Snorkeling with Socrates

Everyone sells. Selling is convincing others to believe that what you want them to do is in their best interest. The waiter sells the customer that the Copper River salmon is superior to the Atlantic salmon. The contractor sells the homeowner that the job will come in on time and under budget. The pilot sells the passengers to buckle up for turbulence ahead. We all sell. All of us.


It’s always easier to persuade others if you know what moves them. Sometimes you can even do it without saying a word. Let’s take Socrates. If you can understand what he was selling, you’ll understand what influences 70% of the people you’re trying to persuade.


A young man approached the Greek scholar. “Socrates,” he asked, “when will I have all the knowledge I need?”


Without saying a word, Socrates took the young man into the river, waded out waist high, grabbed the man by the back of the neck, and shoved his head under the water. The man didn’t have to be a genius to understand that he was about to drown. He began fighting and scratching and clawing and finally got his head above the water, gasping for air.



Socrates looked at the terrified man and shrugged his shoulders. “Son,” the wise teacher said, “when you want knowledge as badly as you wanted that air, then you will have it.”


My question to you: What was Socrates really selling? If you can understand what Socrates was selling, then you’ll understand what 70% of those you’re trying to persuade are buying-in to.


Knowledge? No, he created knowledge because of what he was selling.


Opportunity? No, he created opportunity because of what he was selling.


Trust? I don’t think so. I’d never trust him again after a stunt like that.


What Socrates was selling, and what motivates 70% of people to act: Believing and understanding that they have a problem.


“Son, you’ve got a problem. You can’t breathe. What are you going to do about it?”


Notice that Socrates didn’t have to use any fancy closes. “Son, would you rather breathe on Tuesday, or does Thursday work best for you?” Never came up.


Socrates didn’t have to use the Benjamin Franklin close: “Now these are the advantages of breathing, and these are the disadvantages of not breathing.” This never came up because the young man was immersed in the problem.


70% of the people you’re trying to persuade (analytical and amiable personalities) are trying to avoid problems. Only 30% (driver and expressive personalities) are looking for benefits and opportunities.


Believing you have a problem, understanding you have a problem, giving proof you have a problem…any of the three can persuade.



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