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Was Aristotle The First Great Salesperson?

Aristotle the First Great Salesman - Franchise Help

Aristotle was a scholar who taught extensively about successful communication (most specifically, how to influence a person's views). He was so effective with his communication techniques that most of his precepts are still being taught to law and philosophy students today. Franchisees and business owners can use these same techniques to overcome sales objections and influence a buyer’s decisions. Let's have a look at why Aristotle's techniques were so successful, and how they remain relevant to those running a franchise opportunity today.

Aristotle said that all persuasive arguments have 3 common elements, and he gave these elements some great names (which suspiciously sound like the names of the Three Musketeers):

  1. Ethos
  2. Pathos
  3. Lagos

Ethos refers to the person delivering the message, and this person needs to have a couple of very distinct attributes: they must appear both credible and likeable.

Aristotle himself was rumored to have been trained by the classical world's equivalent of nuns, marking him as a credible source of information. In addition, the name “Aristotle” is a “smart name,” as people in ancient Greece associated the name with nerdy, bookwormish tendencies. Essentially, the name "Aristotle" struck the ancient Greeks much in the way “Poindexter” strikes people today.

In addition to preaching the importance of credibility, Aristotle taught that an effective communicator must be relatable or likeable. Always one to follow his own advice, Aristotle was known to possess a dry wit. When students praised his superior intellect, he would often say things like, “Hey, don’t put me too high up on a pedestal. I don’t want you to look up my toga!”

Logos means that the communicator must be rational. The person delivering the communication, or salesperson, has to make sense and draw logical conclusions from the available data. They can use this data, logic, and sound reasoning to prove their point, disprove another’s point, or to challenge the status quo. Rational buyers faced with more intelligent solutions than they are currently using will often gravitate towards the better solution, so long as their budget allows.

For example, at one time public schools used to teach phonics to elementary school children. Then one day a text book company came out with “the whole language” approach to teaching English. Needing to make their quotas, text book salespeople eagerly pointed out to school boards, “If phonics were so important, why do they spell it ‘phonics’ instead of ‘fonix'?’” Nodding in agreement at their flawless logic, school board members eagerly snatched up the new text books like drunk fraternity brothers grabbing for the last slice of pizza.

Pathos means the communicator should craft a message which leaves the listener emotionally engaged. If the person that the communicator is courting cannot personally connect to what is being said, the communication gets filtered out and it will be dismissed.

For instance, in the movie Annie Hall, Woody Allen's character snuck into the bedroom during a friend’s party to watch a basketball game on TV. Annie Hall (played by Diane Keaton) happened upon him and sat down to watch the game and strike up a conversation. Looking for something in common, Allen's character asked her if she liked or played sports. Annie Hall replied, “I swim,” to which he replies, “Swimming isn’t a sport. It’s what you do so you don’t drown.” Allen's character couldn't care less about swimming, so Annie Hall didn’t score any points with him. Perhaps this isn’t such a tremendous example, since as the movie progressed, the characters engaged in a love affair. In the end, however, they endured a painful break-up, so maybe the example holds after all.

You may not be the product of a nun-based educational system, you may not enjoy the nerdy credibility of a name like "Poindexter," and you'll probably never star in the blockbuster remake of Annie Hall, but ultimately, if you follow Aristotle’s three guidelines for effective communication and persuasion, you can dramatically increase your sales success -- no matter what your business is.

Joe Mathews is the founder of the Franchise Performance Group and has over 20 years experience with such national chains as Subway, Blimpies, Motophoto, and Entrepreneur’s Source.Mathews specializes in the area of franchisee recruitment, sales, and franchisee performance. He is a regular presenter at IFA conferences and is an instructor with the ICFE (Institute of Certified Franchise Executives). Mathews is author of two books,Street Smart Franchising with Don Debolt and Deb Percival and Meaning of Life Project.

Before You Can Lead Others...

During my work for the past decade, both running and consulting to companies at every level of the business spectrum, I have noticed a curious and extremely prevalent trend.

Strategic and Structural Alternatives to Franchising

These are difficult decisions. The solutions are not clear cut from a business or from a legal perspective. It is critical that a company in this position work with qualified counsel to identify an alternative that will have a reasonable basis for an exemption and still make sense from a strategic perspective. The balance of this chapter will look at the many alternatives currently being tested by many U.S. and oversees companies. As you can see, the lines of demarcation are not always clear. The differences between many of these alternatives may in fact be in name only. Some of these concepts are truly innovative and have not been truly tested by the courts or the regulators. In these borderline cases, a regulatory “no-action” letter procedure is strongly recommended. Other concepts are not very innovative at all and merely borrow from long-recognized and analogous legal relationships such as chapter affiliation agreements in the non-profit arena or network affiliation agreements in radio and television broadcasting.

Why I Have an Issue with the Forbes Franchise Rankings

The 5-Year Growth Rate and 5-Year Franchise Continuity are both great independent metrics of how a franchise is doing on average. As a potential franchisee both of these statistics are vital for selecting a franchise - you want to select a franchise that will provide you with a high return on investment and which will survive in the long run. I think these are, as FRANdata and Forbes suggested, two of the biggest (if not the two biggest) and most obvious metrics for whether or not a franchise is a “good” opportunity for a franchisee. But how do you use these to determine which franchise is BEST? This is the fundamental difficulty in coming up with a ranking system - it isn’t the difficulty in separating the good from the meh from the bad - it’s separating the great from the good and the best from the great. In the case of these rankings I found it to be pretty difficult to comprehend how they differentiated between the top ranked franchises. For instance, if you look at the difference between Discover Map (Forbes #4), Just Between Friends (Forbes #5), & Seniors Helping Seniors (Forbes #6) they all have extremely close continuity ratings and substantially different growth rates. In fact, in the case of these three, the overall rankings are opposite the growth rate rankings. Seniors Helping Seniors is ranked at the bottom of these three franchises despite having a growth rate that is 31 percentage points higher than Discovery Map and a continuity that is only 2 percentage points lower. This suggested to me that continuity was viewed as the dominant factor. But that logic didn’t hold for the rest on the “Economy Class” Top 10, as BrightStar Care (Forbes #7) had the same growth rate as Pop-a-Lock (Forbes #8) but a continuity rate that was 12 percentage points lower. These comparisons show that these were not the only two factors that went into the rankings, which is understandable, but no other factors that are explicitly listed in their results seem to be major factors.