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Logic vs. Emotions In Selling Furniture: A Socratic Dialogue

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A Socratic Dialogue: Does logic play a greater part in selling than the emotions do? Scene: The Athenian agora or marketplace Socrates: The facilitator Glaucon: A student Phaedrus: A young student recently won over by Socrates Part One: The Theory of Side-by-Side Buying Socrates: The marketplace was a proper choice for this discussion, right Glaucon? Glaucon: Most assuredly, since selling goes on here more than in any other place in Athens. Socrates: True, Glaucon, but you are making the same mistake all the other rhetorical schools make. Glaucon: And what, I pray, is that? Socrates: A very serious mistake, one which we should be especially concerned about, given we have a new student here today. Glaucon: Your reply has piqued my curiosity all the more, Socrates. Socrates: And well it should, because the essence of selling lies in buying. Phaedrus: How is that, Socrates? Is not the act of selling different from the act of buying? Socrates: Yes and no. If you are asking whether there is an essential difference between the act of buying and the act ofselling, my answer is yes. But while selling is necessarily linked to buying, buying is not necessarily linked to selling. Glaucon: Pray, Socrates, clarify this riddle, for I am afraid it is as much a riddle to me as it may be to the boy Phaedrus. Socrates: Gladly. Look about you in this marketplace. Have you not observed the number of buyers who place into their netted shopping bags whatever food stuffs they buy without any assistance from the vendors? Have you also noticed that these same buyers approach the vendors, tell them what they have in their bag, and then have the total price confirmed? The buyers then pay for the goods and leave. No haggling occurs over the price. Glaucon: Yes, and there are the other buyers who do haggle over pricing before they make their purchases. Those require vendors, I would add, probably because the items they buy do not have fixed prices. Socrates: Yes, Glaucon, and that is, I am sure you know, because the prices of things they buy on a daily basis, like fruit and vegetables, are well known to the buyers who have become accustomed to standard prices. Glaucon: Of course. So your point is that in the marketplace, some of the buying goes on without haggling over prices, and some does. Socrates: Exactly. We agree then that some buying requires no selling and some buying does. Phaedrus: I too have observed that, despite my young years. This morning I bought some fruit from vendor Xenophon’s stand.. He actually has the prices for his fruit and vegetables written out, though I did notice one elderly man who nonetheless tried to haggle over the price of an apple. Mr. Xenophon asked him if he could read. The man said he could not. Then Xenophon retorted he was a fruit and vegetable vendor, not a writing instructor. Socrates: A witty reply. Then we further agree, I take it, that if buying occurs without selling, but selling does not occur without buying, the word selling should be replaced by what I call side-by-side buying. For why else do buyers approach a vendor if not to be helped to make the best buying decision, as a noted rhetorician noted once in his lecture. For that is what goes on in the best of selling: The seller is there at the side of the buyer from beginning to end, both literally and figuratively, to help the buyer make the best buying decision. Phaedrus: Then my former instructor, the rhetorician Lysias, was incorrect. Socrates: Mind sharing with us what you mean by that statement? Phaedrus: Gladly. In one of his philosophical discussions, Lysias noted that items bought for comfort should be sold by a system he calls comfort selling. If you are right, Socrates, Lysias should change his system to read “comfort buying.” Socrates: You see, Glaucon, how this student, but a mere lad, has been able to recollect what he had viewed in the upper world of ideas. But today we are not here to discuss the theory of recollection, the favorite theory of young Plato who could not participate in today’s discussion. But time is a fugitive. Let us move on to today’s topic of whether the buyer mainly buys logically rather than emotionally, or vice versa. Part Two: The Role of Logic and the Emotions in Selling Socrates: We often hear from some of our rhetoricians that the emotions, in as much as they are the main drivers of our human behavior, are likewise what mainly motivate the buyer to buy. Glaucon: True, Socrates, and the rhetoricians add that buyers buy emotionally and then when they get home, they justify it logically. I happen to agree with them, especially when the purchase is somewhat costly and therefore fraught with fearful consequences should it turn our to be a bad purchase. Phaedrus: And their fear is all the greater when it is a nagging spouse who finds the purchase unsuitable. Socrates: Tell me about it, though I shouldn’t be bidding you tell me about it since you are too young to fill me in about the bliss of the connubial life. But let us move on to the discussion at hand. Does logic generally play a minor role than the emotions in this matter of buying, even in those purchases with the potentially dire consequences you have brought up, Glaucus? Glaucus: I’ll have to give that some thought. Would you agree without further thought about it that the costliest purchases are made by adults, most of them married with children? Would you further agree that the consequences of costly purchases frequently have potentially emotional consequences when they go awry? Socrates: Your are hinting at the wife’s or the husband’s embarrassment before the in-laws and neighbors, their disappointment, their anger, their sadness, their frustration, and a host of other emotions. Not only do I agree with you, Glaucus, but what you bring up is the thesis of the discussion I have brought up. Glaucus: How so? Socrates: In the following way. First of all, would the two of you agree that all purchases are based on the needs of the purchaser? Glaucus: Yes, I do agree with that, provided your meaning of the word need includes the connotations found in the words like, want, desire, and yearn. Socrates: An essential addition, Glaucus. As you know, the rhetoricians have brought up scores of needs, but recently I had the good fortune of meeting up with a Man from one of our Asiatic colonies named Abraham Maslow. He presented me with a pyramid of five needs he lists as follows: basic or physiological, security, social, auto or self-serving, and self-actualizing. Phaedrus: A further example of the fact that our Greek genius has been largely influenced from without by Egyptians, Persians, and other Asians, our Asian Greeks as well. Socrates: A wise observation, Phaedrus, as witnessed in the Asiatic Aesop’s fables. Back to our thesis. In observing Abraham’s pyramid of needs, I observed that each one of these needs, especially when applied to costly purchases, may be driven concurrently by logic and the emotions alike. For example, we are well aware that here in Athens, the cradle of democracy, our women have few civil, and at times, few human rights, a fact that plays a major role in the play Lysistrata. Glaucus: A rather bawdy play written by one who happens to have lampooned you in more than one of his productions. Socrattes: My dear Glaucus – and you likewise, Phaedrus – listen up: “Being lampooned by a genius like Aristophanes is as good as any accolade. He would not have wasted his genius on one not worth his genius. Phaedrus: A hard thought for one as young as I, but I am sure I will give it my most serious thought. Glaucus: A thought that will become more serious the older you become. But please connect, dear Socrates, the jibes, which Aristophanes flung into our calloused male hearts, with today’s thesis. Socrates: Happily, Glaucus. You both are aware of that woman of the demimonde, Creusa, who has amassed great wealth plying the earliest of the professions. Let me tell you of a recent very expensive purchase she desired to make from one of our leading shops that sell only the most expensive jewelry. It happened that the smith, a jeweler who owns the shop that sells many of the jewels he himself has crafted, was absent on the day Creusa showed up. The salesman on that day, a stranger in Athens and a sly man not adverse to using trickery, was one who had been advised that he would soon be let go if he didn’t increase his volume. Glaucus: You already have my attention. Phaedrus: And mine as well. Socrates: Well, Creusa walked up to this shop intending to purchase one of the most expenses bracelets she had seen in that shop. She wanted to size it up a bit more, both literally and figuratively. So she pointed out the very bracelet she wanted. Glaucus: From what I have heard, Creusa is good at sizing up things! Socrates: I must add that Creusa had disguised herself in the attire of the average Athenian woman, because she wished to shop incognito. Meanwhile, that sorry excuse for a salesman, upon hearing Creusa’s interest in that bracelet, began to vibrate with excitement, convinced Creusa was going to make a quick purchase. But when she hesitated to make the purchase, the sly one panicked, and blurted out, “So what I hear you saying is you need to talk this over a bit more with your husband. Here, let me show you a bracelet that although not as expensive, still has its charms.” Not the right closed probe to confirm the buyer’s need! Creusa, after heaping on that poor salesman the depth of her wrath, flew out of that shop like a Maenad. The next day, having heard that the owner was back, she returned to the shop to vent her anger on the owner. He, knowing of Creusa’s financial success as a woman of the night, after assuring her he would fire his impudent salesman, succeeded in selling Creusa the precious bracelet she desired and the owner himself had crafted. Now, what roles did the emotions and logic play on that in that sale? Phaedrus: Clearly Creusa based her purchase entirely on her emotions. Claucus: I agree with the young Phaedrus. Socrates: But logic too played a part in her purchase. After all, not only was she moved by the extraordinary quality of the bracelet she purchased, but she also resisted the crude salesman’s attempt to shift her purchase to that of a necklace of lesser quality. Creusa was a connoisseur of jewelry since her clientele consisted mostly of very affluent male Athenians. She knew that when you buy quality, you cry only once. Besides, she probably didn’t cry at all since her purchases were paid for by her clients. But now let me tell you a story of how the Corinthians, known among the other Greeks for their unethical practices, tried to put one over on the Romans. Once when the Corinthians were loading on to a freighter several columns the Romans had ordered, the cables by which the cables were being hoistened broke, thus causing serious cracks in the columns. Not in the least deterred by this accident, the Corinthians expertly filled in the cracks with wax. Because it was winter, the Corinthians deemed it safe to work their deceit. The Roman administrator of public works in the Roman forum accepted the columns. But when Rome’s sweltering summer season arrived, the wax on the columns began to run. Greatly vexed by the trickery, the administrator had the columns sent back with these words: “Send us replacements, this time without wax!” I’ve been told the Latin word sincerity derives from the words sine cera, without wax. Cleary the administrator had agreed to purchase the columns out of the high regard he had for Corinthian craftsmanship. He therefore made his purchase logically. When he decided to return those columns, he made that decision out of the emotions of anger and disgust. Glaucus: Socrates, you have taught us a valuable principle about buying. Phaedrus: I concur, and all the more so because I was able to learn this valuable principle in my youth. Socrates: Let me add this concluding principle about the influence of the emotions and logic in the purchases we make: “The more expensive our purchases, the greater the role both the emotions and logic play in them. In our next discussion, we will analyze how to use the wise Abraham’s pyramid of needs when we probe for a customer needs. In the meantime, here is a puzzler for you to work on: “Explain the rationale behind why the fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain. A clue: Both have to do with the sway that ownership holds over us.

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