Getting people to say “yes” is the ultimate goal for any salesperson. Many sales trainers will recommend that you ask for a little “yes,” then build on that by getting more little “yeses.”
You could begin with a simple request, perhaps completing a simple questionnaire. By getting people to make a simple decision, or perform a small action, you can fairly easily establish a new psychological “commitment.”
Implementing the “foot-in-the-door method”
Once you have that initial commitment, no matter how small, building on that foundation and making ever increasing requests get surprisingly easy. This is called the “foot-in-the-door method,” an approach based on trust and consistency, and it’s effective.
To prove the point, a group of researchers back in the 1960s, called on a group of housewives, asking if they could answer a couple of simple questions about household products. Then, a couple of days later calling again, asking if they could send five employees to survey the contents of their kitchen cupboards. The research revealed that that twice as many answered “yes” if they had answered those simple questions in the first call.
We also find it much easier to say yes to those we have good feelings about and seem similar to us. In other words, we like them! This is why refusing to buy Tupperware from a friend or relative is almost impossible!
Guess what? Predators use these same tactics
Predators and sexual offenders in particular, work very hard to be likable and use the very same “foot in the door” techniques to troll for their next victim.
Just like sales professionals, the predator seek those little yeses, but this time for testing and probing, seeking clues as to your willingness to be directed and controlled.
“The man in the underground parking lot who approaches a woman as she puts groceries in the trunk of her car and offers assistance, may be a gentleman or he may be conducting an interview,” suggests Gavin De Becker, in his book The Gift of Fear. “The woman whose shoulders tense slightly, who looks intimidated and shyly says, ‘No, thanks, I think I’ve got it’ may be his victim.”
De Becker then suggests, “Conversely, the woman who turns toward him, raises her hands to The Stop position, and says directly, ‘I don’t want your help,’ is less likely to be his victim.”
You may not be able to spot their deception
Offenders are also professional liars, truly skillful at what they do because they have had plenty of practice over the years. They’ve lied to themselves and everyone else in their lives. According to most experts who work with sexual offenders, not only is their lying hard to detect, but it is often very convincing.
“Even the guilty liar probably won’t avert his gaze much, since liars know that everyone expects to be able to detect deception in this way,” observed Paul Ekman, an American psychologist who is a pioneer in the study of emotions. “Amazingly, people continue to be misled by liars skillful enough to not avert their gaze.”
“’Declining to hear no’ is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it. With strangers, even those with the best intentions; never, ever relent on the issue of no, because it sets the stage for more efforts to control,” said De Becker “If you let someone talk you out of the word no, you might as well wear a sign that reads: You are in charge.”
Using this be aware of potential problems:
Predators meaning you harm will seek to control the narrative. They will make some positive statements and seek small yeses to gain what they eventually want – to get you to a place where they feel safe enough to assault or rob you.
Obviously not every conversation is going to occur just like this following example, but that said, let’s look at this scenario:
Potential predator calls you from a cell phone and the conversation goes something like this:
- From the street I like the house at 123 Main Street. Are you familiar with the neighborhood?
- Are you available to show me this home?
- I’m preapproved with XYZ bank. Will you bring the paperwork, as I might want to make an offer.
- Then, the final question: I’m actually here in the neighborhood. Can we meet right now?
If you got this far and found yourself answering with a string of small yeses, you’d better be ready to redirect and assume control or the outcome may not be pretty.
The agent responds in kind:
- Sure, I’d love to show you the home, but I need to swing by my office first to grab the keys, OK?
- Would you please bring your pre-approval letter along?
- I’d like to meet at the office first so we can review your pre-approval, OK?
- Then, the final question: Before we can meet, please send me a copy of your photo ID – management likes to know just who we are with and where we will be, for the safety of everyone involved, should there be a problem.
A prospect’s reaction to this request is important. If the final question is met with lots of bluster and indignation, this could be a big red flag.
Take measures to protect yourself in the field
The “foot in the door” is a well known and effective sales tool, unless it’s misdirected by someone who means you harm. Never ever allow a strange prospect to take control. Be mindful that most predators are accomplished and very convincing liars.
Always take precautions. Don’t meet strange prospects at the property. Always meet at your office or a neutral location such as Starbucks.
Always ask for and verify the photo ID of strange prospects, preferably before you meet – that way you have a chance to review pertinent information.
You should bear in mind that several of those arrested and charged this year for assaulting real estate agents were convicted sex offenders who managed to insert themselves into the lives of real estate agents.
All the measures we have discussed here are preventative, so take appropriate precautions when you actually meet with strange prospects. Here are some suggestions.
Does your Broker have a safety policy for its agents? If not, why not? Visit the NAR site for more information on safety courses and keeping safe.
Disclosure: the author is founder of Verify Photo ID, an app that verifies prospects ID’s and checks against a national sex offender database.