In Order To Change Minds, You Have To Overcome Heard Immunity

Brian Basilico
8 min readOct 22, 2020

Why Listening Is Your Best Sales Skill?

WARNING: This is part story, part lesson, part RANT!
Today I want to talk about how to change minds. And in order to change minds, you have to overcome heard immunity. Now, I’m not talking about herd, H-E-R-D immunity, as in what happens if everybody gets COVID, but heard H-E-A-R-D immunity. In other words, are you listening to me? Are you picking up what I’m putting down? That kind of heard immunity.

So This Happened Today…

I was working and I got a call. They said, “Hey, is Kim there?” (my wife), and I said, “No.” And he goes, “Oh well, I just wanted to talk to you about the fact that with all the police and defunding, we’re collecting money,” blah, blah, blah. And I said, “Hey, listen, we don’t.” And as I was talking, he kept talking. In other words, it wasn’t a real person, it was a robocall. And so I hung up. THEN… right when I hung up, another phone call comes in and it’s another salesman, except this time it’s a real guy.

Now, this story I hope will come across as more of a lesson than a rant, and hopefully, you will find some golden nuggets in it.

Pounding the Pitch…

The salesman comes right out of the gate and says, “Hey, do you take credit cards?” I reply, “Ah no, I don’t.” He continues, “Oh well, have you taken them in the past? Would you consider taking them now?” Again, I say, “No. I generally get most of my payments from EFT, electronic funds transfer or checks.”

Now I didn’t want to get into it that I do take credit cards, but he just keeps pounding his pitch, “Have you thought about it? With the changing environment and the way that the world is going right now, people are going to want to stretch their dollars and pay you via credit card.” I keep saying, “No, I don’t want to do it.”

Next he asks, “Do you know anybody that could use what I sell?” And I said, “Dude, it’s not my niche. I work with big B2b businesses. I don’t work in the business to consumer niche. That’s where most of the credit card processing happens.” And he asks, “Hey, have you ever thought about expanding your niche into business to consumer?” And I said, “No, I just shrunk it.” He just kept going on and on and on.

Heard Immunity

Three things came to my mind as this guy was talking. The first thing is he was not listening to me. He didn’t even try to build any kind of relationship. It was complete heard immunity. And, he did not hear a single thing that I said.

It takes time to get people to listen to you, to slowly change their point of view. A good salesperson listens twice as much as they talk, but this guy went the opposite direction by 10. I tried to help him by suggesting, “I belong to some networking groups and one of them meets locally. Maybe you might want to come to one of those meetings.” And I told him where it meets and he says, “Oh, at that church, I know everybody at that church, I knew the pastor, I grew up in the town,” and yada, yada, yada. I tried to explain to him, “Dude, no, you don’t get it. The church has nothing to do with the networking group. It’s a networking group that meets there.”

And he kept going on about how he knows everybody. What I tried to do in my mind is slow down and say, “Okay, how do I get this guy to listen to me? And to understand that trust takes time?” So I asked him, “Have you ever been burned by a referral?” He jumps on that and says, “Oh yeah, this one guy recommended him and completely took advantage of all these people,” and yada, yada, yada. He just kept going on and on and on until he finally said, “The short answer to your question is yes.”

And I said, “Okay, but the bottom line is, if I’m going to refer you, I need to know who you are, what you offer, and that you’re going to protect my long time business relationships. That’s why we need to build a relationship first.” And he goes, “Well, no, no, you can trust me. I’ve got all these people that trust me, I’ve made all these great deals.”

Building Distrust

I tried to explain, “Look, I know what you do. I’ve been part of an organization that actually use your type of service.” And he goes, “Oh, I hope they didn’t pick my competitor because they’re robbing them. They’re taking advantage of them. You weren’t part of that, we’re you?” It’s like, oh man, can this get any worse?

He goes on and keeps selling and finally I said, “The bottom line is, in order for me to work with a company, I need to have a good relationship, a real relationship or a real-ationship.” And then he went on to say, “Well, I used to work for this big company, a big consumer products company and I know marketing and you’re in the marketing business. You sound young and I am older than you with more experience” (He said he was 55 and I am pushing 60).

He continues “And the thing is, is that you could definitely let people know about my services. And I helped this company and I know this person and I was born and raised and I went to this high school.” I said, “My son went to that high school.” “Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah. I know everybody,” and yada, yada, yada, yada (I hesitated to tell the dude, I was born in New York. I’m not from this town).

In my mind, where he is from is not really a big selling point to me. Then he says, “Well, you know this one guy in town? You know this place? I helped him save $60,000.” I then tried to explain to him what my business actually does. I said, “What my business does is I help companies grow their sales through their salespeople by creating great marketing materials.” He jumped on that and said, “That guy I saved the $60,000 for, everybody who works in his shop is a salesperson so they understand how I helped him save all this money through his salespeople.” And I’m just saying to myself, “Oh my goodness. You don’t get it, do you?”

Relationships vs REAL-lationships

The moral of the story is, once somebody has been trained, or has some biases in the way that they’re selling, it’s really hard to get them to listen to you. It certainly wasn’t my job to teach this person but I have a feeling he probably could have learned a few things.

I tried to let him know that he needs to listen more, that trust takes time, and in order for me to even consider using him or recommending him, he has to first establish a relationship. I tried to explain that in my field, real relationships take up to two or three years for people to trust you enough with their business.

Then I tried to explain that I was in the business of helping other businesses make money, he said to me, “Hey, why don’t you make me more money? Every time I sell something, you get paid, too.” And I tried to explain that I already have affiliate deals and these are with companies whose services I actually use. He said, “Well use me and then you can make some more money.”

Finally, I was able to get him off the phone and then guess what? He calls back, just keeps going and going and going. I listened a little longer and I finally said, “Look, I have to get back to work. Just send me a LinkedIn request and we’ll connect there.” My hope was that maybe through some of my postings or my podcasts that he’d learn a little bit about how this works, about how networking works, because obviously, he’s drinking the sales Kool-Aid where the only thing that works is to just keep pushing and selling and badgering until somebody says “Yes.” They are trained to overcome all objections and keep on trucking to seal the deal.

Final Thoughts

Well, he certainly didn’t learn anything because as soon as I went into LinkedIn, he connected and continued the pitch. “I hope we can get together and do business together,” and yada, yada, yada.

The moral of the story is, I was in a bad mood from the first sales call. He should have taken the temperature of what was going on first, before he went down the big sales road. My rant (and hopefully lesson for you my dear reader) is that in order to change minds, you have to overcome what’s been heard before in order to make them change it now.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about overcoming heard immunity. Are these tips making your business better? What worked and what did not live up to your expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?

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Brian Basilico

Brian is a syndicated blogger, podcaster, and a sought-after guest expert featured in Entrepreneur and Inc., magazines, Over 500 shows on “The Bacon Podcast”