persuasion

Say Less.


Say LessIn recent conversations and workshops with customers I find myself continually revisiting Simon Sinek’s classic 2009 TedX talk, “The Golden Circle,” which is also the key theme in his best-selling book Start with Why. If you watch the full video, pay particular attention at about 5:40 and he explains the biological reasons why we tend to be purpose-driven mammals who are motivated by meaning and mission.

According to Simon, the newer portion of our brains – the neo cortex – is language driven and can understand and process vast amounts of complex information. The problem is, that part of our brain simply doesn’t drive decision making. So throw all the technical detail and three-letter-acronyms and speeds-and-feeds at me that you can: I’ll listen, discuss and probably feel good about myself for keeping up with you. It’s just going to have zero impact on what I decide.

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To get at what drives the decision, you literally have to dig deeper: it’s the much older, pre-language “limbic” brain that makes us do stuff. Often called the “Lizard brain,” it’s where our feelings and emotions live. It’s the launching pad for motivation. And it has no capacity for language.

The more you say to my limbic brain, the less it hears. The more complex you make your narrative, the more likely it is to shut down and take no action. And this is huge problem for salespeople, managers and marketing teams at digital publishers and ad-tech companies. We’re all having a lot of complex, expensive conversations that are completely disconnected from the outcomes we need.

Connecting on an emotional level with your customer’s Lizard Brain doesn’t mean getting all weepy or going over the top with some kind of gung-ho pep talk. It does mean a new commitment to discipline and focus; not just from the seller but from your entire organization. It goes like this.

Say less. More powerfully. Earlier. To the right people.

Say less: Start with zero PowerPoint slides and build from there. Use short, declarative sentences. Explain what your white paper means in a sentence; your strategic value in a paragraph; the reason the customer should meet with you in 140 characters. Remember, you’re speaking to the pre-language brain.

More powerfully:   At the very front of your materials or presentation, there should be a short clear statement that speaks to the danger your customer needs to avoid, the cost of not reaching that missing customer, the chance that they are falling behind a competitor for no good reason.   Their story is a drama, a come-from-behind sports movie. Tell that story.

Earlier: If you wait till a budget is formed and the problem has already been fully defined, you’re screwed. Unless you influence how the RFP gets written, you’re just another blindfolded kid swinging at the piñata.

To the right people: All the persuasion and motivation in the world matters not at all if you’re talking to someone who can’t give you what you want. Qualify the buyer; ask hard questions; know who you’re talking to.

Say less. More powerfully. Earlier. To the right people.   It just works.


And Why Would I Do That?


And Why Would I Do ThatAs I’ve walked sales teams through the marketing food chain in recent workshops – from CMO and brand managers to client side advertising and media execs to agency leaders to planning teams – one thing has become apparent:  We have a lot to learn about motivations.  While we are awash in statistics and data and all claim to be the agents delivering the best ROI in the world, we’re flummoxed when people simply don’t end up making the decisions we want them to make…and we have no idea why.

Back in June I wrote about the Aristotelean model of persuasion — the sequential dynamics by which persuasion can be allowed to take place – so I won’t cover that here.  Instead, I want to focus today on why the very specific people we try to sell to either will or won’t end up doing something (making a buy, making a recommendation, creating an exception for us, considering new information and more.)

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First – an aside:  The vast majority of sellers go into the vast majority of calls with no clear idea what they actually want to the other person to do.  When I ask, I hear things like “I want them to understand” or “I want to educate them” or “make them aware” of something.  There must be some gossamer thread that ties these vague, mushy concepts to the ultimate sale, but I can’t see it.  If you don’t know what you want – a decision or action – you almost certainly won’t get it.

The Chief Marketing Officer.  There’s almost always a new CMO. If there isn’t there soon will be.  Average tenure is just a couple of years and they are often tumultuous.  The CMO will make decisions in your favor if they are significant (big deals, big dollars) and if they will help him leave his mark on the business.  He’s like the Hollywood director who thinks of his body of work across many studios and projects.  Keep it interesting, innovative and big. He’s got no time for incremental improvement the slow build.

The Client Advertising or Media Executive.  We see her as the ultimate client, but she in fact has internal clients of her own.  She serves the CMO and her ad or media money rolls up from many individual brands and brand managers. She will make a decision in your favor because it makes her look good to the CMO and brand managers and can be quickly defended based on the numbers.  She has to ultimately worry about whether your plan will work or not.

The Agency Leader or Account Lead.  These folks worry about three things:  Increasing spending by existing clients, preventing those existing clients from straying – either getting a new agency or cutting budgets – and giving their clients innovation and great work while not having to commit much of their own people’s time and energy to it.  Tie your appeal to these points and you’ll have a better chance.

The Media Planner.  Yes, I know many of you want to say “because I got him drunk” or “because he loved the designer Nikes” but there’s a bit more here.  First, understand that there is a limit to the decisions he can even make.  He doesn’t decide strategy, he can’t value the soft qualities of content excellence or brand strength.  He works on an assembly line.  He’ll give you the nod if you keep your request very simple, very clear and costs him no wasted motion or energy.

Make sure you’re assigning the appropriate motivations to the decision maker you’re seeing.  Your life will get a whole lot simpler.


Can’t Feel It? Can’t Sell It.


Can't Feel ItOriginally posted in June 2010, some thoughts on the power of empathy in our sales relationships.

During the strategic media sales workshops I often conduct, we always start with a core foundational principle:  Aristotle’s model of persuasion.  To completely over-simplify the idea, Ari believed that three qualities had to be present — and flow in a specific sequence — in order for one human being to persuade another of anything important.  They are Ethos (the sense of empathy and understanding), Pathos (the sense of shared struggle or collaborative journey) and Logos (supporting logic or facts).  Get them out of sequence — say, start with the numbers or logic — and you fail to persuade.  Good stuff, yeah?

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Today I want to spend a minute on the first quality of persuasion:  empathy.  It’s occurred to me as we’ve explored this concept over years of workshops that many sales people see it as a tactic.  How can I demonstrate just enough empathy to get them on my side?  To get them to open up to being persuaded? When I sensed question in the air during a recent group session, the answer just seemed jump out all by itself:

Don’t struggle to demonstrate empathy:  Actually empathize.  The easiest way to look like you care is to actually care.

How many of us when we go into a sales situation can honestly say we’re really out to improve the customer’s business?  That we’re out to do right by them?  How often do we set out to truly make a difference?  By my count, only the really great ones do this.   And many more of us need to.  So the  sales message of today’s Drift post is a pretty simple one:

Stop worrying about making the plan.  Obsess instead about making a difference.   Because if you make a difference, you’ll not only make the plan… you’ll be the plan.


Once More, With Feeling.


Once More With FeelingIn discussions with several sellers over the past weeks, I’ve ended up talking with them about the very real strategic value of empathy — of crossing the line and working in the customer’s best interests.  Seemed like the time to re-post these words from June 2010.

During the strategic media sales workshops I often conduct, we always start with a core foundational principle:  Aristotle’s model of persuasion.  To completely over-simplify the idea, Ari believed that three qualities had to be present — and flow in a specific sequence — in order for one human being to persuade another of anything important.  They are Ethos (the sense of empathy and understanding), Pathos (the sense of shared struggle or collaborative journey) and Logos (supporting logic or facts).  Get them out of sequence — say, start with the numbers or logic — and you fail to persuade.  Good stuff, yeah?

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Today I want to spend a minute on the first quality of persuasion:  empathy.  It’s occurred to me as we’ve explored this concept over years of workshops that many sales people see it as a tactic.  How can I demonstrate just enough empathy to get them on my side?  To get them to open up to being persuaded? When I sensed question in the air during a recent group session, the answer just seemed jump out all by itself:

Don’t struggle to demonstrate empathy:  Actually empathize.  The easiest way to look like you care is to actually care.

How many of us when we go into a sales situation can honestly say we’re really out to improve the customer’s business?  That we’re out to do right by them?  How often do we set out to truly make a difference?  By my count, only the really great ones do this.   And many more of us need to.  So the  sales message of today’s Drift post is a pretty simple one:

Stop worrying about making the plan.  Obsess instead about making a difference.   Because if you make a difference, you’ll not only make the plan… you’ll be the plan.


Feel It.


During the strategic media sales workshops I often conduct, we always start with a core foundational principle:  Aristotle’s model of persuasion.  To completely over-simplify the idea, Ari believed that three qualities had to be present — and flow in a specific sequence — in order for one human being to persuade another of anything important.  They are Ethos (the sense of empathy and understanding), Pathos (the sense of shared struggle or collaborative journey) and Logos (supporting logic or facts).  Get them out of sequence — say, start with the numbers or logic — and you fail to persuade.  Good stuff, yeah?

Today I want to spend a minute on the first quality of persuasion:  empathy.  It’s occurred to me as we’ve explored this concept over years of workshops that many sales people see it as a tactic.  How can I demonstrate just enough empathy to get them on my side?  To get them to open up to being persuaded? When I sensed question in the air during a recent group session, the answer just seemed jump out all by itself:

Don’t struggle to demonstrate empathy:  Actually empathize.  The easiest way to look like you care is to actually care.

How many of us when we go into a sales situation can honestly say we’re really out to improve the customer’s business?  That we’re out to do right by them?  How often do we set out to truly make a difference?  By my count, only the really great ones do this.   And many more of us need to.  So the  sales message of today’s Drift post is a pretty simple one:

Stop worrying about making the plan.  Obsess instead about making a difference.   Because if you make a difference, you’ll not only make the plan… you’ll be the plan.