The Art of Influence

Don Draper: selling people things they didn’t know they wanted

A big part of magic is understanding how people think, so most magicians are really interested in psychology – and I’m no exception. People are always going to be unpredictable, that’s why they’re so interesting! But understanding why they do the things they do, and guiding their thoughts in certain directions – on or off stage – is sometimes just a case of knowing the techniques. And it can be especially useful if you have something major you’re trying to sell, like a house or a car.

Every hypnotist knows that in the battle of willpower versus imagination, imagination will always win. Have you noticed how estate agents always say things like “When you have friends round you could sit out on the patio here,” and “This could be your kid’s room”? It’s all about getting us to vividly picture ourselves in the house and is not too far from what a hypnotist does. Appeal to their imagination every time, and you can get people feeling positive about almost anything.

If you’re trying to sell something, it’s really important to tailor your pitch to the person you’re selling to. People like different things about cars, for example a gadget geek might be interested in the tech while someone else might prefer the speed or the finish. Listen to what they’re telling you, rather than making assumptions.

I’ve found that body language isn’t really a great guide to what people are thinking. In my experience, staying in the moment and being intuitive is much better than trying to analyse physical signals.

You can read more tips like these in this interview I did with WIRED magazine last year. The Wikipedia page on Persuasion has a lot of interesting stuff on it, too.

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