interventions such as these recipe flyers where you’re handed, when you go into a grocery store right at the beginning, things like that. And if they have words about dieting and healthy eating the obese, not the obese, only the people who have this goal and desire to eat better, healthy and diet buy significantly less snack food. They look at their receipts when they come out of the store. And this was a large scale store study in Holland, in actual grocery stores, significantly reduced their purchasing. So these little nudges and budgets from the outside world that we’re not aware of influencing us, and yet they can influence and they’re being used in these interventions to shape what we do. We can also construct our own environment.

 

John Bargh:

The tricky thing, Will, is it’s the old line about you can’t tickle yourself. If you know you’re doing it, I say, ah, I know what I’m putting this, I don’t know this photograph of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King on my wall to make me a better person, to make me more honest or more generous or more selfless, something like that. And you can do that. I think people should do that because you may know why it’s up there the first day or two, the second day or [inaudible 00:11:44]. After a week, two weeks, it becomes part of the woodwork. It becomes the background. You’ll not be aware of it’s being up there anymore, and then it might have a real effect.

 

Subconscious Interventions: How to Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind · [11:56]

 

Will Barron:

So how can we do this to improve our performance in a sales and business environment? So for example, I could throw a couple of things at you and perhaps we can touch on one that you’ve got an idea on how we can change. So one thing that separates high performing salespeople from the salespeople is the believe some values about money. So people who typically perform well in sales roles are comfortable talking about money. They understand that money doesn’t really exist. It’s just an exchange of value.

 

Will Barron:

And this I’m on the other side of this, how about to teach this to myself over time, just through repetitions, which hopefully isn’t the best way, because it’s been a real pain in the ass to implement. But I had some weird beliefs about money that stemmed from, I assume this is drilled into my subconscious of my dad by him saying things like money doesn’t grow on trees when literally it’s made out of paper. It does literally made out of trees.

 

Will Barron:

So there’s all these weird beliefs that seemingly have been drilled into me at a young age that I’m consciously trying to battle because I know the model of what I’m trying to get to believes this, this, and this has these values and has these unconscious programmes running in the background. So if we stick on that one in particular and perhaps we can dive for a few more, how do you go consciously about reprogram… Let me start from the beginning. How is your unconscious programmed? Are you born with beliefs or is it nature or nurture to get these things that are important to us instilled into us?

 

John Bargh:

Absolutely. Well, there’s a lot packed into that question. It certainly nurture in the sense that our evolutionary influences are not specific at all to our culture or even our language. We’re not born with the language. We’re not born with the culture. You can take any infant at birth, take them anywhere on planet earth, they will grow up wherever you take them, to speak that language perfectly, to have that culture perfectly and we’re all basically sponges and absorb our culture right from birth, because there’s no way to know what that’s going to be in advance. And evolutionary influences come from a 100,000, 200,000 years ago. There’s no way that the evolutionary influence can predict and anticipate what conditions are going to be like when the person is born the same genes in all cases.

 

“We’re really open to learning as soon as we’re born. Little kids imitate like crazy. They do what their parents and their caretakers and siblings do. They don’t know any better. They think this is what they’re supposed to do, and so they’re just constantly soaking up the right and wrong thing to do.” – John Bargh · [14:09] 

 

John Bargh:

So that means we’re really open to experience into learning as soon as we’re born. Little kids imitate like crazy. They do what their parents and their caretakers and siblings do. They don’t know any better. They think this is what used to do, and so they’re just constantly soaking up the right and wrong thing to do. Cultural influences in the United States, for example, for a long time, racist kinds of influences are there in the culture. They’re there in our popular television shows and well-meaning people who would find it a abhorrent and appalled that they were participating in the transmission of these beliefs yet they still do. It’s like, we don’t realise we’re doing it. And so kids are watching this, soaking it up all the time.

 

John Bargh:

And the other thing you touched on was your early experience with your parents about the value of money and the work ethic and what we call here the [inaudible 00:15:00] protestant work ethic, the Calvin’s kind of idea that you earn your place in heaven by how hard you work on earth. And all of that is ideological and cultural. It’s been around in our country, our culture since the 1600 and it’s still very much a part of what makes the United States the way it is today.

 

“We soak these things up when we’re young. But the thing is, it’s very hard for us to come up with a memory of anything before we were four years, five years of age. Well, that doesn’t mean nothing happened all those years, there was a tremendously influential time period in our mind when we were soaking up the norms and rules, what’s right and wrong, everything else and yet we don’t have any explicit memory for it. So those things can influence the rest of our lives and we have no chance of knowing that they’re influencing us because we can’t remember any of them.” – John Bargh · [15:07] 

 

John Bargh:

We soak these things up when we’re young. The thing is if you try and if your watchers, your listeners will try, very hard for us to come up with a memory of anything before we were four years, five years of age. Well, that doesn’t mean nothing happened all those years, there was a tremendously influential time period on us, on our mind when we were soaking up the norms and rules, what’s right and wrong, everything else and yet we don’t have any explicit memory for it. So those things can influence the rest of our lives. We have no chance at knowing that they’re influencing us because we can’t remember any of them.

 

John Bargh:

So all of that early experience of that you get these beliefs, that’s a great example of how you value money or value whatever it is you value. But that’s where they come from and yet we take them for granted like the water the fish swims in, the air we breathe, without realising how much of that is really just, and in some sense, arbitrary. It’s culturally transmitted. There’s no absolute right or wrong to it.

 

Will Barron:

In that case then, so that belief I had about money I’ve had to change and a great resource is speaking to super intelligent people like yourself, John, for this show and hopefully the audience through me get mentoring from people that it’d be very difficult to get access to otherwise. So I feel like people every now and again will say something and it’ll stick and it’ll remember it and it’ll come to me in moments when perhaps that belief has been shaken or rocked and then I can consciously keep repeating it to myself.

 

Neuroplasticity and the Power of the Subconscious Mind · [16:55] 

 

Will Barron:

So what I want to come on to any strategies that are scientifically shown to improve this, and maybe it’s visualisation or [inaudible 00:16:55], but we’ll come on to that in a second. But before that he said something really interesting, that children are like sponges. Is there an element to this neuroplasticity where, and every time I Google this, it seems the research goes one way or the other of we have more neuroplasticity as a child that we do as an adult. And I have some research that says, we have a constant neuroplasticity and it depends on diet and other things as well. But is it, I think set in stone as a child and more difficult to change when we’re adults, or is it an even playing field throughout our lives as with regards to the plasticity of our subconscious.

 

John Bargh:

You, you’re absolutely right. This is an evolving research field and things do change and what I might say now might be wrong five, 10 years from now. So the best information we have right now is there’s definitely an early plasticity period. And that is where the mind is shaped, associations are developed. We have our classic, I call them classic, but our study about holding a cup of coffee, which gives you a feeling of warmth, which then actually extends to feeling warm metaphorically towards other people and feeling more trust and generosity toward them and all that, but caused by the physical experience of warmth. Well, that actually comes from our experience as mammals and all mammals share this of breastfeeding and being held close to our caretaker. Now, who is our caretaker? The person giving us nourishment, holding us, protecting us, giving us bodily warmth, which is necessary for survival is also the person we trust and watching out for us. So the idea of physical warmth and social warmth are actually connected in our actual experience when we’re very young and this is actually true of all mammals that breastfeed. 

 

John Bargh:

So that’s an association. That is a connection that’s hard wired actually in all people around earth, in planet earth, and it comes from our early experience. And that is when our brain is most plastic in forming these connections and associations of what leads to what, what things go together. And that’s the basics for all the new concept and learning we make the rest of our life, it’s scaffolded or built on that very early foundation.

 

John Bargh:

But they’re also talking about a new plastic period, I totally believe this one too, that’s around age 13 to 16. And there’s this old line that whatever music you like when you’re 13 and 14 is what you’re going to like the rest of your life. Me it’s Led Zeppelin. It’s like, that’s what, 1968, 1969, when it was just hitting and starting and boy, that’s definitely the music I still love today. Yeah, there is some exceptions. You can grow, we can be a collectic in everything, but there is this cultural plasticity period when we’re about to leave the nest and go out on our own into the world as individual adults, with our own tastes and ability to do what we want and that’s the age 13 to 16. And so that early period of very early infancy toddlerhood, and then this sort of teenager type period are the two main plastic periods that I know of.

 

Beliefs Versus the Subconscious Mind and How They Influence Our Consciousness · [19:50] 

 

Will Barron:

And John is all this binary? And what I mean by that is if all mammals feel warm or associate warmth with love or however we want to define it, is that a yes or no, or are the layers to it all? For example, if we look at our belief of money, is do we have a belief on money or is the 20 believes of money and then our subconscious is it’s programming around all these different almost like an algorithm to come up with what then bubbles up to our consciousness?

 

John Bargh:

Yeah. Well, again, there’s at least three good questions that packing to that one question. This is a new field, I think it’s fascinating and it’s really the last 10 years maybe, but it’s absolutely fascinating called epigenetics. The epigenetics is finding that well, it used to be that people said you can’t pass along acquired characteristics. So if someone has an accident, loses a limb, they don’t have children and then that child doesn’t have the limb either, I mean, it’s not how it works. So we used to laugh at theories that said that you could pass along characteristics you acquired in your life. So if I study and gets to be smart, does that mean I pass it along for free to my kids? No. That’s not how it works.

 

John Bargh:

But there is something of about early experience. And when you ask about the effective warmth, physical warmth, and it turns out that it’s not there for everybody. And why is that? Well, warmth means you can trust the other person. Well, when you’re a little kid, it might be a life or death decision on your part to trust somebody or not. You do have to trust your helpless at the same you can’t just trust everybody wander off from your parents and trust whoever might even be an animal. You can’t do that. You got to stay close to home and the people who really do have your back, otherwise you get eaten and you don’t survive to reproduce. So it turns out that if the mother-child or the father-child bond is not really there, and unfortunately for many kids, that’s not, you really can’t count on mom or dad to be there when you need them. And unfortunately, our kids who go through that by age one, they measure, there’s a way of measuring how attached children are bonded to their parent. At age one, 12 months, that predicts how bonded you are at age one. They followed these people now into their 20s. They had more friends in grade school, they were more popular in high school, they have fewer relationship breakups in their 20s, all predicted by how closely bonded they were to their parents at age one.

 

“Our attachment and early learning of, can you trust other people, is based on their first 12 months of life. It’s actually a programme within us that tells us we can, or we can’t trust people later in life. So it’s like a switch that gets set, but only if you can trust the people around you. And it’s adaptive, because if you can’t trust the people around you at age one, it’s basically saying you can’t trust people the rest of your life.” – John Bargh · [22:21] 

 

John Bargh:

So our attachment and our early learning of can you trust other people based on their first 12 months of life actually is a programme within us that tells us we can, or we can’t trust people later in life. And then it turns out that the warmth priming effect that happens for most people does not happen if the child was not attached to their parent at age one. So it’s like a switch that gets set, but only if you can trust the people around you. And it’s adaptive, because if you can’t trust the people around you at age one, it’s basically saying you can’t trust people the rest of your life.

 

Can We Change the Beliefs We Developed Before Age One? · [23:01] 

 

Will Barron:

And is that then set in stone and we can touch on perhaps, I don’t know how deep we need to go into neurochemistry and like [inaudible 00:23:09] of different things and that and repeating a process over and over and over and the feedback loops on it. But is that set in stone, because that seems like I came… Very fortunate I was brought up with great parents. Got two brothers, really good family life. All very average and perfect. So perhaps I’m not the best person to dive deep into anyone who didn’t grow up in an environment like that. But as a way to wrap up this point here, is this set in stone? What I’m getting at John is, is it set in stone? If so, it’s just a case of accepting it and working on it. If it isn’t set in stone, how can we change this, perhaps?

 

“People don’t change unless they want to change. If they don’t want to change they’re never going to change.” – John Bargh · [24:00] 

 

John Bargh:

Yeah. Well, it’s not set in stone in the sense that it can never be changed, but it is difficult to change it. And then you have all these kinds of therapy issues, like for example, people don’t change unless they want to change. If they don’t want to change, for example, if they are sure they’re right that people aren’t to be trusted, they’re never going to change. And there’s countless, countless books on relationships, countless books on people who are rejecting who are sure that their partner is having affairs or is about to break up with them and they break up with them first so that they don’t have to wait for the breakup they know is coming. A whole field of relationship science in psychology is all about people who have these attachment problems. And certainly there’s ways to overcome them. So it’s not set in stone in the sense that there’s never anything you can do about it, but it is difficult. And it really means having to really fight back the gut feelings you have about other people and the intuitions you have.

 

John Bargh:

And I think the one way to do that is for us to realise that these things were going on when we were children and we just don’t know that they did or didn’t happen. And so we have to be open to the fact that we might have been shaped or influenced by these early experiences and to say you know what, I have to really fight back the feeling I have, that I can’t trust my partner, that they’re going to break up with me. I really have to just really try hard to overcome that. And if they do that, then they’re going to have a better chance of long lasting relationships.

 

John Bargh:

But it’s like you have this gut feeling, and we really people trust those gut feelings. If you have a dream the day before you go on a aeroplane trip, and in the dream, the aeroplane crashed, people don’t go on the flight. I mean, it’s like they trust these intuitions and dreams as if there’s some kind of supernatural message and anything that comes to our mind unbidden. The old days, it was like God talking to us. And now we know maybe that’s not what’s going on, but anything that comes to our mind unbidden is trusted more than it should may be maybe, but as if it’s a message from fate or message from…

 

“When we have these feelings, we can’t trust somebody, these gut feelings. They may be coming from when we were one year old and not from this person in front of us at all. And yet it’s very hard to fight that feeling because we tend to trust it and believe it anyway.” – John Bargh · [26:01] 

 

John Bargh:

So when we have these feelings, we can’t trust somebody, these gut feelings. They may be coming from when we were one year old and not from this person in front of us at all. And yet it’s very hard to fight that feeling because we tend to trust it and believe it anyway.

 

Data on the Percentage of Positive Outcomes Stemming from Gut-Influenced Decisions and Choices · [26:18] 

 

Will Barron:

Is there any data on whether gut feelings and following that lead to good outcomes because in the business world, and I do this as a sales professional, as an entrepreneur, I tend to force myself to follow my gut if it’s a 50/50, if it’s a coin flip on the scenario. I always tend to go that way. But I am crazy optimistic and so I could choose not to go with my gut and still put a positive spin on the outcome and have a bias on that, there’s probably a name for that bias, I’m not sure what it is. But is there any data on gut feeling leading to better outcomes than just pure data and logical [inaudible 00:26:53]

 

John Bargh:

Yeah. Yeah. As it turns out, there’s a gigantic literature on this. The people who do research on decision making you, Daniel Kahneman who has that Thinking, Fast and Slow, huge best selling book, tells stories about in 1955, that was a year I was born, but in 1955, he was in the Israeli army and he was involved in figuring out who would be a good leader to be promoted in the army and who not. He was in the psychological assessment unit of the Israeli army in 1955. And he tells this long story of expert judgements being way off and you really can’t trust the intuitions of experts in these fields. And other people though, for example, who study firefighters and how is it the firefighters sort of knows what to do when so quickly about how to combat a fire and make sure it doesn’t spread.

 

John Bargh:

And you put their heads together and they actually came to some consensus about this. People who have to make these intuitive, almost decisions and [inaudible 00:27:58] We have a football player who’s a broadcaster now. We just had our super bowl here last night. And this X quarterback, Tony Romo is known now for predicting plays before they happen with an uncanny accuracy. And he says the same thing. He says, I’m not thinking, I see the pattern in front of me, I know what’s going to happen. And that’s an intuition that he can’t really explain, but it’s based on his experience.

 

“You can trust your gut if you’re an expert with lots of experience and there’s clear feedback to when you’re right versus wrong.” – John Bargh · [28:26] 

 

John Bargh:

And so what the key seems to be is you can trust your gut if you’re an expert with lots of experience and there’s clear feedback to when you’re right versus wrong. So when he’s predicting a play and it’s right or wrong, you can tell. You can see, he knows if it’s right or wrong so he has a feedback loop. The intuitions that don’t seem to work out, or when experts make them as if they’re a clinician saying, oh, this person has these kinds of problems and so forth without clear feedback if that’s really true or not, and on an ongoing basis. So I think we can trust our gut, our expertise intuitions, if we’re in a situation that we do have feedback about what they’re being right or wrong. Those are the cases where we can.

 

John Bargh:

But I’ll give you a case where we can’t. And that is these racist or sexist beliefs that we have from our culture that we soaked up when we were little kids and don’t have memories. We think this person is stupid. We think that person’s lazy or a criminal, or all these things. Those are gut feelings too. Those are intuitions too, and yet we know that they come from culture, they come from in-group out-group kinds of influences. So it’s not, you can say, oh, we should always trust our gut or we should say we never trust our gut. But when it’s a very complicated situation, like all these cues, like when firefighters know which way to go and how to combat the fire and prevent it spreading and they have years of expertise and they had feedback that what works and what doesn’t, that is something they definitely want to trust their gut and they do and they’re good at it. But in cases where you’re just making assumptions about people without ever getting feedback about, are they really stupid? Are they really a criminal? Are they whatever? You never get that feedback. If you did and you were a conscientious person, you’d realise that these are bogus and these aren’t good intuitions, but they come from our guts because of our evolutionary history.

 

Will Barron:

Well, this seems like… And I might actually do this and I’ll publish it alongside the blog post for this episode, John. Seems like a simple experiment we can do if we’re [inaudible 00:30:21] on the phone or going meeting people in person. Or every time you make a good decision, just make a note of what the decision was and the AB outcome, and just monitor ourselves.

 

John Bargh:

Wonderful.

 

Will Barron:

That’d be an interesting experiment to [inaudible 00:30:32]

 

John Bargh:

Wonderful. Absolutely. We can all do that and if we are conscientious about that and do a good job and we can see. I think you’ll see mostly… Here’s another example of this. We really think we know somebody, especially from a photograph. We know their personality just from their photograph. It turns out photographs that aren’t faces and so forth are not diagnostic at all, yet there’s this wonderful Princeton psychologist who’s written a book called Face Value. His name is Alexander Todorov

 

Will Barron:

I’ve spoke to Alexandra on the show before. Yeah.

 

“People make judgements of trustworthiness or competence based on just static photographs. And they make them with an attempt of a second after seeing the photograph and they’re the same decisions they’d make if they gave seven or eight seconds to looking at the photographs.” – John Bargh · [31:09] 

 

John Bargh:

Oh, great. Okay. So you know his research is incredible. What he shows is that people make judgements of trustworthiness or competence based on just static photographs. And they make them with an attempt of a second after seeing the photograph and they’re the same decisions they’d make if they gave seven or eight seconds to looking at the photographs. So we immediately have the sense of competence or of trustworthiness and yet those judgements predict election outcomes, of governor races, Senate races, even in France and in the assembly. And it’s crazy because it means that people who are voting are basing their opinions about competence and trustworthiness really only on the face. So that makes no sense. But then you realise over evolutionary time, we didn’t have photographs. What we had was people in actual action when in doing things in little thin slices of 15 to 30 seconds of how they treated a small child asking for help or how they looked and helped other people who are not. And those 32nd thin slices are predictive and are accurate. Our gut feeling about people when we see them in action, they’re pretty good.

 

How Improve your B2B Sales Outcomes by Dealing with Personal Biases and Beliefs · [32:12] 

 

Will Barron:

So it seems like if we want to translate this to becoming better at B2B sales, the biggest bang for buck, which pulls a lot of this together is to uncover what our blind spots are. But it also seems like we are terrible at doing that. Is there a process, is there a way to measure our thoughts, opinions, and actions, or perhaps we need a 360 degree review by people around us? How would we go about finding out that perhaps with… We are slightly racist because our dad was a racist or we’ve got these biases for whatever reason. How would we suss this out for ourselves?

 

John Bargh:

Yeah. I think that it’s clear when a person is not like you, okay, when they’re a different group, maybe a different gender. I mean when they’re not like you to really not trust these gut feelings you have about them until you see them in action to be very wary about group effects on you. People can do what they want in their own life. But I think when they’re in a position of power or authority, when they’re making a job hiring decision, or they’re deciding who gets into a law school or medical school, or they’re in control of a person’s outcomes, they have to be very careful not to let those kinds of potential biases operate.

 

John Bargh:

In your own life, I think one thing I’ve learned in life is, not to judge people by their cover at all, to really try to get past that. And I used to do in that 20 years ago, some research on internet dating, internet relationships and this was in the ’90s, very crude early days of the internet. And what the research was finding back then was the internet allowing people to join groups to shared interests, common interests, things that… They couldn’t really find all the butterfly collectors in the little town in Iowa, whatever, but they could find people who had the same values and interests over the internet. And they tended to want to get together if they were single or whatever.

 

John Bargh:

And turns out, oh, people laughed at those internet relationships as it wouldn’t survive the first time they see each other in person. But they do. They actually survive longer than face to face meetings. They actually they’re being formed on a deeper level, in a superficial physical attraction. And because of that, they actually last, at least as long and some studies find even longer. [inaudible 00:34:33] you’re getting past those, what we call gating features that often prevent a relationship, friendship from even starting in the first place, because you don’t like the way they look or whatever, not attracted, you don’t even get to know them. And so you get to know them you go beyond that and a lot of really nice friendships and relationships form because of that. You have to get past that barrier we’ve got that we think we know somebody by their cover.

 

Bias Recognition During the B2B Sales Process · [35:00] 

 

Will Barron:

So let’s just wrap up the show, John, by flipping this on its head slightly. So other than be in probably white, good looking, chisel jaw and in shape, which is stuff I discussed with Alex on that show at little while back, what can we do to give ourselves the best chances of not being flagged up by biases in other people? Is there a way that in BSB sales, we want to build long lasting relationships, for example me, deals would take six months to two years to be put together, selling to the NHS here in the UK. Should we be doing anything, dressing in a certain way, acting a certain way so that we aren’t flagged up by these barriers so that we can build deeper relationships with people via a subconscious?

 

John Bargh:

Yes, there are some… This is the thing about my book and I put it all together and I realised at the end of it, someone asked me for some life hacks, like these new year’s resolution magazine articles. Well, what practical life hack advice can you give? And I went through the book and I went, wow. I came up with 17 or 18 and it wasn’t hard at all, and basically because these are the unconscious mechanisms that are inside of all of us. And if you know them, then you can use them. You can make use of them for your own advantage instead of having them randomly influence you. One really great one that turns out with interpersonal friendships and relationships, this really relies on meeting somebody in person, two people negotiating or having a sales meeting or sales call that kind of thing.

 

John Bargh:

When you meet somebody for the first time, I always do this and it’s a bad habit. I’m so worried of about what I’m going to say next, that I’m not listening to them. I’m so thinking inside about what clever witty thing I can say to impress them, but I’m not. That means my intention is diverted inwardly, not paying attention to what they’re saying. And I often even missed their name and that’s really bad. Like they just told me their name and everything and I wasn’t listening, because I was focused on what I was going to say next.

 

John Bargh:

Well, we have this thing called natural imitation and natural mimicry. We do that if we’re paying attention to somebody. If we’re perceiving them, we tend to sort of do the same thing they do with the same facial expressions, the same body language, the same how loud we talk the kind of level of words we use and all that. It’s just natural. That’s part one. We don’t have to try to do it, it just happens naturally.

 

John Bargh:

Part two is if we do that, the other person likes us better, bonds with us and thinks the interaction went more smoothly. If you take all of this and put it together, now, and those have been tested in department stores and in restaurants with higher tips, greater sales. If the salesperson or waitress just mimics back the person’s order or what they’re saying, those simple things increase customer satisfaction. They increase sales by 20%. These are large scale French department stores and so forth and so on.

 

“All you have to do is look at the other person. Don’t try to do anything, just look at them, because if you look at them, what they do is coming into your senses you are perceiving them. That naturally causes you to do the same thing back in a very subtle way, tone and voice, non-verbal expression, body posture, facial expression, all these things. They see that and then they like you more and they bond with you more.” – John Bargh · [38:00] 

 

John Bargh:

We know they work, but why do they work? They work by the following mechanism. All you have to do is look at the other person. Don’t try to do anything, just look at them, because if you look at them, what they do is coming into your senses you are perceiving them. That naturally causes you to do the same thing back in a very subtle way, tone and voice, non-verbal expression, body posture, facial expression, all these things. They see that and then they like you more and they bond with you more.

 

John Bargh:

And actually this is actually being used in law enforcement now. It’s nice because we have the former FBI director who became famous named James Comey who was fired by President Trump and then wrote a book about a higher value or a higher calling. And he talks about his days in the FBI and he says torture, waterboarding, that stuff doesn’t work. It doesn’t give you real information. Person’s just trying to tell you anything to get to stop the torture. He said, what works is rapport. What works is establishing rapport. And what establishes rapport the easiest is just watching, paying attention, taking the other person seriously, treating them with respect, listening to them, because then you do all those natural things back that causes them to notice, hey, you’re like me, you reacted the same way, you’re acting like I do, you’re doing the same things, in a very subtle… So that mechanism alone is worth so much and it’s so simple.

 

“I tell my students in my class this, if you’re meeting somebody for the first time, just look at them. Look at them and pay attention to them. Everything else will follow. It’s an automatic, naturally evolved mechanism you can put to your advantage.” – John Bargh · [39:26] 

 

John Bargh:

I tell my students in my class is this, you meeting somebody for the first time, just look at them. Look at them and pay attention to them. Everything else will follow. It’s an automatic, natural evolved mechanism you can put to your advantage.

 

When Building Rapport, Mirroring is a Process that Should Happen Organically · [39:39]

 

Will Barron:

This is one of the reasons why I’m hesitant. I get pitched a lot from people who are body language experts, people work with the FBI, train the FBI and all these kind of things. I’m most hesitant to have them on in case they go through a list of when they cross their legs you cross yours, or you do this with your arms and wave them around in the air and it’ll be like some kind of magical spell. When I feel, this is a good feeling, sorry, I should drop this down whether it’s accurate or not, but I feel like what you’re saying is easier, less weird and manipulative and seemingly works. Because I know when I consciously catch myself just in a great conversation, we’re kind of going back and forth and mirroring you’re doing all these weird acts and techniques organically, right?

 

John Bargh:

Yes, exactly. And it’s the worst thing you can do is try, because then it’s like Darwin said about emotions and emotional expressions. Yeah, we can fake an emotion, but we don’t do a very good job. It’s only when really experiencing emotion that all these expressions and the signs of that emotion come out naturally. It can be faked, but it’s not a good idea. People are very quick to notice and we’re not, really most of us, very good actors or actresses and we can pull it off. The best thing to do is just let the mechanism work for itself.

 

The Reason Why Actors Are Able to Get Into Character Quite Easily · [40:57] 

 

Will Barron:

And just even on that final point, we’ll wrap up with this John of a lot of actors and actresses put themselves in the position of the person they’re trying to emulate. They’re not going, oh, this individual would wink or move their face, they’re trying to be that individual and let it all happen, that sounds quite wishy-washy and hippy, but they’re trying to let the emotions go through them as opposed to trying to copy them.

 

John Bargh:

Yes. When my daughter was very young, she loved Sesame Street and she loved Elmo, that little red monster, Elmo. Well, Elmo had a friend named Zoe and Zoe was trying to teach Elmo to be a duck, walk like a duck, quack like a duck, and it was just too much for Elmo to handle, too many different things to do at the same time. And Zoe says, “No, no, no, no, you’re doing it the wrong way. Just think to yourself, Elmo is a duck. Elmo is a duck.” And so from inside out, if you think of yourself as being a duck, all the other stuff just naturally follows. You don’t have to try to do each individual thing.

 

John Bargh:

So the way to really be something is, the method approach to method acting, is to become the character inside then all the other superficial signs just flow really naturally and easily. So if you can take the other person’s perspective, really talk yourself into a state that on their side that you want what’s best for them, it’ll all come out very genuinely.

 

The Effectiveness of the “Fake it Till You Make it” Fallacy · [42:20] 

 

Will Barron:

And final thing on this, I think I’ve said final thing about 15 times, but I’m loving the conversation, but genuinely the final thing on this, is there any data on, essentially what we’re talking about here is potentially is faking it until you make it. If I know I want to be an incredible sales professional in five years time from now, and I want to shortcut the process, is it possible to emulate someone to put up myself in their position to think like them, act like them, dress like them, have an environment like them, if they have a clean desk, I have a clean desk. Is there any data on that actually being effective over and anecdotally?

 

John Bargh:

I don’t know. Anecdotally sure, but not data that I’ve seen. I mean, I’ve heard of actors and actresses really living in the town trying to be the Amish person like Harrison Ford did once and try to really to… It’s inside of them. They can call them their internal memories and experiences to generate the actual genuine behaviour. I think that’s a really good idea.

 

“The one thing that we all know if people will follow you or not is the confidence that you exude. And so if you really believe in yourself and believe in what you’re doing from inside, not just superficially, I think people sense that you’re, you’re committed.” – John Bargh · [43:15] 

 

John Bargh:

The one thing that we all know when people will follow you or not is the confidence that you exude. And so if you really believe in yourself and believe in what you’re doing from inside, not just superficially, I think people sense that, that you’re, you’re committed.

 

John Bargh:

People who are minority groups in this societies often have a big impact on the majority. And they’ve traced it to the fact that the majority thinks they must really believe in what they’re saying, because they’re putting up with S blank, blank, blank all the time from everybody else and they’re enduring hardships getting bitten by guard dogs. They must really believe in what they’re doing and so otherwise they wouldn’t do it. And so the confidence and the belief and the certainty that you exude by, by having a come from inside out I think will have a huge impact on your relationships professionally and personally.

 

Will Barron:

Love it. Well, that’s a good point to wrap up on. I think confidence is contagious. I think when there’s a leader in the room, way beyond my skills, as a teacher, you probably experienced this. When people look up to you and you’ve done the work and you can show, improve a points and you can teach people something, people are drawn and magnetised towards you. And I think if you can set yourself up as a sales professional, and we talked about all the time. Some are cliche that you should be a consultant. You should be teaching people about not just your product, the competitions products, the positioning within the market, how you can help your customers and how they can help their customers through you, all this good stuff, I feel like that does lead to a charismatic and a magnetic conversation.

 

John’s Advise to His Younger Self on How to Become Better at Selling · [44:55]

 

Will Barron:

And with that, John, I’ve got one final question, mate, and this is something to ask everyone that comes on the show. So I appreciate you’re not a “sales person,” but everyone has to sell ideas, research, funding, grants, whatever it is every now and again. So I’m going to ask you regardless. So that is John. If you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give him to help him become better at selling?

 

John Bargh:

Oh, better at selling. I would say think about what the other person’s goals are, what they’re doing and try to adopt that same goal. So the things you say and do are going to be in line and the goods and bads and so forth are going to be in line with what they’re thinking goods and bads are. Can I give you a real quick example?

 

Will Barron:

Of course, yeah.

 

John Bargh:

I get letters from… I’m trying to find somebody to repair my gutters or whatever it is. And I get the letter back. It’s all about how they’ll only take payment in this certain form. And it has to be this and it has to be that. And if it’s a check, it has to be… The whole letter is all about they’re making sure they get their money. And I’m off by that because I want somebody that their goal is to make sure that my gutters are repaired, that they work, they don’t leak and it’s quality and that I’ll be happy and satisfied with what they do. If I get that sense, then I want them. But I don’t want somebody who leaks in what they say, what their real goals are to make sure they get their money. And I think these things leak out without our realising it, because we’re not aware of what’s going on. If we really focus on the other person’s goals and think, take their perspective, what is it they want and have that be our goal too, I think things will be just so much better.

 

Parting Thoughts · [46:47]

 

Will Barron:

Well, from a non-salesperson, that’s some of the best sales advice I’ve ever read. That ties up everything that we talked about in the show, wraps it all up nicely and I really appreciate that. That’s a really interesting, and with your spin on it, a really unique insight. So with that, John tell us, we’ve touched on the book, but tell us a little bit more about the book and what we can find out more about you as well, sir.

 

John Bargh:

Sure, sure. I am on LinkedIn. My name is J-O-H-N, and Bargh is B-A-R-G-H. My book is Before You Know It. It came out in 2017. It’s available on Amazon and in fine bookstores everywhere, not maybe every airport bookstore, but in big bookstores. I have an Amazon author page, again, my name John Barge. My research is on a Yale website called Acme Lab, acmelab.yale.edu and we put up our papers for everybody. They are going back to the ’80s, if they would like to read more about the research. But Facebook page Before You Know It is where I put new things, where I’m giving talks, things like that, to keep people who are interested in the book up to date on what’s going on. And that’s pretty much it.

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. Well, I’ll link to all of that to everyone who’s interested and wants to learn a little bit more. And of course I cannot promote the book enough after this conversation, I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ll link to all that in show notice episode over at salesman.org. I nearly forgot the URL myself then, John. And with that, mate, I want to thank you for your time, your insights. I want to thank you for coming on a sales show as, again, as a non-sales expert. I appreciate the leap of faith if there was one. And I want to thank you again for joining us on the Salesman Podcast.

 

John Bargh:

Thank you, Will, very much for having me.

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