Powerful Lessons I Learned From Con Men – Part 2.

by Patrick Liew on March 14, 2014

Professional con men never looked like con men.

In fact, they are so good at what they do, some of them can leave victims wondering how they have been conned.

In some cases, victims have to thank them for their con job.

Let me illustrate by sharing a story that happened at one of our property exhibitions in 1995.

It was a lazy afternoon and the crowd had dwindled to almost a trickle.

Two well dressed persons walked into the show flat.

John and Jim (not their real names) had a facial expression that was manifesting what a salesperson would call a buying signal.

From the moment they appeared, the ambience in the room started to change.

It was as if a mystical and magical energy force had floated into the room and was transforming it right before our eyes.

As our salesperson conducted the viewing, John and Jim were asking good questions and making intelligent comments.

At one point, they stopped before a poster that showed prices of all the properties.

After discussing details about the project, John who was the taller and more extroverted of the two men made an interesting proposal.

He said, “What I like about the project is that this is the last development in this area in the foreseeable future.

“Whoever buys over a majority of the units can have a dominant control of the supply and dictate the prices.

“I would like to do an en bloc purchase of many of the units in the project.

“By the way, what I’m doing will help you sell the remaining units, especially if buyers know we are a long term player and we will prop up the prices.

“Can you ask the developer’s key manager to meet us and offer us a better price?”

After John had asked the question, Jim did something that still amazed me.

If we were not so amazed, we would have probably realised that they were not normal men.

Jim ran his fingers down the price list. It took a few seconds to go through the list.

Jim turned around to John and said, “S$126 million.”

After they left the room, we took a calculator and computed the prices of the properties.

It took us quite a few minutes.

The total figure came out to be exactly S$126 million.

That incident should have set off an alarm bell in our mind.

Much later, one of my salespersons shared with me an interesting observation.

Jim’s pinkie finger looked like it had been chopped off in the middle portion.

At that point, strangely enough, we were not suspicious of their character at all. None of us were concerned about any potential foul play.

After all, what negative motives and intention could there be. These two men had not benefitted from making the offer.

As we were a closely-knitted team, we were soon caught up in a rowdy time of jubilation and celebration.

Everybody was patting the “lucky” salesperson who served John and Jim. He was literally jumping in joy
for hitting mother lode.

His sales commission would add up to be S$441,000. Not bad for one hour of easy work.

Shortly after, every salesperson was working very hard to persuade their prospective customers to expedite their purchasing decision.

They were “accidentally leaking” to their prospective customers about potential of an en bloc sale.

They crowed about a potential buyer who is “a “who’s who” and a person of “extremely high nett worth.”

Obviously, the salespersons were adding salt and pepper to close a sale.

The prospective customers were somehow told they might “end up losing a great deal – forever and ever.”

A key director met John and Jim over a series of meetings. They were conducted after office hours and in some of the most upmarket night clubs.

Apparently, John and Jim had asked for many details, many of which were relevant to property fund managers and required by astute investors.

These information were not normally required on the retail front. Some of them would need research and analysis to produce them.

The director had to run to and fro from professionals’ office to meet John and Jim at their preferred meeting place.

Meanwhile, the director’s entertainment bills were piling up.

At one point, the director asked me for an advice.

John and Jim wanted the director to meet them at a “gentlemen’s club,” one of those places where nocturnal and more specifically, horizontal activities abound.

My risk-sensing and moral antenna went on an overdrive mode. The so called deal did not smell right to me.

I advised the director to call it off. It was not worth the risk, time and energy.

There was no way I could ascertain if he took my advice. I have a feeling he had already plunged too deep into the sales process to just walk away.

All I could say was a short while later, he came to me in tears and told me, “The deal is off.”

Meanwhile, as a result of the “en bloc offer,” our sales took off. Within a relatively short period of time, the project was a complete sold-out.

Many of my colleagues used to wonder, “Were John and Jim con men?

“If they were, what did they gain from the stunt?”

All we could surmised was that they must have gotten a cut from the director’s entertainment bill.

In any case, many of the salespersons were thankful to John and Jim.

What they did had been turned into a form of closing technique to help them achieve sales success.

While sharing with one of my mentees about this incident, I’m reminded that a key reason for downfall of many people is greed.

Greed is also closely related to cupidity, avarice, and covetousness.

It’s a belief that “I don’t have enough. I will work harder and harder because I want to have more and more stuffs.”

Many people are caught up with such an unregulated pursuit of what I call the 6Ps.

There is an inordinate drive for more and more profits, possessions, power, positions, prestige and pleasures.

This excessive or rapacious craving can also be for just about anything.

The obsession goes beyond basic needs and what we deserve. It has nothing to do with basic survival and comfort or whatever is needed to live a healthy life.

Greed has been known to drive even the smartest of men to indulge in all kinds of desire to satisfy their base instincts, vanity, or even malice to others.

They satisfy their self interest and oftentimes, at the expense of others even though the craving offers only temporary pleasure.

Material things are valued more than people, relationship and the environment.

These obsessive desires are like a bottomless pit. They cannot be satisfied and fulfilled.

They can lead to all or part of the following damaging destructive activities:

– Scavenging and scraping to satisfy desire,

– Compulsive and obsessive pursuit to acquire and own stuffs,

– Hoarding of both essentials and non-essentials,

– Selfishness, stinginess and unwillingness to help others,

– Prevention of others from getting what they want,

– Criticizing and blaming of others for not getting what is desired and also in the hope of getting something better,

– Substituting desire for other meaningless pursuit, and

– Corruption, scam, or violence.

Unfortunately, greed blinds people from having a heart or concern for any of these negative outcomes.

Very often, it did not start as greed.

It begins as a minor craving and grows a little at a time until it becomes a inner drive that is beyond our control.

Greed can be influential and infectious. It can also draw people collectively to pursue a craving or an obsession.

It can also alienate them from our Creator and friends, colleagues and family.

In an increasingly materialistic and affluent society, we must guard ourselves against the potential for greed.

Greed can strike any one of us and especially people with an unhealthy sense of lack, insecurity or deprivation.

It can drive people to make foolish decisions in relationship, multilevel marketing, business and investment.

The risk and danger is compounded by the fact that marketers have studied consumer behaviour more so than many consumers have done for themselves.

They have fine tuned the art and science of creating wants and desires, and persuading us to satisfy them indiscriminately and excessively.

Be careful how we can be lured into the materialistic trap.

Remember, what we seek to control can control us. Whatever we desire to own can take ownership of our heart and mind.

It is important that you do not fall in love with unhealthy desires of your heart, eyes and ego.

Do not be obsessed with money. Be obsessed with the good that money can do for the people around you.

Focus on values that can offer meaningful, beneficial and sustainable benefits to people and the environment.

By doing that, you will become a more contented, happier and more fulfilled person.


By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at http://liewinspiration.wordpress.com/

For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at http://hsrpatrickliew.wordpress.com/

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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