A day at the Ayr Flower Show every August is always a joy, heightened this year by a post-show visit to Wildings in Maidens for lunch. Sandwiched between Turnberry Golf course and Culzean castle on the west coast of Scotland, I urge you to go: three courses @ £15.50 a skull, booking essential (Cullen skink, lamb's liver and bacon, chocolate & orange pot).
Apart from the bees and the bonsai and the hot doughnuts (resisted this year due to upcoming lunch) the stalls are a highlight: flowers, sausages, smoked salmon, preserves, cheeses, garden ornaments, hot-tubs and chairs that pop you upright sit either side of timber walkways. All are inhabited by people adept at using their persuasive powers to get you to buy. There is much likeability and reciprocity, with smiles and chats and free samples every step you take. You would not need a trip to Wildings if you took advantage of all offers.
This year there were some boys selling a Big Jug That Made Soup. Were I unkind, I might have said I have a big pot at home that makes soup; more soup than a jug can make, and I freeze the rest. They would have had an answer had I done so: this has an internal blender to get various consistencies and fresh soup is miles better than frozen. (Hmmm...I have a hand blender to stick in the pot and my soup benefits from a week or two in the freezer). Watching for five minutes while The Snip bought an armful of Achillea, Cosmos and Crocosmia I reflected that any professional trying to persuade clients or colleagues could learn much from this pitch, specifically about authority and scarcity.
Once in his stride JugBoy was fluent and insistent, brooking no argument and with an answer for every query before it was raised. It was interesting to see how little he played on likeability. The whole pitch was pleasant enough, but being the font of knowledge through displaying authority trumped that. And bear in mind we are only talking about soup here, pitching to an audience that has been making soup for decades. Sometimes you have to front up and be the expert. The JugBoys (there were three of them taking turns) knew that this expert audience can take a right good telling if the pitch is delivered well enough.
But he truly saved the best until last. Standing in front of dozens of shiny boxes with the Magic Jug emblazoned across the front, a score of more middle-aged soup makers out front, guess how many Jugs JugBoy had with him to sell on the day? None! He simply took your details on an order form while guaranteeing you a discount and said they would be in touch: part with no money today! We trust you to follow through on the deal! (That's consistency and commitment by the way... and maybe if you asked nicely they had a few through the back.)
It is a superb example of scarcity as a lever of persuasion: JugBoy has you right there, ready to buy, and then says you can't have it today. The whole idea is to make the throngs holding a paper cup of hot soup want the fancy jug even more.
I'm not saying scarcity is the only way to persuade but it does challenge many of us. If you want to reflect on this piece, here are three questions you might ask about your persuasive skills:
Do I ever appear desperate for closure, too keen to force an outcome?
Do I ever concede, offer or suggest too much too soon?
Does my need to be seen as likeable or nice ever lead me to stay when I should walk away, or at least give myself some time out to think?
JugBoy did reciprocity too as he actually made the soup and handed some out. You only got it if you waited, though. In fact every possible way to persuade you to buy was on display during the pitch. the only thing not on display was the thing you now really, really needed to buy.
Now that's scarcity. Lunch at Wildings was not possible until 2.15pm as they had to squeeze us in at the end of the sitting. The place was heaving when we arrived and we had to go for a walk on the pier. Wildings are using scarcity too, they just don't know it.
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Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.