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The Power of Visualization

Dr. Carl Christman

People are often stuck in the status quo. They do not know what it is like to live with the solution you are offering. If it takes an investment of time or money, it may not seem worthwhile. And if it is something they have never had or done, it might seem unattainable. Our job is to make sure people realize that the solution we offer is within reach and is well worth the investment.

"Our job is to make sure people realize that the solution we offer is within reach and is well worth the investment."

My parents both went to college and got graduate degrees. As a child, college was always in my future. There was never a question as to whether I was going to go to college and graduate. For some of the first generation college students in my classes, however, success in college is not a part of their self-image. They definitely want to succeed in college, but it is not a given. They are already persuaded that college will satisfy many of their future needs and make their lives better. The next step is to help them visualize that success and believe it's possible.

The admissions department at my school had a great way of helping prospective students visualize their success. They had graduation caps and gowns mounted on the walls next to pictures of smiling graduates. They shared the importance of education and the value of our school with the prospective students, but they also helped them visualize themselves wearing those caps and gowns and walking down the aisle as successful college graduates.

People who have smoked or been out of shape for many years may have a hard time imagining themselves as non-smokers or being in shape. They may be convinced they should stop smoking or eat healthier, but actually taking action may seem too difficult. If people think of themselves as smokers, giving up smoking may seem impossible, especially if they have tried and failed in the past. If people do not see themselves as healthy, they might find it hard to take consistent action to improve their diets. Once again, if they have tried and failed, this process is even harder. The role of healthcare providers is to identify the problem and point out the solution. In some cases, however, it is also to motivate the patient to actually take action and to help them visualize success in achieving their health goals.

I don't go to my personal trainer just for guidance on how to exercise. I could find most of that information online. What makes my personal trainer good is his ability to motivate me and help me visualize a healthy and more fit me. If I can see myself succeeding, it is much more likely that I will keep plugging away. If my fitness dreams seem like a fantasy, it will be far easier to justify sleeping in rather than going to the gym.

The same thing applies to selling products. In an experiment, a researcher tried out two versions of an advertisement for a pair of running shoes. In one version the text started out with "Introducing Westerly running shoes." In the other it said, "Imagine yourself running through this park . . . [with] Westerly running shoes on your feet." Needless to say, people were more interested in buying the shoes when asked to visualize themselves wearing them. The visualization made it real in their minds.

The status quo is powerful and people often know only what they have. I have owned cars before. If someone tried to sell me a car, I could easily imagine myself driving it. I have far more experience sitting in traffic than I want. But I have never had a boat. If someone tried to sell me a boat, I would have to imagine it. A good salesperson would help me with that.

I have never been to the Caribbean. Telling me that it is an amazing place and that I should visit might persuade me. But to really motivate me to take action, ask me to picture myself there. This allows me to incorporate "Caribbean traveler" into my self-image.

"A good sales person will persuade their customer. A great one will help them visualize the results and take action."

A good sales person will persuade their customer. A great one will help them visualize the results and take action. Make the product or service you are selling part of their self-image. They should be taking action not only because they are persuaded to, but because they can't imagine their life without whatever you are pitching.

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Carl Christman's bestselling book
How to Read Minds & Influence People.

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