The persuasive influence of food on selling
- Last Updated: August 17, 2023
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- 3 Min Read
Have you ever reflected on why salespeople offer snacks to their potential customers during presentations and why business people prefer lunch meetings over a traditional meeting? Dr. David G. Meyers, a renowned social psychologist, rightly answers this question: “Those who like conducting business over sumptuous lunches with soft background music can celebrate those results."
This phenomenon can be better explained with the help of a study carried out by Dr. Irving Janis, who specialized in social psychology. He conducted a research experiment at Yale where he aimed to study how the persuasiveness of a message can be enhanced among a group of college students.
He split the students into two groups, where students in one group were given peanuts and soda while listening to a persuasive message, while the other group of students had to listen to the message without snacks. The results of the study showed that the group of students who were offered snacks were more receptive to the message than the other group of students. Isn't it intriguing to note that the first group of students' decisions were swayed just by food?
Let's take a look at the psychology behind how food enhances the receptiveness to a persuasive appeal.
The scientific principle of reciprocity states that people feel the need to repay those who do favors for them. The concept of reciprocity can be clearly summarized with the help of a funny, yet interesting incident that happened in 2007.
According to a CBS News article, at a dinner party at a home in Washington DC, a gun-wielding man entered the backyard and pointed a gun at a teenage girl, demanding money. During the would-be robbery, one of the guests at the event offered the robber some wine. The gunman accepted and enjoyed the wine. He was then offered more wine which he drank along with some Camembert cheese. To everyone's utter surprise, the robber reciprocated the kind gesture by stating he was at the wrong house, apologizing, and leaving the party without taking the guests' money. Psychology works in the uncanniest of ways, doesn't it?
Marketers and salespeople can tap into human psychology and leverage this reciprocity principle by offering food to customers who they wish to persuade. This, in turn, will subconsciously tune the client's mind into thinking a favor was bestowed upon them, which will prompt them to return the favor by being more receptive to the sales appeal.
Associating positive emotions
Food can evoke positive emotions and uplift customers' moods, which will boost their brain function and help them comprehend information better. There are numerous studies published on how one's mood can affect their perception. When people are in a good mood, their thinking is less analytical and more emotional. When people prevail in this kind of mindset, they tend to make more spontaneous than rational decisions. Salespeople can take advantage of this and convince their potential customers to perceive things in a certain way.
This can be explained better by taking the case study of a parole judgment wherein it was observed that the judge was six times more likely to grant parole when giving a ruling after a meal. This proves that people associate the positive feeling from food to the judgements they're supposed to make.
Building connection and trust
Food always has a sense of personal touch and hospitality attached to it. When a sales pitch is accompanied by good food and hospitality, the sales message goes beyond the transactional nature of the conversation and shows the client you actually value the relationship.
It is rightly said that food is the way to a man's heart. By incorporating food into your sales meetings, you can be assured that even if you don't make a sale, you'll definitely make a lasting impression on the client. However, you must also remember that food is a mere catalyst in this process; what really sets you apart is how authentic and genuine your message is. Maya Angelou definitely knew what she was talking about when she said, "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel."
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