For the last twenty years, Survivor has been appointment television at our house. It was the first reality show ever, and has never failed to entertain. The fact that you get to see real people interact with each other under extreme circumstances teaches you a lot about how different personalities interact with each other, what communication styles work (and which ones don’t), and even which sales techniques help win people to your side…which is important, since the winner is voted on by contestants who have been previously eliminated from the game.
This year, a sales technique was behind the win for sales manager Chris Underwood, who won the million dollar prize on Survivor: Edge of Extinction after employing a sales technique called the “negative reverse” at a key moment towards the end of the season against fellow contestant Lauren O’Connell (side note: it was especially fun watching this year, as we know Lauren and her parents).
People Magazine summarized how Chris employed the technique in the final part of the series (forgive all the insider show lingo, in case you aren’t a fan of the show):
“He set himself up as an information broker at the end – “I’m not as mentally there as I was in the beginning, and I’m not as physically there at all, but I do have information,” he told Lauren. He used his access to the jury’s perspective to shift the target onto another contestant, Victoria. And he quickly healed his old rift with fellow contestant Rick Devens and built bonds with Lauren.
He also told Lauren that he knew about her hidden immunity idol that she had found earlier in the show.
“This [tip] is from Kelly Wentworth,” he told her. “‘Lauren has to play her idol correctly, either for herself or for someone else [emphasis his], to have a big enough move.’ ”
It was a sales technique, Chris later explained, a “negative reverse” where you make the other person feel like you’re even more vulnerable than they are.
Incredibly, Lauren did it. At the final six tribal council vote, Lauren played her idol on behalf of Chris, though he didn’t even need it. It’s an almost incomprehensible moment. How could someone, basically guaranteed a spot at the final four like Lauren was, sacrifice that safety to protect the guy who’s just spent a month hanging out with the jury away from the main contestants?”
To put it bluntly, Lauren fell for it (and she knew it immediately after being voted off the island during her post-show interview…watch the first 35 seconds here)
So, lets apply this to you, and your recruiting:
- We’ve talked about ‘showing your cracks‘ before, and the value it has in recruiting. This is similar to that strategy: Your goal is to lower your defenses and point out how you are in just as much need of them, as your recruit is of you and your opportunity at your program.
- The strategy is perfectly designed for coaches who want to test out an idea on their prospect to see how they might respond to it. For example, your prospect might bring up a question like, “Can I come for a campus visit this coming fall?” You, as the coach, would want to respond with a negative question back to your prospect: “Hmm…you wouldn’t you want to come a few months earlier at the end of spring?” Your prospect’s reply to that reply will tell you a lot: They’ll either jump at the chance to take you up on your offer, or they’ll defer and explain why that doesn’t work with them. In either case, you give them a feeling of control, and you get information that you didn’t get before.
- The negative reverse strategy can also work well when coaches are trying to overcome an objection, or a lessening a perceived strength in another program that’s recruiting them.
- The goal of the strategy is to win over a prospect’s allegiance to you and your goals. If you already have trust built with a prospect, this isn’t something you’d want to use. It works best when there is a gap between you and your prospect that needs to be bridged.
Recruiting is selling, and big part of selling is understanding how psychology plays into your prospect’s reaction to different techniques. Used properly, this is one that just might win you a million dollar recruit.