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The Power Of Enthusiasm (Or Why Aunties Make The Best Promoters)

The psychology of sales: here’s why supermarket aunties are so good at convincing you.

This article was first published by Cheerfulegg

So the wifey and I were at the supermarket this weekend (because that’s what married Singaporean couples do on weekends, amirite?).

As you know, I’m fascinated by the psychology of sales. So while we were shopping, I started to observe the promoters who were scattered around the supermarket.

You know the ones I’m talking about: Those earnest-looking folks who have a little pop-up stand next to the aisle, hired to give out free samples and convince passing aunties to buy a particular brand or product. I’d never paid much attention to them before, but today, I started wondering:

  • What’s their job like?
  • How do they get paid? A fixed hourly pay, or a commission for every product they sell?
  • Do they get frustrated? I’m pretty sure 90% of customers just want a free sample
  • And most importantly: What can I learn from them?

The Millennial Promoter

Let’s take Exhibit A: A young promoter for Magnum ice cream. He couldn’t have been older than 22, and looked like he was just passing time during the school holidays.

We wandered over to the ice cream tubs and started looking really interested at the ice cream. Our promoter slid up next to us, smiled and started with a, “Yep, we’re actually having a promotion now, where you get a free box of Magnum chocolate thins if you buy two boxes.

The dude was pleasant and professional. He answered every question with a clipped, concise response – easy to remember and summarizable in 140 characters. Which are your new flavours? Magnum Red Velvet is our newest flavour. Do any of your ice creams have nuts? These flavours don’t have nuts, but they’re made in the same factory so if you have severe allergies, it’s best not to eat them.

The guy did a decent job – he checked off all the boxes and gave the right answers. I walked away knowing a little bit more about Magnum, but he didn’t make me feel any stronger about buying it.

The Auntie Promoter

We then wandered over to another aisle, where the sight of piping hot instant noodles caught my attention. (I’m always on the lookout for instant noodles). Once the promoter – an energetic lady in her 40s or 50s – saw that we were interested, she launched into a massive “AH HELLO! WANT TO TRY? TRY! VERY NICE!” greeting.

Now, I totally hate being hard-sold to, but the alluring smell of MAGGI Extra Spicy Noodles was way too tempting. Our auntie promoter scooped a sample into a tiny cup while rattling off about the product at a hundred miles per minute. “Yah! This one is our new flavour ah, veh-ryyyyy spicy, veh-ryyyyy shiok! Especially if you make it dry ah, like this, see – I drained away all the water. Some people scared that it’s too hot, but don’t worry ah, then you just use half a packet of the powder – no need to use everything, and it’s STILL very nice, right? Right?

And while we were eating, she continued, “See the noodles, very Q, right? Veh-ryyyyy different from other kinds of noodles. And I tell you a secret ah, you just have to add a bit of (ingredient the I totally forgot), and it makes it taste even nicer! Remember ah, don’t need to add the whole packet of chilli in, just half can already – and it will be VERY nice. You want to buy? Today, we got promotion: Only $3.40 for one packet!

Wow. I was blown away. Even though the approach felt a tad more aggressive than I was used to, there was no denying that I now felt like buying those damn noodles. Our auntie promoter did an excellent job at successfully converting me into a buyer.

Why Aunties Are So Good At Convincing You

Now, I doubt our auntie promoter has ever read Neil Rackham’s classic sales bible SPIN Selling, or my new negotiation favourite Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss. (Well, maybe she did, but let’s face it – Singaporean aunties aren’t the primary target audience for these books).

Yet, she’d done a way better job at changing my behaviour compared to our cool, calm millennial. Why?

She did a lot of things right, but the key difference between our two interactions was this: Enthusiasm. She exuded enthusiasm in spades: Giving tips, extolling how Q the noodles were, holding nothing back.

That energy was infectious – it made me excited, it made me feel for the product, and it made me feel like I could trust her.

Now, financial bloggers and Harvard negotiators don’t like talking about emotion. They believe that business decisions are usually made rationally and methodically. So they created and trained a generation of millennials in constructing logical, rational arguments, using terms like BATNA and finding common interests.

But that’s not how decisions are REALLY made.

Think back to Black Friday. When you bought that dress at 60% off or that $199 tablet, were you making a well-reasoned, calculated judgment?

Maybe you’d like to think that you did, but the data shows otherwise. Most of us first know in our gut that we want to buy something, and then we come up with the reasons to support our initial decision.

There are plenty of ways to evoke emotion in a buyer, but from this experience, I now believe that enthusiasm is a major driver.

How To Use Enthusiasm In Business

Think back to the last time you had to pitch an idea to your boss. What did you say?

Was it something along the lines of, “Yeah, so I think we should pursue Project B instead of A because of key reason 1, key reason 2, key reason 3. The cost will be $X. Does that work?

Boringggg. That kinda argument just lays out the facts. It assumes that the reader carefully considers the pros and the cons of each option, and then makes a rational, data-driven decision. It might work very nicely on an academic paper, but that’s not how decisions are made in real life.

As we’ve seen, most people are convinced by emotion, not rationality.

The best emotional pitch I’ve heard in a business setting came from a meeting between a committee of airlines and Changi Airport Group (CAG).

Now, having worked at an airline before, I can tell you that airline-airport meetings are usually pretty tense. Airlines always think that the airport is screwing them over by charging them too much money. Airports think airlines should stop being so demanding and be grateful for all the concessions they’ve been given.

So at this meeting, a particularly antagonistic airline rep shot a challenging question to CAG about Project Jewel, the new “lifestyle complex” at Changi Airport. He said something along the lines of, “What makes you think Jewel will enhance Changi’s reputation as a hub? It’s just another mall.

This CAG rep could have simply reiterated the facts: The size of the development, the $1.47B cost, the world-renowned architects, etc. However, that wouldn’t have appeased the airlines, who were already upset that their airport fees were going into building yet another mall instead of benefiting the airline infrastructure.

Instead, the CAG rep enthusiastically described the awe-inspiring emotions you would feel when you wandered through Jewel. He talked about the canopy that made it seem like you were strolling under the stars, the lush greenery, and the gigantic central waterfall that would have water pouring in from the heavens before disappearing into the depths. I wish I’d recorded that speech, because he truly made it sound like Willy Wonka’s frickin’ chocolate factory.

At the end of his 1-minute speech, the antagonistic airline rep slumped back and said, “Okay. Now THAT was a convincing speech.”

How To Use Enthusiasm In Your Personal Life

Enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to sales or a business context. It can make you more likeable, more memorable, and just way cooler.

Think back to the last time someone asked you, “So, what do you do for a living?”

What was your response? Did you give the standard professional response like, “Oh, I work in commercial law”, “Oh, I’m a mechanical engineer”, “I work for (big MNC)”.

Or did you, like the CAG guy, talk about this really interesting story that happened last week and how it spurred you to passionately love what you do even more?

I’m definitely guilty of giving a clipped, cool, 140-character answer to the “What do you do?” question. Partly it’s because I think people couldn’t care less about what I had to say, and partly because I wanna appear “in control” and seem like I know a secret that others don’t.

But I’ve learnt that most of us can afford to show just a little bit more enthusiasm in our daily conversations.

I once met the guy who runs Publishizer, and even though it was just a 1-hour meeting, I still remember how frickin’ enthusiastic he was about his business and life. He’d pepper his conversation with stories, jokes, and the occassional “Hey, let me show you something really cool” lead-in with a twinkle in his eye.

Or take Chris from Tree Of Prosperity, one of the most interesting financial bloggers I’ve ever had a conversation with. Get him talking about his favourite subjects like education or cryptocurrencies, and he launches into a passionate diatribe about his latest argument. He doesn’t hold back. He delves deep into advanced, nuanced sub-points. I always, always learn something new whenever I talk to Chris.

Now, think about your group of friends. Who’s the life of the party? The one whom everyone likes to be around? The one who always gets invited to cool events? Chances are, he/she exhibits levels of enthusiasm that are much higher than those around them. Now, how can you be that person?

Many of us start out a bit like that when we were kids, but as we grow up, we get whacked by the responsibilities and realities of life, and we lose a bit of that magic.

Like our aunty MAGGI promoter, we can all afford to inject just a little more enthusiasm and (as much as I hate that word) passion into our conversations.

Don’t hold back. The world needs what you have to offer.

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