I recently heard a very experienced salesperson say meals make no difference in getting seniors to attend seminars. In fact, the higher-net-worth seniors will come without a meal.

Maybe so, but research by psychologist Gregory Razran indicates that a great meal may give you a valuable edge.

Political legislators and lobbyists have known for years when there is an important decision to be made over an issue, out comes the silverware. In fact, fund-raisers often entail dinners hosted by political organizers who are able to get an incumbent or candidate to address the audience. An interesting twist is often these dinners cost $500 to $1,000 a plate. Yet, the true value of the dinner is to preach to the converted, therefore, wrangling out more money.

Razran termed this the “luncheon technique.” He discovered that people become more fond of ideas they experience when they are eating. In Razran’s experiment, his subjects were presented with political statements to which they had evaluated previous to the meal. At the end of the experiment, he discovered certain viewpoints had gained favor in his subjects’ approval. Those were precisely the ideas that were discussed while they were dining.

This very likely could work because of Ivan Pavlov’s concept called “classic conditioning.” Pavlov was able to get dogs to salivate at mere bell ringing when it was associated with mealtime. The same may be true of humans. It is possible to associate the pleasant feeling of a good meal to a sales concept. Far beyond the cost of the lunch, it is very likely you will be able to sell more effectively if you treat your prospects and existing clients to a meal.

Some of the best producers at senior dinner or luncheon seminars position a salad and drink at the table when guests walk in. They then speak before and after dinner to take advantage of this effect. With dessert afterward.

Kerry Johnson, MBA, Ph.D. is an author, a Senior Market Advisor columnist, and a frequent speaker at financial planning and insurance conferences. He operates Peak Performance Coaching, a one-on-one, fast-track coaching program. Visit www.kerryjohnson.com or call 800-883-8787 for more information.