Professional Influence Law #6 - The Johnny Carson Principle


The lost art of contrast!


Now that you know the first five Laws of Professional Influence, you are ready for The Johnny Carson Principle. Mr. Carson was one of the great American icons. If you are like me, you probably have fond memories of the Tonight Show. With all due respect to Leno and Letterman, Johnny Carson was the greatest late-night host of all time.

As professionals in the study of influence and persuasion, we were all treated to a special night when Johnny's guest was a little girl who happened to be the #1 Girl Scout cookie salesperson in the country.

Carson asked her the secret of her success. She said,

 I just went to everone's house and said, 'Can I have a $30,000 donation for the girl scouts?'  When they said 'No' I said, 'would you at least buy a box of Girl Scout cookies?


Johnny broke into laughter and America joined him. The lesson this little firecracker had learned was the value of contrast. Using this principle helps to misdirect the decision being made by your customer.  Instead of valuing something on their own, the influencer provides something to compare it to.

The earliest practical examples of the Law of Contrast come from Robert B. Cialdini, PHD. Dr. Cialdini observed that studies done at Arizona State and cialdini2
Montana State Universities had some interesting findings. In one study, male college students rated the photo of a potential blind date. Those who did so while watching an episode of the Charlie's Angel's TV series viewed the blind date as a less attractive woman than those who rated her while watching a different show. Apparently the women looked less attractive when contrasted to Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith

This bit of knowledge can be very powerful in the hands of a true sales professional.

Examples of the Law of Contrast at work.


"Bob and Mary, I know that you have been looking at this package. It is the finest and most complete package offered by our company. The monthly investment is $700 per month. Now I realize that this might be too large of an investment. I would then suggest that we go forward with the more practical package. It is only $199 per month and at the end of the day will still serve your immediate needs."


MEN'S CLOTHING:mens-clothing

A friend of mine owned a local men's clothing store and he used this powerful principle. Instead of selling the entire outfit, simply create the desire for an $800.00 suit. Once the idea is sold, a $75.00 tie seems like a small amount (in contrast) to pay for a tie.



The other great use of this principle is when showing or demonstrating a product. Real Estate professionals know that it is best to show two less desirable properties before showing the target property. In contrast to the previous homes, the target home looks more desirable.


ACCOUNTING:calendar april 15

Every year my accountant uses this principle on me and it works every time. After going through our taxes, Dan looks at me and says, "Ok Mick, it looks like this year you owe 'X' amount." My heart stops and I curse the IRS. Then Dan scratches his head and says, "Wait a minute Mick, I didn't add that quite right. Ok, let's see here, when I add these other deductions it comes out to 'Y' amount" (always significantly less).

My heart beat returns, the blood comes back to my face and I say "Oh, thanks Dan. Great job, you are the BEST!"

"Y" is still a large amount of money, however, in contrast to "X" it seems much more reasonable. Thanks to this principle I am a raving fan of my accountant.



ProfessionalInfluenceFinalLogoFilesLogo14Logo14A couple of years ago, someone approached me and asked how much our Professional Influence Practitioner Course cost. I told him and he scoffed at the amount of money it cost to take our course
(back then it was $1800.00). I shook his hand and wished him well. "Wait," he replied. "How much are your other courses?"

$9000.00 for all three certifications, I answered. He looked at me and simply said "Oh, I didn't know. Ok, start me with the $1800.00 course."

Clearly this gentleman evaluated the first course differently when he had a reference with which to contrast it.

How can you use the Contrast Principle in your business? Take some time to consider the various ways. Incorporate them and watch your business grow.

By using this powerful persuasion pattern you are that much closer to becoming a master of influence. 


We teach a more indepth version of this topic in our certified course "Professional Influence." You might have already heard that our trainers will actually show you how to formulate "contrast options" into your specific products and services.  You may already know, by now, that employers are attracted to people that are different, new and unique.  Today we have overwhelming scientific proof that sales people that differentiate themselves from the crowd are more successful.  They are more likely to close that sale, get that promotion and have longer lasting relationships. 

Show your employer that you are deadly serious about reaching the companies goals.  Increase your income and line yourself up for the next big promotion.  All of this can and will be achieved when you enroll in the "Professional Influence Certification Course." 

Upon successful completion of this course you will become CERTIFIED!  Your certification goes on the "BIO" page and is registered with the INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDIES OF PROFESSIONAL INFLUENCE (ISPI).  As you read through this you may begin to realize that a link to this bio page can also be a powerful part of your resume. 

Are you ready to take your game to the next level?  If so email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  For more information about this and other certification courses simply click here.

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