By Bryan Orr

It’s crazy to me how much work criminals will put in to get away from having to work for a living. One of the more interesting types of crime is the “long con” or “the long game.” These schemes are planned and elaborately executed over a period of time to extort large sums of money out of an unwitting victim.

In business, we want our customers to be informed instead of unwitting and we provide value instead of stealing money, but with those differences,  we can actually create a successful sales process from the “con” (confidence) man.

1. Foundation Work

For the long con, preparations are made well before the game, including the hiring of any assistants, profiling likely target areas, and making sure they can cover their tracks.

In your business, are you thinking ahead about what customer profiles and geographies you are targeting, the human resources you will need to deliver the goods (sorry slipped back into con talk), and the plan of how to follow up and maintain the relationship over time (as opposed to cutting town)?

2. The Approach

First, the Confidence Man contacts the mark. The trick is making it look natural so nobody gets suspicious.

Nobody likes to be pitched right away, sales needs to feel natural and organic no matter how much forethought you put into it.

3. The Build-Up

The “victim” is given an opportunity to profit from a scheme or their emotional connection that the con triggered. Usually the victim’s greed or compassion is encouraged so that their judgment of the situation might be impaired.

We need to face the fact that people spend money based on emotion far more than facts. Are you communicating to your customer’s heart, or to their brain?

4. Pay-Off or Convincer

The victim receives some demonstration of the scheme’s effectiveness. It could be a real sum of money, or faked one way or another. In a gambling con, the mark is allowed to win several small bets.

If you are not demonstrating the value of what you offer, it will not be nearly as convincing as if you allow customers to touch it, feel it and imagine themselves experiencing it.

5. The Hurrah

A sudden shocking change forces the victim to act immediately. This is where the con succeeds or fails when the mark either succumbs to their irrational desire for it to all work out, or their logic allows them to get away.

In business, we call this the “close” and you can do it without high pressure or slimy tactics. Just create a level of urgency that gives your customer a reason to act now (or soon) before the charm of your personality has a chance to wane.

6. The In-and-In

A conspirator puts some money into the same scheme as the victim. This will often reassure the victim, giving the con man greater control once the deal has been completed.

Show testimonials. Nothing makes a customer feel more connected to you in the long run than their own words emblazoned in fiery letters on the testimonials page of your website or Yelp.

Remember: You DO have something of value to offer your customers, and using the “con man” techniques will let others in on something awesome. So, are you:

  • Planning and prepping ahead of time for the long run
  • Approaching your target audience with a natural and magnetic pitch vs. salesy and tacky
  • Offering something to your audience that connects with them emotionally
  • Giving tangible proof that what they’re getting will be worth it
  • Demonstrating your personal investment, and having proof of others’ participation (testimonials, etc.)
  • Forcing the closure of their decision in an “act now” commitment (if you’ve done the above processes, they’re most likely going to “want” it, and not make the decision based on “fear”)

Joseph “Yellow Kid” Weil, one of the most notorious con men of the 20th century, said it well:  

“When people learn—as I doubt they will—that they can’t get something for nothing, crime will diminish and we shall all live in greater harmony.”