Compassionate Selling — Feel, Felt, Found

Special Guest Blog By Jaime T. Surenkamp

January 30, 2013

Welcome to February, the season of love and of listening to your heart!

Listening to our hearts can lead us in beautiful directions, but leading with our hearts when it comes to activism is not always the best way to effect change. Selling, on the other hand, is all about persuading or influencing an individual to change or take a course of action. And, that’s our goal — to create change — so we’re all going to take a mini crash course in sales!

Pig snoutAs compassionate salespeople, we should see every interaction as an opportunity to sell someone on a healthier lifestyle and new way of looking at animals. Our “product” is a lifestyle of compassionate choices that lead to better health, a better planet, and a better life for all animals.

If you are new to sales, I’d like to introduce you to a long-standing technique — the Feel, Felt, Found approach. This sales approach can be highly effective in our conversations about animal rights and veganism.

As illustrated in Nick Cooney’s book Change of Heart, studies show that people are more likely to make a change when they empathize with others who have experienced a similar change or challenge.

The Feel, Felt, Found approach opens the door for that empathy.

ListeningFirst, become the listener. As the listener, you validate how the person feels, and you hear their objections or concerns.

Second, you assure them that they are not the only person to have felt this way. Many others have faced similar same challenges, so they are not alone in their thoughts. This is a powerful approach. Again, as illustrated in Nick’s book, people statistically are more likely to make a change based on their knowledge of what others are doing. Validating that someone is not alone in his or her concerns is comforting and persuasive in your communication.

Third, alleviate their fears by letting them know what you and others have found.

Here’s an example. A common response to the idea of becoming vegan is, “I could never give up cheese. I love cheese.” Here is the Feel, Felt, Found response:

I definitely understand how you feel. I felt that way, too. I was a big cheese and Greek yogurt fan myself. Lots of other people have felt that way too it’s probably the number one concern when people consider adopting a vegan diet. What I found is that I don’t really miss cheese at all. And these days, there are so many good plant-based cheese options that it’s really easy to have a cheese pizza or cheesy lasagna that’s delicious. 

I always try to express excitement about my experience as a vegan. This is actually pretty easy because I have found so many things to be excited about. But I digress.

Use the “found” comment as an opportunity to key into whatever you know about the person you are talking to. If they are analytical types, your “found” statement might sound something like this:

Cow in storm

What many people have found is that you lose your craving for dairy altogether because dairy is addictive. Dairy has a protein called casein, which, when broken down in digestion, can act like an opiate, meaning it has a calming effect. This is helpful for a baby calf, for example, because it creates a calming effect and promotes bonding with his mother. Mother Nature is smart: She knows that a calf needs to nurse to grow, so this addictive effect will keep the calf coming back for more. But humans drinking cows’ milk can feel that same calming, addictive effect. Once you’ve removed dairy from your diet, you remove the addiction. Not only will you not crave cheese, milk, or any other dairy, but I found that my skin got clearer and my energy level increased.

Use your best judgment on how to frame the conversation, but you get the drift.

Whatever response you choose, always give the person you are talking with an opportunity to digest what you’ve said and to respond with their thoughts. This is another key ingredient to being a good salesperson — remember when to be quiet and try to talk less, not more, than the person you are speaking with.

Practice the Feel, Felt, Found approach in other aspects of your life so that it becomes natural in your vocabulary. This approach is more than a sales technique; it’s also a useful framework for many interactions in life. When we are discussing being vegan, our non-vegan friends or family can feel threatened or judged, and that can result in combative discussions. By using the Feel, Felt, Found approach, you stay grounded in the conversation and can maintain a non-confrontational exchange of thoughts.

And, on that topic, we shouldn’t ever judge others. We all have non-vegan friends and family who are kind, caring, and loving. It’s important to understand that each of us is on his or her own journey. Not everyone you speak with will be receptive to you, and not everyone you talk with will change. That is not our choice to make. However, being a compassionate advocate, providing information when engaged with someone, and offering help without judgment is one of the best things we can do to be a voice for animals.

So, happy compassionate selling!

Jaime T. Surenkamp is the founder of VeniceBeachVegan and is a compassionate, passionate advocate for animals.


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photo credit 1: cloud_nine via photopin cc ; photo credit 2 : Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc ; photo credit 3: ‘J’ via photopin cc 

The Powerful Impact of College Leafleting (Part 1)

By Nick Cooney

January 15, 2013

Leafleting — passing out information about factory farming and vegan eating — is one of the most common ways that animal advocates promote vegan eating in the United States.

The group Vegan Outreach, which pioneered and popularized vegan leafleting, passed out almost 3 million leaflets last year, and other groups chipped in millions more. Compassionate Communities volunteers have been distributing our Something Better leaflet, which shares the Farm Sanctuary experience, the realities of factory farming, and info on meat-free eating, to hundreds of thousands of people.

But just how effective is leafleting? How many readers actually change their diet, and how many animals are spared a lifetime of misery? Should volunteers prioritize leafleting over other forms of animal advocacy?

For the first time ever, we have answers to those questions! In the fall of 2012, Compassionate Communities teamed up with The Humane League to measure the true impact of leafleting on a college campus.

How It Was Done

Early in the fall semester, staffers from The Humane League visited the main campuses of two large state schools on the East Coast, the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland. They distributed thousands of leaflets outside the dining halls of each school. The leaflets distributed were an equal mixture of Farm Sanctuary’s Something Better leaflet and Vegan Outreach’s popular Compassionate Choices leaflet.

About two months later, they returned to campus with surveys to see how much students’ diets had changed. They stood outside the dining halls and asked students passing by if they would take a survey. Students did not know what the survey was about prior to stopping and agreeing to take the survey. After agreeing, only those who actually received a leaflet earlier that semester were allowed to take the survey. Nearly 500 surveys were completed.


Key Results

Quite simply, the results were phenomenal. About 1 out of every 50 students who received a leaflet indicated they became vegetarian or pescatarian as a result. Just as importantly, 7% of students (1 in 14) said they now eat “a lot less” chicken, a lot fewer eggs, and a lot less dairy as a result of getting the leaflet. 6% eat a lot less fish, and 12% eat a lot less red meat.

Furthermore, about 1 in 5 students said they shared the leaflet with someone else who then began to eat less meat.

What does all this mean for animals? After accounting for social desirability bias (people over reporting changes in their diet), the results suggest that for every 100 leaflets you distribute on a college campus, you’ll spare, by a conservative calculation, a minimum of 50 animals a year a lifetime of misery. That’s one animal spared for every two leaflets you distribute!

And that’s just in the first year. The number of farm animals spared grows much larger once you factor in the number of years that people maintain their diet. It also grows larger once you count the ripple effects of people persuading their friends and family to change. And we haven’t even begun to count the many hundreds of wild fish who will also be spared.

The bottom line is this: With each hour you spend leafleting on a college campus, you will truly spare hundreds of farm animals from a lifetime of daily misery. The data is in. The facts are there. College leafleting is an absurdly effective activity for individuals and for organizations who want to make their community a more compassionate one.

For more details on the study, including additional findings, charts, and how social desirability bias was calculated, scroll down to the supplementary blog post below or click here.

To order Something Better leaflets today and get started leafleting in your community, email us at [email protected].


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The Powerful Impact of College Leafleting: Additional Findings and Details (Part 2)

By Nick Cooney

January 15, 2013

This is Part 2 of a blog post on the impact of college leafleting. To read Part 1, scroll up to the blog post above or click here.

Additional Results

What else did the study tell us?

For one thing, those who were getting a leaflet for the first time ever reported almost twice as much diet change as those who had received one before. (“Diet change” here means number of animals spared by diet change, calculated as described below in the “How the Impact was Calculated” section). Once you account for social desirability bias, that difference becomes even larger. Those who received a leaflet for the first time were at least twice as likely to make a change in diet, and they could possibly have been as much as four times as likely. (There’s no way to know for sure where the number falls on that range since we don’t know the exact level of social desirability bias.)

College juniors reported more dietary change than other class levels, followed at a distance by sophomores, then seniors, with freshmen reporting the least amount. This was true despite the fact that freshmen were far more likely to be receiving a leaflet for the first time (which should have led them to report the most dietary change).

Most likely juniors reported more dietary change due simply to the margins of error in the chicken consumption category because that represents nearly all of the difference between juniors and other grades. However, sophomores and juniors were also more likely than freshmen and seniors to say they now ate “a lot less” animal products, which plays a part as well.

It’s possible therefore that sophomores and juniors may be the grades most likely to spare the greatest number of animals after getting a leaflet, even after accounting for the fact that many of them have received a leaflet before.

On that note, the survey also found that about 57% of those leafleted had already received a leaflet before. The likelihood of having received a leaflet generally increased with grade level.

10% said they looked at the leaflet less than 10 seconds; 30% viewed it for 10 seconds to a minute; 45% for 1 to 5 minutes; and 15% looked at it for more than 5 minutes.


How the Impact was Calculated

To view a copy of the actual survey that students filled out, click here.

To calculate the number of animals impacted (i.e., spared), we used rounded versions of these estimates of the number of animals impacted by the average American meat-eater each year plus this data to factor in dairy and egg consumption. We declared the average meat-eater to impact 28 chickens, 2 egg industry hens, 1/8 beef cow, 1/2 pig, 1 turkey, and 1/30 dairy cow each year. Others may prefer to translate the number of animals spared into days of suffering and level of suffering spared per year, but we translated the data into number of animals impacted per year.

We assigned values to each category in the survey as follows:  “I eat more” of a product was calculated as a 30% increase in consumption of that product; “I eat a little less” was calculated as a 10% decrease; “I eat a lot less” was calculated as a 40% decrease; “I stopped eating this product” was calculated as a 100% decrease; “I eat the same amount” and “I did not eat this product to begin with” were calculated as no change.

If you’re interested, you can check out the graphs of reported dietary change for each product category here: chickenred meatfisheggsdairy. Statistics lovers can download the raw data from the study here.


Accounting for Bias

This survey had no “non-response bias” because students were approached randomly on campus, and they did not know what the survey was about prior to agreeing to take it.

Non-response bias is when people who decide to respond to a survey are more likely to respond in a certain way. If the survey were emailed to potential respondents, we would have expected to see a large non-response bias. Those who had changed their diet would probably be more inclined to fill out the survey.

While this survey did not have non-response bias, we do need to watch out for people giving inaccurate answers. Numerous studies have found that people will often over report consumption of things they think they are supposed eat more of (such as fruits and vegetables) and under report how much they eat things they are supposed to eat less off (like red meat.) Researchers call this “social desirability bias.”

Students in this study may have guessed that the survey takers wanted them to answer that they had eaten less meat. As a result, some of those who said they changed their diet probably did not. Others may have over reported how much meat they cut out of their diet. This bias was probably highest among those who said they ate “a little less” of an animal product.

Thankfully, biased answers don’t account for all of the change reported in this study. How do we know? Because different groups reported very different rates of change. For example, people who were getting a leaflet for the first time reported almost 90% more change than those who had received leaflets in previous semesters. (Change here is indicated as number of animals spared by dietary change.)

Both groups should answer with about the same level of social desirability bias. So if all of the reported change was simply due to bias, then the dietary change reported should have been roughly the same whether or not people had received a leaflet before.

However, there were major differences in reported change between those who received leaflets before and those who hadn’t, between those who received one leaflet versus the other, and between students of different grade levels. Out of nine subgroups measured, the groups with the lowest amount of reported change spared 88 and 101 animals respectively. Even if we assume that 100% of that reported change is fraudulent and is merely the result of social desirability bias, it would suggest that for the other subgroups measured, the amount of actual change was the total number of animals helped minus approximately 90 animals (90 animals being the amount of animals not actually helped but reported due to social desirability bias). The remaining subgroups helped between approximately 115 and 250 animals per 100 leaflets (before accounting for social desirability bias).

The raw data, as a whole, once adjusted to be equally representative of all grade levels, suggests that 141 farm animals will be spared for every 100 leaflets distributed on a college campus. Considering that, and considering our estimation of a maximum social desirability bias of around 90 animals spared per 100 leaflets distributed, we can make a conservative estimate that, at a minimum, about 50 of those 141 animals reported to be spared were actually spared. In summary, for every 100 leaflets distributed, we can conservatively estimate that approximately 50 farm animals are spared each year from a lifetime of misery.

The actual number is almost surely higher. And the conservative estimate is significantly higher among certain subgroups. For example, the conservative estimate for students who never before received a leaflet and who now received a Something Better leaflet is roughly 150 animals spared for every 100 leaflets distributed after accounting for social desirability bias. And again, all of the numbers become dramatically higher once you include the multiple years a person maintains their change, the ripple effects as they spread their dietary change to others, and the number of wild fish spared.

One other area for possible inaccuracy in the results stems from the fact that the survey chose not to define what “more,” “a little less,” or “a lot less” meant. Rather than have respondents indicate a percentage change in consumption of each product, we simply assigned estimated values to each change. While we attempted to be conservative in our estimates of what each change meant, it’s possible that our estimates were out of line with what respondents meant.

If we discard all partial changes (a conservative step, since at least six times as many people report reducing each product as report increasing it), look only at those who stopped eating products entirely, and account for social desirability bias, we can still estimate that for every 100 leaflets distributed a conservative minimum of 20 farm animals are spared per year from a lifetime of misery by individuals who have completely removed a product from their diet. The actual number is surely higher than this, and it would be inaccurate to use this as a best estimate, but we can view this as a minimum bound for the amount of change produced just by those who have completely eliminated one or more products:  1 farm animal spared per year for every 5 leaflets distributed.

For more details, additional spreadsheets of results, questions about methodology, or anything else, feel free to email me at [email protected] .


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2012: Compassion In Action

By Nick Cooney

January 1, 2013

Looking back over the past twelve months, what can we say but “thank you!” Thank you for helping to make Farm Sanctuary’s Compassionate Communities Campaign a success. Thank you for helping to spare tens of thousands of farm animals from a lifetime of misery. Before we dive into a new year of advocacy, let’s take a quick look back on 2012 and what we, together, achieved for animals.

The Campaign kicked off in March of 2012 with the launch of our groundbreaking website. For the first time ever, farm animal advocates now have a one-stop shop for learning how to carry out effective veg advocacy programs in their community. With how-to videos and guides and a library of some of the most thought-provoking essays and videos around, it’s no wonder thousands of grassroots advocates in the U.S. and abroad joined the Campaign in the months that followed.

Meanwhile, the Compassionate Communities blog dug into the latest research to provide eye-opening advice for animal advocates. We discussed why the phrase “meat-free” may be better than “vegetarian”; looked at who former vegetarians are and why we lost them; busted the myths that are told inside the vegan bubble; showed the neuroscience behind caring vegetarians; and took a data-based look at the impact of welfare reforms on vegan advocacy.

As Compassionate Communities volunteers got active, local veg dining guides, both printed and online, began popping up around the country. Residents of cities like Pittsburgh and Rochester, among many others, now have an easy way to find veg food near them, and local activists and grassroots groups have a great resource to direct the public to.

The summer of 2012 saw the launch of our snazzy new 16-page veg advocacy booklet, Something Better. Over the course of the year, Compassionate Communities volunteers distributed more than 265,000 copies of Something Better and other literature to people around the country, bringing Farm Sanctuary and its animal ambassadors to a wide audience of people across the country. This included over 55,000 vegetarian starter guides distributed through businesses and newsstand racks, as well as nearly 200,000 booklets handed out at colleges, festivals, and on busy city streets.

In the fall, we hit the road for our Compassionate Communities tour, traveling to 11 key cities around the country to rally grassroots advocacy efforts. Hundreds of local animal advocates came out for our workshops on effective veg advocacy and signed up to get active for farm animals. Many joined us for hard-hitting outreach events, from the beaches of Florida to the universities of Portland to the cold streets of Boston.

In November, Compassionate Communities launched its hard-hitting new video, What Came Before. The 10-minute film short, narrated by TV and movie star Steve-O, introduces viewers to individual animals rescued by Farm Sanctuary, exposes the cruel realities of factory farming, and strikes a hopeful note by pointing out the benefits of a meat-free diet. In its first two months, more than 180,000 viewers saw the cruel reality of What Came Before, with many leaving heartfelt messages or comments about how the video inspired them to go vegetarian.

Thanks to the support of our donors, Compassionate Communities also launched a massive online advertising campaign to bring What Came Before and resources on vegan eating to the computer screens of hundreds of thousands of young women around the country.

All told, Farm Sanctuary’s Compassionate Communities Campaign was able to directly reach nearly half a million people in 2012 with printed literature or video on the cruelties of factory farming and the benefits of vegan eating, inspiring dietary change and saving the lives of farm animals. Your involvement and support have spared tens of thousands of individuals like “The Doctor” from a lifetime of misery.

On behalf of all of us at Farm Sanctuary, have a Happy New Year! We look forward to working with you in 2012 to achieve even more for animals!


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